26 Ways to Keep Your People Engaged Without Resorting to Shock Therapy

The word “engage” comes from the French engagier, which means, “to make a pledge.”

That’s the big question: Why do people pledge themselves to you?

IN SHORT: Why do people engage?

Last year, I shared a collection of answers to this question in a popular piece called, Twenty Secrets Smart Leaders Know About Engaging Their People.

The response was overwhelming. I received more emails, tweets and reprints than usual. Apparently that list struck a nerve with a lot of my readers. And as a result, knowing I’d merely scratched the surface, I’ve continued to research the topic of why people engage.

Here are my latest findings. Please feel free to add your ideas to the list:1. People engage when power decentralizes. Have you given them the ability to influence their work environment?

2. People engage when the babysitting stops. How are you allowing them to establish their own structures to maintain focus?

3. People engage when they’ve been given permission to flex the muscle of why. Do you give them room to express commitment in their own unique way?

4. People engage when your words speak directly to what’s important to them. Does their inbox need another boring, overextended piece of corporate communication that people delete immediately or – at best – peruse passively?

5. People engage when they can invest in things they truly admire. What if dollars aren’t the defining factor of your people’s commitment?

6. People engage when they’re treated according to their own unique values. Are you discerning and testing how each of your people want to be treated, or trying to save time by treating everybody the exact same way?

7. People engage when they experience a real and regular connection between the duty of today and the dream of tomorrow. Are you telling people what your demands are or asking people what their dreams are?

8. People engage when they view their role as a stepping-stone, not a sinking ship. How long ago did your team give up on the possibly of meaningful work?

9. People engage when gratitude is palpable and recurrent. Are you trying to make recognition a corporate initiative or a constitutional ingredient?

10. People engage when they’re given permission to pursue their dreams. Are you still operating from the old paradigm that people come to work to make money?

11. People engage when they can express themselves without resorting to code. At your organization, do ideas flow in an open and unrestricted environment?

12. People engage when you stop asking them to edit themselves. What system can you install to remove the restriction of individual expression?

13. People engage when their internal compasses are honored. How will you liberate them from being in conflict with their own values?

14. People engage when they’re allowed to lead the kind of life they want. Do people view your company an economic mechanism and little more?

15. People engage when they don’t need to ask permission to let their personal brand shine. Do you work for a human organization or an indoctrination center that strips people of their individuality on a daily basis?

16. People engage when the feeling of formality doesn’t keep them from communicating freely. Do your employees come to work every day because they love it, or because you’ve degraded them into obedient soul dead conformist worker bees?

17. People engage when they don’t have to meet compliance just to take a piss. Are you empowering people to execute with all their might or restricting people to make excuse with all your policies?

18. People engage when they’re not bullied into to delivering impersonal, emotionless non-service. Is your work experience mechanical and transactional or emotional and transformational?

19. People engage when they’re not forced to adhere to rigid plans created through manipulation, punishment and coercion. Are your people innately committed or fearfully complying?

20. People engage when individual expression isn’t restricted. How are you petitioning people to inject their personality into everything they do?

21. People engage when they can dress how they want. Why is your organization still using dress code to convey class, hierarchy and status?

22. People engage when their leaders end the lip service. How are you making your mission more than a statement?

23. People engage when their big ideas aren’t jailed. How is your corporate veil of bigness and anonymity thwarting creativity?

24. People engage when they’re given wide discretion to spend company resources on the people who matter. Where is your organization sacrificing customer experience for corporate expense?

25. People engage when they’re given a safe place where individity creativity can shine. Who are you trying to make just like you?

26. People engage when they’re motivated intrinsically. How can you enable them to activate their own internal generators?

How will you avoid bombing your next employee engagement survey?

For the list called, “35 Things You Simply Can’t Do,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

If I Ever Had to Get a Real Job (Which I Won’t) This Is the Kind of Company I’d Want to Work For

Since I started my publishing company eight years ago, I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with some of the finest organizations around the world:

Like Sendouts.
They say, “Today is the day,” to their corporate recruiters.

Like Brains on Fire.
They say, “I love you” to their clients.

