Employee Engagement

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more. Read Full Bio

This article comes from a weekly message that my counterpart in Toronto has been doing this for a number of years. Kevin Crone is one of the more insightful thought leaders in our business. When I read this article on employee engagement, I believe that it really hit a solid target for what is needed in our changing business world and changing organizations. Enjoy Kevin’s insights.

Last week a funny fellow said to me, "Things are so bad, I have no one to blame anymore — I’m running out of excuses." I laughed, but the more I thought about what he said, the more significant that comment seems to be. We all know that once people accept responsibility they can get on with engaging a team to create a better future and change becomes more possible.

I’ll bet you have done a lot of things at times to engage, inspire and motivate your people to no avail. It’s as if their desire for their independence and for management or someone to take care of them is stronger than their desire to join a team who wants to take the business to the future.

Why should they? It’s not their business. Why should they contribute more or be part of innovating new ways to find new customers, keep customers happy and be more productive and efficient in operations?


That’s probably some fuzzy word created by an author or consultant. Who cares if only 13 to 36% of employees (depending on the survey you read) say they are engaged at their business? What is engagement anyway?

My definition: Engagement is when your people think through on their own or in a team, what the business needs and connect to their part in it and have the focus to carry out what has to be done regardless of the problems along the way. Their minds and hearts are in the game.

Can management engage people by asking people the big questions rather than telling them or sending memos, giving speeches, spinning a new vision with no current reality attached? Yes. It’s possible and it’s the right thing to do. Who wants to hear anyone’s big idea when you are faced with nagging issues daily? Most employees know what’s going on and can contribute. They may not see the picture of the desired state of the business or connect all the dots.

That’s your job.

Maybe more of us managers can wake up to leading people to a better future rather than trying to execute plans when in reality no one is on the team. They are not aligned. They are not engaged.

Can employees at all levels put aside their desire for their independence and their loyalty to their needs and actually give it all to a team who are willing to think through what needs to be done? Yes it’s possible. It’s done by managers who know how to lead. Our recent survey showed that the #1 priority for managers is to find a team that will take them to the future. So all of us need to be better leaders.

You and I have experienced what it’s like to start fresh with a team who are willing to look at reality, create a vision and meet regularly to work out what needs to make it happen. With old teams it doesn’t happen as much for everyone is too busy doing stuff on the fly, but we know the thrill of feeling a part of a common effort, where all lead, make a contribution using their strengths, expertise and abilities.

It’s exciting to be part of a team who are going somewhere. But in reality many employees are spoiled, under-engaged and just focus on their tasks. So it won’t happen on its own.

Can everyone at every level take some responsibility for how things are and join a team to think through what it takes to grow in the market and/or to improve operations? Yes that’s possible too.

Don’t think for a moment an owner or senior executive doesn’t know who the producers are, who the excuse makers are and who aren’t on the team to build a better future. Well, the recession has helped to flush out those who can’t be engaged — and maybe some employees are waking up to the fact that they need to be even more.

According to the Montreal Gazette, productivity is down again. All standards of living are in peril. What’s needed is more output, more work on the important things our businesses need, more innovative ideas, more committed teams who have decided to improve and create a better future.

Margaret Mead said, "Miracles are created by a small committed team." They always have.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you somewhat responsible for waking up the business or team? YES/NO
  • Are you willing to engage a team who are willing to start all over, to create a better future? YES/NO

If you are, ask a group, to think through "What do you want?" then ask, "Where are we now?" and then ask, "What needs to be done?" This is a simple model but it takes courageous leadership and people skills to do it.

Your business deserves a better chance to succeed. You can provide some of the leadership to get it there. The only way to do that is to start now.

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