Stop Engaging Your Workforce, and Simply Lead!

MP900387733Over the past few years, I’ve written more about engagement and efforts by organizational leaders to create engaged cultures than nearly anything else.  There’s a reason for my laser focus on this issue…it’s critical for organizational success, I don’t care what the industry is.  But it’s just so darned misunderstood!

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article entitled “Engagement: It’s Leadership, Not a Program.”  I was pleasantly surprised by the responses I received upon posting, something that reinforces the notion that the topic is of near ubiquitous value in the workplace.  Based on a few of the emails I received about that piece, I want to spend a few minutes expanding the key idea that programmatic fixes to a culture do NOT an engaged workforce make.

To be frank, I’d rather we do away with the term “engagement” altogether.  The concept is awesome!  The implementation of engagement initiative is…well, NOT.

So, if not “engagement,” then what?

I’d suggest that instead of driving engagement, leaders should focus instead (and solely in its place) on something more basic, aligning your culture with your employees….and vice versa.

confusedBut isn’t it the same thing?

Why, yes….yes, it is.

Okay, Trevor, you’re confusing us now…..

{I laugh, a deep, maniacal laugh}

You see, when we word it differently, the focus in our minds shifts from looking for programmatic answers to drive “engagement” to leadership issues (finding, attracting, and developing individuals).  And guess what?  That’s precisely where our minds should be!  And the result of focusing our leadership attention on those areas, instead of jeans days, more potluck social events, or corporate dunk tanks?  Oops, a more engaged workforce, more emotional AND rational commitment by our employees, and quite simply a better place to work.


When leaders ensure alignment between their own cultural preferences with those of the individuals they hire, develop and retain, engagement stops being about ridiculous HR programs and more about simply the atmosphere and environment best suited for the particular organization.  It’s that simple.  And, I’m serious about that….engagement doesn’t HAVE TO be difficult.  In fact, it shouldn’t be.  If you’re trying REALLY hard to engage your workforce, you’re simply looking at it wrong.

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