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What is Engagement Anyway?

by Kevin D. Crone

November 21, 2016

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 real that thought is to many others. Maybe business people will accept a little of the responsibility, for now they can get on with engaging a team to create a new future.

I’ll bet you’ve 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?
Engagement. That’s probably some fuzzy human resources word created by an author or consultant. Who cares if only 13 to 36% of employees (depending on the survey you read) say they’re engaged at their business? What is engagement anyway?
My definition: Engagement is helping your people think through on their own or in a team, what the business needs and to connect them to their part in it and have them focus from the desired state of the business.

Can management engage people to ask the big questions rather than tell, send memos, give speeches, spin 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’re faced with nagging issues daily?

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.
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? Managers tell us that the #1 priority for them, is to find a team that will take them to the future.

Yes, 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. It hasn’t happened 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, most people are spoiled, under-engaged and just focus on their own work.

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

Instead of having a team help us figure out what needs to be in place to pull off what we want, we pat our people on the back every year for doing a routine job, possibly hide some or fire those who don’t come forth with ideas and plans or don’t produce. And occasionally we give producers and people who show they can engage a willing team more responsibility and challenges.

Don’t think for a moment an owner or senior executive doesn’t have in their mind who the producers are, who the excuse makers are, and who aren’t on the team to build a better future. They get stuck and confused sometimes and are not sure who will take their business to the desired state. Well, the past recessions have helped to flush out reality and just maybe some managers are getting unstuck – maybe some employees are waking up too.

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.




  1. Are you willing to engage a team who are willing to start all over, to create a better future? If you are, ask a group, “Where are we going,” then ask, “Where are we now?” and then ask, “What needs to be done?” This is simple to get but it takes courageous leadership and people skills.
  2. Are you willing to engage a team to actually lead versus manage? Engage a team in the same questions.

I’ll bet you are ready. Give it ninety days. You, your team, your business, your customers will win!

Kevin D. Crone
Dale Carnegie Business Group
(905) 826-7300

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