Monthly Archives: July 2014

MeInc Mission Check-All Systems GO?

We could all stand a re-visit of the things that drive us now and then. This is mine, relevant for others as it has turned into a micro case study of engagement. As the gut-check proceeded, I found the elements I was most concerned with are several of the things that have the most impact on a person’s level of engagement. It wasn’t a conscious decision to weigh in on those elements, but it’s not surprising that’s the direction the analysis went, because those are the most important checks to make.

Sometimes the process of analysis is just affirmation that things are in order, or maybe a re-definition of purpose and process comes along. Either way, the value of the analysis is to stay headed down the right path.

For starters, I never really considered myself to be on “a mission”. Never really thought about it. What does “being on a mission” mean anyway and what’s so important about it?

I am purposeful and driven, my discretionary time and then some is consumed with furthering the cause of engagement, and my efforts are personal and values-based. I deeply believe in what I am doing as I am convinced that it will make a difference in the grand scheme of things. My influence will spread out through those with whom I have direct contact and, even though I may not know first-hand how much and how far that influence will spread, I simply know that it will.

I’ve lived by my stated Mission for nearly twenty years: Make an Impact; Leave a Legacy. My scope of operation is one pebble at a time in one pond because I don’t have the capacity or level of influence to change ocean levels worldwide. But that’s OK because I work within that limitation.

My Vision—the “why” that keeps me going—is this thing called the Greater Good. As I grow older I think more and more about what kind of long-term shape my family will be in when I finally check out of this room. We’ve pretty much messed things up to the point that it’s scary to consider the sustainability of a livable habitat and whether our culture is capable of being resuscitated. I will never believe that I have no role, no impact, no influence on the future. I do. We all do. One Pond, One Pebble. Ripples spread.

I’m beginning to feel more and more mission-driven as we speak….self-talk is a great concept!

My current employer is not far enough down the evolutionary path to be serious about engagement, and I don’t have the level of positional influence to get much done. So I’m covertly influencing things where I can. While my assigned work is vital it’s not in my wheel house as much as I’d like, and I’m very aware this is not the most personally engaging long-term situation. But my MeInc mission has no organizational boundary—it’s much larger than one company. So I am cultivating my external influence. Maybe my company will catch up someday, or maybe our paths will diverge at some point. It’s all good.

I’m an independent operative at the moment but due to change that very soon as part of my strategy to achieve my mission. While I have no formal allegiance to one particular engagement flag, I am very much aligned with several well-established organizations and individuals: Gallup, Engage for Success, BlessingWhite and David Zinger for starters. Several others are fighting the same good fight: Towers-Watson, the Hay Group, McKinsey…basically any organization that dabbles in engagement has focused in on the same strategies. As an independent, I’m free to cherry pick the best of the best thinking in any given situation, as long as I stay legal and give credit where due.

By the way, three of my long-standing core values are freedom from unnecessary constraints, learning new things and the need to be creative. From that perspective, all systems “go”.

Stay tuned: the engagers that came into play in this MeInc mission check will be coming along shortly in a follow-up post. In the meantime…what’s in your wallet?

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Go Large-A Little Social Science Fiction

I just read something that said I am involved in the UK’s Engage for Success (e4s) / “movement”. It’s been a good many years since I’ve been part of a bonafide movement, so I need to knock down the cobwebs and rebuild my activist chops. Time to practice….

(from the intro of the MacLeod Report)
We were asked by the then Secretary of State for Business in the autumn of 2008 to take an in-depth look at employee engagement and to report on its potential benefits for companies, organisations and individual employees. When the new Secretary of State, Lord Mandelson, met us in the spring, as the recession was biting, he encouraged us to examine in particular whether a wider take up of engagement approaches could impact positively on UK competitiveness and performance, as part of the country’s efforts to come through the current economic difficulties, take maximum advantage of the upturn when it comes, and meet the challenges of increased global competition.

Why aim so low? Sure, competitiveness and global competition are wildly important. But why sell this engagement thing so short?

Consider this for the Ultimate Sustainability Strategy: what if a company consciously focused on becoming an institution with credibility and influence, providing a much-needed normalizing force in the surrounding community…which happens to be the company’s talent pool, both current and future? Consider the impact on social issues when employees are offered a sense of community, a purpose larger than their individuality, a values-anchored island of safety and sanity in the midst of the roiling turbulence around them?