Like Optimists International.
They say, “Yes” to their members.

Like Million Dollar Roundtable.
They say, “Kamsahamnida,” to their buyers.

Like Australian Institute of Management.
They say, “No worries” to their followers.

THE REALITY IS: If I ever had to get a real job – which I won’t – these organizations are the types of companies I’d want to work for.

It’s time to learn from the masters. Today we’re going to explore a collection of ideas to help you make your organization more human, more approachable and more engaged:1. Create an atmosphere of approachability. Too many organizations are trapped in outdated hierarchical patterns of mistrust. Their leaders ignore people’s words, shrug off their suggestions or, worse yet, hijack the conversation and turn it into a one-way update.

Ultimately, this leaves people hesitant to speak up for fear of being labeled as a squeaky wheel. Not exactly an approachable environment. If you want to inspire deeper commitment, try this:

When people walk in the room, create a loving space where they feel comfortable sharing.

When people are gathered around, ask them to contribute if they see something you don’t see.

When people ask for feedback, you reflect their thoughts back to them in a way that makes them feel understood, not mindlessly repeated.

And when people bring you their ideas, respond with a fundamentally affirmative attitude by looking them in the eye and telling them how great their ideas are – no matter how big or small.

That’s how to make people feel heard. And the cool part is, when trust and belonging become the very oxygen your people breathe, the communication process shifts. For better and for always. How will you create a workplace that encourages the generation and execution of its best ideas?

2. Gratitude is the great gravitator. Gratitude isn’t a thing you do – it’s a virtue you embody. And it’s not something you do once a year. You shouldn’t need a calendar to tell you when to care. The goal is to make gratitude a non-negotiable. Like exercise or meditation, it needs to be something you just do, everyday.

However, because recognition is an emotional release humans crave, you can’t bastardize gratitude into to some empty, contrived corporate initiative. It has to be a constitutional. It has to be a way of life at your organization. Otherwise you’re just kissing ass.

The reality is: People engage when they’re applauded for their strengths and not berated for their weaknesses. And people engage when they’re allowed to publicly display their successes.

My suggestion: Stop trying to make them fall in love with you – start helping them fall in love with themselves. Stop trying to be life of the party – start bringing other people to life at the party. That’s how you make people feel essential. Not valued. Not important. Not special. Essential.

As in: “Janet, your role has a direct impact on something that matters. The value of your contribution is calculable. You’re more than just a helpful addition to our organization – you’re a vital component. Thank you, thank you.” How does your organization make gratitude and recognition a palpable, recurrent practice?

3. Tap into the reservoir of whypower. People who see their job as a grind, a sinking ship, quickly give up on the possibility of meaningful work. On the other hand, when people who see work as a gateway to something bigger, their jobs become stepping-stones to personal fulfillment.

The secret is to give people permission to flex their why muscle. To offer them room to express their commitment in their own unique way. And then, once you’ve found out what fuels them – you embed that passion into the organizational pavement. That’s what gives people the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment they seek, as opposed to feeling like they’re being used.

The best part is: Constancy of purpose can’t be penetrated by distraction. When work is rooted in passion and fire, productivity is a non-issue. And that’s when you realize that hard work isn’t the problem – it’s meaningless work that kills people. Do your employees feel like they’re being used for something pointless, or prepared for something purposeful?

4. Give people permission to pursue their dreams. Your organization needs to be a place where people can lead fulfilling lives. Working for you needs to help people get where they want to go. Otherwise you team is destined for mediocrity.

My suggestion: Your people need to experience a real (and regular) connection between the duty of today and the dream of tomorrow. Otherwise it’s just a job. It’s just a paycheck. And your organization is viewed as an economic mechanism and little more.

On the other hand, when people start to see the connection between their dream and their work, loyalty skyrockets. After all, people are grateful to whoever helps them achieve their dream. And don’t get me started on their spouses. Can you imagine how good it feels to wake up next to someone who has dreams to chase?

Maybe it’s time to stop telling employees what your demands are and start asking employees what their dreams are. As long as you remember: Your job is to be the spark. Because you can give people permission to pursue their dream – but you can’t take responsibility for them achieving it. How long ago did your people stop dreaming?

