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The E word is Everywhere

It signifies love, it signifies war. There are rules about it. We use it to bring people together and describe people entangled. It’s a process tossed around as a business buzz word and it’s also a noun and an adverb. And most of us have gone through it and moved on to something better. What is it? Engagement

My son is engaged, the world seems dis-engaged, Israel and Hamas are too engaged and we send diplomats to “engage” in diplomacy. And my clients all want their employees to be more engaged in their business.  And I will probably engage in some hyperbole to keep you engaged in this blog.

OK enough; back to what hit me on this morning’s slog.

Engagement is a process of individuals making a public commitment about the future. Two people intentionally decide to work together to pursue their dreams and goals together. They recognize this is a big deal so they allow sufficient time to work out the details before entering into the agreement formally.  And after formally agreeing, they find staying engaged becomes more critical to goal obtainment.

To even reach the point of engagement, the parties need to spend enough time together to make sure they like each other, have similar goals and dreams, and can put up with each other’s natural behaviors. You know the behaviors that surface when the courtship behavior starts to fade.  Family and friend cultures also influence whether engagement becomes the next step.

Even with all those preliminary steps, engagement isn’t working too well. Marriage, the goal of engagement has a lackluster result vis-à-vis long success. Worse yet, engagement is declining. The number of children born out of wedlock has more than doubled in my lifetime. One of three is way too many.

If you flip the term to apply to business and their employees, the same situation exists. Turnover is still high in entry level positions and surveys suggest productivity lags due to lack of employee engagement.

For employee engagement to work, a return to the non-work process usually helps identify the core problem.

Short term engagement:

1)      Make sure both parties are looking for the same thing and not a one night stand.  Too often both sides jump at the first and easiest opportunity. Turnover can be attributed to failure to make sure both parties understand what the other values and is looking for. Consider asking the employee to map out his or her five year plan.

2)      Check out the background.

3)      Have your friends and family meet and check them out.

4)      Give the relationship time for the real behaviors to surface. Ninety days is not always enough.

5)      Keep double checking that the goals are compatible

6)      Better the pain of a dis-engagement than the hurt and sorrow of a divorce. This is one of the main purposes of engagement.

Long term engagement:

1)      Involve both parties in goal setting. If a change in direction is needed, make sure both parties agree on the why as well as the how.

2)      Confront the behaviors that bug you sooner than later and remember that what is obvious to you may be oblivious to them. Point out the behaviors that attracted you before you dive into the bug you ones.

3)      Celebrate little victories in joint goals as much as possible.

4)      In tough times, allow space, and perspective. Reflecting on past crises and how you are still here, can return hope to the present dis-engagement.

Staying engaged with a spouse, a friend, or a company takes continual focused effort. Hard work at times? Of course.  Always successful? Of course not.   A little more work at the front end can save some early exit scars. Yet staying engaged and focusing on common dreams and aspirations is critical to long term success.

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