What if…

We know this much: people need community, purpose, values. We thrive in that environment. We’ve also learned a real magic trick–such a forward thinking company would realize incredibly enhanced improvements in every bottom line area that matters. It’s been proven over and over.

Maybe the real impact of engagement isn’t in attaining marketplace supremacy, but in impacting the human condition? If we focus on that would business and economic success come along as a by-product?

Does anyone else have wild ‘what-if” fantasies about the potential future of engagement theory? Come on, it doesn’t hurt to play. Go Large-this is more than social science fiction or teetering-on-the-edge-of-lunatic-fringe thinking.

Or maybe that’s exactly what it is…you tell me!

Wellbeing, Stress and Engagement

I just got done slogging through an abstract on stress research that originated in Psychological Science that led me down a bone-jarring rutted path to even more studies and white papers.  Conclusion: academic abstracts stress me out! Why do I keep doing this to myself?

Academia aside, when the same topic is also explored by…
1. The “For Dummies” organization;
2. A proliferation of grant-funded research teams; and even
3. The Mayo Clinic staff
…there must be something to it. A brief section on stress is part of the Supercharger series of engagement and values-based leadership workshops. Values and personal purpose are powerful antidotes for the destructive effects of stress, and stress is an ideal universal door-opener. It establishes personal relevance for a curriculum that could be very scary foreign territory for some.

It has been repeatedly validated that well-being is enhanced by being connected to your own as well as your employer’s values and purpose. Those same connections are key ingredients of high engagement. Stress, engagement and values-based leadership make perfect sense together.

Stress is silently and subtly at work whether or not we care to admit it or are even aware of it. Stress robs precious time from our quality years and diminishes overall satisfaction with our lives. If you are more aware and have prepared yourself by understanding the origins of your stressors you can set your sights on a happier, healthier, more productive, and longer life.

Leaders, it makes good business sense to arm employees against stress: the social and business cost of stress is staggering. It negatively impacts productivity and sucks money away from the bottom line. And the social impacts of stress are even more staggering.

In the work environment, stress is often triggered by conflict. There are two broad categories of workplace conflict and therefore stressors, and I don’t recall ever having a workshop participant admit they are not impacted by these:
• Relationship: clashes due to behavioral, values-based differences; and
• Task-based conflicts including lack of clarity, dueling priorities, process differences (my-way-is-better). The leading cause of task-based stress: work overload.

Things and people can both drive us nutty. So it serves us well to take a look at conflict and stress a little more closely. What are the origins and impacts of my conflict and stress generally? What are my stressors? Analysis allows us to proactively identify and minimize the opportunity for conflict, therefore minimize stress.

Better lives, better results…win-win and then some. And you thought Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts sketches on Saturday Night Live were comedy?

Much Ado, Part Two

In Much Ado About Nothing, I proposed that it’s time for less thinking and more doing the things that have been proven lead to higher levels of engagement and the resulting myriad of benefits.
This is modified from a reply to a discussion on the LinkedIn Employee Engagement group, Employee Engagement is Not Enough-sometimes it’s too much!  It’s easy to get so wrapped up in “engagement” that you lose sight of the real reason people work and the real reason for business.

“What’s your engagement level?”
(ans. 1) It’s never high enough, but who’s counting?

“What are you doing about it?”
(ans. 2) Our values, leader model and works systems are based on factors we know support an engagement-friendly workplace. Our daily focus is on doing the right things the right way-no need to measure and analyze where we are and what we already know is impactful and necessary.

“But how will you know how you’re doing?”
(ans. 3) See answer one. Oh, and there’s this thing called results, the best indicator out there.

There’s plenty of research and data that indicate what works. So assess where you are and decide where you want to go. Then do what’s right and necessary and the results will come.
Chalk it up to engagement or something else, no matter. Abundant studies have linked the right practices to “higher levels of engagement” so if engagement is an effective flag to wave, rally around it. Just be aware that an over-infatuation with engagement may compel us to obsess over the wrong objectives, confounding the real goal which is to generate results.