Busy, occupied; involved. That is the common definition of engaged. Frankly, that does not excite me. Yet, organizations spend so much time and money trying to get their employees to be more so. Personally, I expect more. In my opinion, busy and occupied people don't grow companies. It seems to be a common practice to attach value to activity. Being busy is associated with being good, and that is just wrong. Real value comes from employees who are doing what is necessary to achieve the desired outcome. That is why I don't want engaged employees. Because, it is enlightened employees that actually deliver growth.
Being busy is associated with being good, and that is just wrong.
If it were my company, I would want my employees to have a light bulb of realization flash in their heads. I crave for employees who see clearly how their role directly impacts the organization's purpose. Those who viscerally understand how their efforts contribute to our stated vision and desired outcomes.Those are the kind of employees who are going to take us to the promised land.
I crave for employees who see clearly how their role directly impacts the organization's purpose.
As a leader, I own this. It is my job to provide the conditions for employee enlightenment. It starts with clarity of purpose. Everyone must know our rallying cry, our call to action. A pervasive sense of purpose, when harnessed, is a power like no other. If everyone in the organization knows why we are here and what we are trying to do, that is a heck of good start. Next is vision. I say this often, "You can't run a race if you don't know what the finish line looks like". As a leader, I need to make that finish line glisten like a neon sign on the Vegas Strip. I need every employee to be able to look up from what they are doing and see that line just down the road, ever so slightly out of reach. Push a little more, hang in, we are all going to get there together.
A pervasive sense of purpose, when harnessed, is a power like no other.
Once I have done this, my job is to listen. I've hired good people. Many far smarter than I. So, the final ingredient needed to brew up the perfect conditions for enlightenment, is to make those really smart people feel heard, cared for, valued and respected. If I don't take this step and only rely on connecting purpose and vision, I've missed the golden opportunity. It would be like pulling a $100 gift card off the rack but never going through the register to pay for it. It may look good. It may even be exciting, but it's worthless. This is a terrible analogy, but I can't help myself. Like a gift card, people need to be validated to reach their true potential.
It would be like pulling a $100 gift card off the rack but never going through the register to pay for it. It may look good. It may even be exciting, but it's worthless.
Now, I have a team of really smart people, working with a sense of purpose who understand how their role makes a meaningful difference in the achievement of the collective purpose. Every one of them has their eye on the same prize and because their leaders listen to them and respect them, they are energized and feel empowered.
Let's recap. You can have engaged employees who are busy, occupied; involved. Or, you can have enlightened employees, who clearly see and are aligned with the organization's purpose and vision. Employees who feel heard, cared for, valued and respected, and are therefore, energized and empowered. Employees who have had that flash of awareness go off in their heads. So, I ask you, do you want engaged employees or enlightened employees? For me the choice is simple.
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Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group. He works to grow businesses and business leaders. He helps companies tell their stories and build relationships with their customers. He helps leaders better connect and communicate with those whom they lead, and serves as a thinking partner to executives and their teams.
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