No one can make you more engaged. Your engagement, ultimately, is a personal equation. It reflects your relationship with work, based on your values, your talents, and your aspirations
By Mary Ann Masarech, Employee Engagement Practice Leader, BlessingWhite
Many things can influence whether or not people are fully engaged. Organizational changes. Their situation at home. Behavior of their managers and colleagues. Challenges in their projects. Even local or world events. The simple fact is, people can’t stay fully engaged without effort. They might feel totally engaged one week, only to be hanging on by a thread the next. Things can change pretty quickly.
Engagement is also not an all-or-nothing proposition. Not being engaged isn’t the same as being disengaged. BlessingWhite has a diagram with a horizontal axis and a vertical axis (Contribution and Satisfaction) and five levels to describe where your workforce (and you) may be in terms of engagement. The goal is always to move yourself and others up to experience the highest levels of contribution and satisfaction.
It’s unlikely you can maintain full engagement on your own. Like a lot of firms, we have an entire team devoted to helping our clients create cultures that fuel engagement. It’s fair to expect that senior leaders will create an inclusive, supportive workplace and that all leaders act in a fair, trustworthy and competent manner. It’s true that leaders need to be crystal clear about the organization’s purpose, values, and strategy – and how your people fit in. It’s reasonable to count on the organization to fix policies and practices that undermine engagement and high performance.
But no one can make you more engaged. Your engagement, ultimately, is a personal equation. It reflects your relationship with work, based on your values, your talents, and your aspirations. Here are four things you and your people can do to make sure that equation works:
If you aren’t clear on your personal aspirations and motivators, you can’t satisfy them on the job. You won’t find meaning, despite your employer’s compelling mission or the nature of your work. Your values are your filter for your decisions and actions.
Step back and reflect on what they are – and whether they’re being satisfied at work and home. If your actions, personally, are misaligned with what you believe, you’ll be miserable before you walk through the office door. If you keep your values front and center, they can be powerful fuel for great days at work.
We’re talking about work. So engagement isn’t just about your satisfaction – to be fully engaged you need to be a top performer. You can’t exceed expectations or achieve extraordinary accomplishments if you don’t know what the organization needs from you (and why).
Market conditions and strategies can change overnight, so check in often with your manager. Recalibrate to focus your energy and talents on the very top priorities on your very long to-do list.
Buck Blessing, co-founder of BlessingWhite, was known for saying, “If you only address your development needs, you’ll die a very average person.” Find out what you do well by asking for feedback (self-assessment’s not enough). Then get better at it. Find opportunities to apply those talents.
Your employer will benefit and you’ll be more engaged. (Yes, do fix any weaknesses that are career liabilities or impede peak performance. Average work isn’t an ingredient of full engagement.)
Choose to be a star. Choose to take care of your health so you can wake up with energy during the workweek and on the weekend. Choose to connect emotionally. Choose to leverage the things you can control in your environment that will support your best work. Choose to ask for help from your manager or others to increase not only your engagement but the team’s overall engagement and success.
If you cynically shook your head as you read that last point, do yourself a favor: Find another role. Maybe another employer. Hanging on to a “good job” (e.g., it pays well, looks impressive, appears secure in this economy) when you aren’t engaged is a bad strategy. You spend thousands of hours each year on the job. Make them count. Why plod through them feeling miserable or undervalued – or even just okay? Sooner or later dissatisfaction at work spills over to affect your personal life. And who wants that?
What are you waiting for? Choose to be more engaged.
Mary Ann Masarech manages her engagement as a telecommuter to BlessingWhite’s Princeton, NJ, headquarters. She is co-author of “The Engagement Equation: Leadership Strategies for an Inspired Workforce.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.