5. Identify the real currency. Too many organizations are operating from the obsolete paradigm that people come to work to make money. Nice try, Gordon Gecko. But throwing more money at people isn’t the answer – throwing more meaning at them is.

Truth is, people care less about the check and more about signed card the check came in. They hunger for the validation of being known, seen and heard. And they crave a work environment that allows them to express their creativity as loudly as possible.

Now, make no mistake: Money motivates. But dollars aren’t the only defining factor of human engagement. People invest themselves in things they truly admire. People commit when they’re allowed to lead the kind of life they want.

Your challenge is to figure out what each employee’s personal currency is, and then pay them with that every week. Because “equality,” while nice in theory, isn’t always the best polity. Sure, treating everybody the exact same way saves times – but it costs commitment. The reality is: People engage when they’re treated according to their own unique values. Are you discerning and testing how each of your people wants to be treated?

6. Stop asking people to edit themselves. Most organizational structures are designed to restrict individual expression, mitigate dissent and preserve the status quo. Which is great for the leaders, but makes the employees want to shoot themselves with a staple gun.

Instead, leave the policing to the cops. You don’t need more procedures – you need more philosophy. And note the distinction: Policies are restrictive devices that keep people from doing something; philosophies are enabling devices that empower people to do something.

Trust people to establish their own structures to maintain focus. Give people free reign design their own workplace nirvana. By enabling people’s ability to influence their work environment – and by being vulnerable and trusting enough to decentralize some of the power – they will work better, harder and smarter.

Remember: It’s awfully hard to engage in work that conflicts with your internal compass. Can your people express themselves without have to meet code?

REMEMBER: Your employees will always get what they want – it just might not be from you.

To make sure your organization stays human, approachable and engaged, reconsider the above suggestions. Keep them in mind. Take them to heart. Put them to practice.

Your people will stick around.

If they can’t come up to you, how will they ever get behind you?

For the list called, “205 States of Being That Matter Most,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

You Can Laugh at Your Employee Engagement Worries if You Execute These Six Strategies

I recently read an article in The Onion that painted a frighteningly accurate picture of employee disengagement and dissatisfaction.

The headline was, No Machine Can Do My Job As Resentfully As I Can.

It portrayed an embittered office employee who spent most of his days despising and bemoaning his miserable lot.

“I seethe with the unbearable knowledge that this will be my sole livelihood until the day I die. Struggling to suppress the repulsion and loathing within, I drink before his morning shift just to get through the day, as I am the living, breathing sum of life’s screw-ups, heartbreaks, and regrets.

I am a deeply self-hating man who loathes every second of his working life. And after working at this unventilated shit-prison twelve hours a day for nearly twenty-five years, I have developed no skills other than that of silently counting down the minutes of each workday while cursing my misfortune.”

Extreme? Yes.

Relatable by the majority of the workforce? Big yes.

THE GOOD NEWS IS: Work doesn’t have to be legalized torture.

Contrary to popular conditioning, it is possible to create an environment where approachability, creativity and engagement can flourish. Here’s how:1. Appeal to the heard mentality. All human beings want to feel: Valued. Needed. Wanted. Affirmed. Appreciated. Accepted. Respected. Recognized. Remembered. Taken seriously. Given a chance. Part of something that matters.

In short: They want to be heard.

Not just listened to – but also heard. Huge difference: One comes through the ears – the other comes through the heart. And if you want to strike a cord with that mentality, here’s my suggestion: Give your people the freedom to express themselves. Allow them the dignity of self-definition by creating a safe place where individual personality can shine.

You’ll find that by provide opportunities for constant individual expression; the overall culture of your organization becomes more human and more approachable.

Remember: Creativity is the ultimate expression of freedom. People who have permission to practice that engage. How do you assure that your people know their voice matters?

2. Humanize your doctrine. Most internal communication is a joke. It’s unreadable, unapproachable and usually a waste of paper. And every additional message people receive from their organization becomes another boring, overextended piece of uninspiring drivel they delete immediately or, at best, peruse passively.

