For the longest time, I have been wondering about this whole ‘engagement’ idea. You know the one – the idea that we can drive engagement in people. What I see is that a lot of money gets spent on driving engagement, motivating people and bringing them closer, on building leaders and getting people more focused.
For the most part, these strategies must work or tens of thousands, if not millions, would not be spent at the enterprise level on a global scale. Or do they really? Here’s what I think.
1. Sometimes we want it to work.
We’ve got the funds allocated to us, we might as well use them. We’ve not really spent a lot of time in the year trying to really get to know our people so we don’t really know what’s missing. Let’s go for the quick fix and drop them into a leadership programme or two.
Getting to know our people takes time, focus and dedication. You’ve got to designate a role for this, and if not, it shows that this is not a priority.
More often that not, I find the hard work is also right at the beginning. It lies in sitting down and making an assessment, in thinking about what we want to achieve, about who we’ve got on board and where we want to get to. When you add the piles of stuff we need to get through, on a daily basis, not accounting for meetings and conference calls we get dragged into, I can quite easily see how something big like this, gets sidestepped and postponed for that quiet time you think you’ll have next week…. but which never arrives.
And so we end up doing a last minute assessment, if at all, of what we need to get done just so we can spend the money on it and be done with it. And then we hope for the best from the programme we’ve chosen. Which is usually pretty generic. We’ve just set ourselves up to fail. Expecting a big change to result, after a two day leadership programme, is plain naïve. But people do this all the time and expect miracles all around.
There are no overnight successes. If we want things to work, we’ve got to make it work. It is a step by step process, working failure into something better. If we choose not to work on it, and put all our hopes on a quick fix, we fool ourselves more than we do others.
2. Money is only part of the picture.
We know money is only one motivator, however big it may be. Yet, how many of us focus on compensation far more than the one on one chat? We all need money to get on with our lives but there are other things that keep us on the job. A great place to be, a passionate goal to achieve, solid workmates, something to stretch us and a great leader are just some of them. But if we look to money and put all our assessment into that one aspect and focus on that primarily, then we cant really expect people to be motivated or engaged beyond the hard cash, can we? People want respect, solid work that keeps them engaged and interested and that makes a difference. And they want to feel that their opinion matters. Are they being heard?
People also see right through us. They see how we trip up between the things we say and the things we do. It’s one thing to put a plaque on the wall. It’s quite another how you deal with your people as you walk around dealing with projects, meetings and deadlines.
You’ve got a lot to do, you’ve set goals and deadlines. Your plate is full. It’s easy to slip up and miss these little nuances. But your people…. they don’t miss a thing. They hang on to every word….especially if its to do with them. They start out fresh and excited but one trip-up after another just gets them tired and passion-less. And then it’s a waiting game to see when you’re gonna trip up again. Because they are watching behind the scenes, they’re waiting on the sidelines and they see things even after the curtain comes down.
3. Ownership is key.
I cant help but wonder that perhaps the best and only way to drive engagement and performance is with a piece of the pie though. I believe that we are motivated by money, of course but by more too. We are motivated by the knowledge that there is a direct line from the quality of work we do and the benefits that result. If you are able to give people ownership, or a slice of it, will things change? I believe they will. I don’t think that every person should be handed a piece of ownership from the get-go – they will need to earn it however.