Don’t Gag on Engagement

I remember comedienne Rosie O’Donnell asking her audience,

“Anybody in here engaged?”
<clap, clap, clap>
“Ever notice that ‘Engaged’ has the word ‘GAG’ in the middle of it?”
<laugh, laugh, laugh>

She meant “engaged” as in “engaged to be married.” In organizations however, the word “engaged” means something just as important – engaged in the work.

Gallup has been doing work on engagement for years. When I read this year’s report, it said 70% of people are either not engaged or disengaged in their work. [tweet this] That’s a HUGE number. And when I looked deeper into the report, I saw that the 70% number has stayed pretty constant since 2000.

But not all workers are disengaged. In fact, who were the workers who were the MOST engaged? Supervisors and leaders in organizations. That’s great, right? Well, maybe not.  The report also revealed that the workers who are LEAST engaged as the ones who are supervised and led by those same supervisors and leaders who tend to be the most engaged.

That’s a HUGE LEADERSHIP DISCONNECT. Individual contributors and workers out there feel disengaged. Their leaders feel engaged. Leaders are not “passing down” the engagement they feel. Leaders are not fostering engagement in their followers and in their work. And it’s hurting business and industry to the tune, according to Gallup, of 500 billion dollars. Billion. With a B.

When I train leaders in our development programs, I tell them that in my opinion, the most effective leaders out there are the ones who can, beyond a shadow of a doubt, draw a direct line-of-sight between what a person does, and how that person and his or her work contributes to the mission and vision of the team and the organization, and even how that person and that person’s work matters to society. Me being a quant-geeky researcher, I usually cite some of our CCL research that hammers that point home: when people feel supported by their organization and boss, they are less likely to leave, more committed to their organization, and more satisfied with their job. [tweet this] They are engaged.

What’s that sound I hear? Gag. As in choking. As in leadership is choking, failing at the one thing it HAS TO DO. Leaders are falling short in their duty to foster engagement. Don’t “gag” when it comes to this #1 responsibility you HAVE to do for the people you lead, to foster an environment of ENGAGEMENT.

As a leader, what are you doing to foster engagement in your workplace? Would you mind writing your thoughts so that I and the other readers can see how effective leaders like you foster engagement?

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About Bill Gentry

William (Bill) is currently a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and also an adjunct assistant professor at several colleges and universities. In applying his research into practice, Bill’s current focus is on helping leaders who are managing for the first time in their life. His research interests are in multisource (360) research, survey development and analysis, leadership and leadership development across cultures, leader character and integrity, mentoring, managerial derailment, multilevel measurement, and in the area of organizational politics and political skill in the workplace. He received a BA from Emory University and an MS and PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Georgia. Follow Bill on Twitter: Lead_Better
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3 Responses to Don’t Gag on Engagement

  1. You’ve highlighted on a need for leadership coaching within an organization’s executive team for true connections and employee engagement to take place. Thank you for sharing your insights on fostering an environment of engagement and company culture.

  2. Charles, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Coaching with an ET can be very helpful – they will be the ones who must embrace engagement, and have it flow through the organization

  3. Pingback: WAR (the Baseball Statistic), What is it Good For (in Leadership)? | Leading Effectively: Official Blog of the Center for Creative LeadershipLeading Effectively: Official Blog of the Center for Creative Leadership

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