If you want to deliver messages that cut through the internal clutter and arrest your people’s attention, you have to meet them where they are – but refuse to leave them where they are. It doesn’t have to be mind blowing – it just has to be heart flowing. After all, honesty trumps brilliance any day of the week.

Next time you send out some form of internal communications, ask yourself, “Is this beautifully readable or dreadfully uninspiring?” And it can’t just be what you think is interesting. Nice to know information isn’t always nice to engage information. As Kurt Vonnegut said, you have to be a great date for your reader. Is this message actually important to your people, or does it just makes the leadership team feel better?

3. Retain a strong emotional connection. Marketshare is useless. Mindshare is overrated. Heartshare – that is, the level of emotional responsiveness your work commands – is what matters. And your goal is to give people an emotion, a handle, to latch onto. That’s what enables their work to come to life.

My suggestion: Actually consider your people’s lives when you make decisions. Don’t start with the customer in mind – just start with the customer. As I learned from the aforementioned Jeanne Bliss, “We become emotionally attached to companies who consider our lives when they make decisions.”

Ultimately, companies that uphold the human spirit in all they do are more engageable, more approachable and more profitable. And organizations that create what their people will love – not just want – are the ones that stay alive. Just remember: People can get your knowledge anywhere. What you’re competing on is your sensibility. What you’re differentiating through is your humanity. What emotion are you selling?

4. Choose being real over being right. Your people would much rather have leaders who are real all the time – not right all the time. What’s more, if they know you’re willing to admit your ignorance, perhaps they’d be more willing to volunteer information about what’s really going on in the organization.

I’m reminded of what Southwest Airlines president Herb Keller once said: “If you create an environment where people truly participate, you don’t need control.” My suggestion: Instead of asking people to answer questions, invite them to question answers. Don’t worry. Developing a predisposition to compromise doesn’t make you weak or small – it makes you human and malleable.

It also makes you more likable and less of a pain in the ass to work with. As I learned in The Closing of the American Mind, “True openness means closedness to all the charms that make us comfortable with the present.” Learn to be less right and live to be more engaged. Will terminal certainty eat your organization alive?

5. Approach ideas with deep democracy. In the bestselling book on employee engagement, The Carrot Principle, authors Elton and Gostick explain that most employees don’t feel: (a) they have the right to share ideas, (b) that their ideas are valued, and (c) that sharing their ideas is even allowed.

Wow. There mere thought of this intellectual tragedy makes my stomach hurt. If I were running an organization, I’d make sure that good ideas had the chance to prosper, regardless of their origination. As a result, people wouldn’t have to assume that if they brought their idea to the top, it would die.

Come on. This story is sick of being told. Instead of command and control, try participate and surrender. Challenge your leaders to set up mechanisms for soliciting input from the people who matter most. This will help them see their own fingerprint on the plan and, let them know their words have weight and, as a result, allows them to take ownership of the idea. What are you afraid to listen to?

6. Uncover preexisting engagement tendencies. I once read in A Course In Miracles that inner peace is not something that we create, but something that already exists within us as a part of our true identity.

Human engagement is the same way: It’s not something you create – it’s something you excavate. It’s something you unearth. And if you want to do so with your people, you have to challenge them to matter. You have to help them get in touch with the personal why behind their work. Nothing is more engaging.

And, once you help people embed their flaming sense of purpose into everything they do, their daily work will be more engaged than Larry King on a Las Vegas vacation.

Look: People don’t need another schema to conform to – they need permission to bring their uniqueness to the table. They need you to give them a voice that says, “It’s okay and here’s why…” Is your engagement strategy a rigid methodology that demands homogeneity of beliefs, or a playground that gives people the freedom to develop in their own unique way?

REMEMBER: Nobody wants to dread going into work.

But disengagement is a product of organizational structure.

And if you don’t recognize, remedy and revisit these issues on a regular basis, nothing will ever get upgraded.

Your organization has the potential to become an environment where approachability, creativity and engagement can flourish.

Let it.

How will you avoid bombing your next employee engagement survey?

For the list called, “35 Things You Simply Can’t Do,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

Never the same speech twice.

Now booking for 2011!

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!

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