• Jun 06, 2018
  • Vicky Smith
  • Management


The buzz phrase used to rationalize declining productivity, poor morale and the inability to compete is ‘employee disengagement’. Gen X and Y employees are disengaged because they don’t have that ‘good old time work ethic’. Baby Boomers are disengaged; they have lost their lustre and are crossing off the days on their calendars pinning for retirement.

The training sector is bulging with a proliferation of courses on leadership, high performance teams, boosting morale and every conceivable topic to get people engaged. What are employees supposed to get engaged with – overwhelming change, emotionally toxic workplaces, managers who are too busy to get to know their needs or organizations when profits dip employees become expendable?

There is a very old adage that goes “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting change is the definition of insanity”. We are trying to manage our businesses in an insanely unpredictable economic climate exasperated by technological and productivity improvement opportunities that keep changing by the week. My metaphor for managers is they are jugglers balancing constant demands from both their managers and employees; thus have too many balls in the air so can’t help but drop some of those balls.

Managers who feel they are mired in issues rather than dealing with opportunities can draw on two skills - focus and discipline. So the decision becomes what to focus on and then discipline oneself to enact in the face of surmountable crises and demands.

The wise leader chooses to focus on people instead of processes. Employees first engage or disengage with their leaders and then the organization. In Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive’ he discusses three elements leaders can use to engage employees – autonomy, mastery and purpose. To peak your interest to read more about the elements are quotes from Daniel:

  • Autonomy: “Perhaps it’s time to toss the very word ‘management’ into the linguistic ash heap alongside with ‘icebox’ and ‘horseless carriage’. This era doesn’t call for better management. It calls for a renaissance of self-direction”
  • Mastery: “In our offices and our classrooms we have way too much compliance and way too little engagement. The former might get you through the day, but only the latter will get you through the night”
  • Purpose: “It’s in our nature to seek purpose. But that nature is now being revealed and expressed on a scale that is demographically unprecedented and, until recently, scarcely imaginable. The consequences could rejuvenate our businesses and remake our world”
For employee engagement, the focus of the leader revolves around collaborating with employees. The objective of the collaboration is to define autonomy, mastery and purpose. The goal is to achieve the organizational mission, vision and business objectives and allows employees opportunities to make decisions as to what their part will be.
The discipline required to stay focused is not for the weak in spirit and will take courage to push back on demands to concentrate one’s time on process. The payoff is that the leader will have inspired a group of people to achieve goals they are proud of, develop skills they never knew they had and respect the leader for taking the time to listen.
For further information on Leadership Development training, contact Vicky Smith at vicky@contacthrg.com