A Simple Test to Determine If You’re Focusing on the "Wrong" Definition of Engagement

What follows might not make a whole lot of sense unless you’ve already read the Musing just below this one.  So go ahead.  Scroll down and read that one first.  Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

(Humming patiently...and quite pleasantly, I might add.  (Wife: “It’s not all that pleasant.”))

Back?  OK.  Here’s the simple test to determine whether or not you’re focusing on the wrong definition of Engagement:

  • If your tendency is to use ‘engage’ as a transitive verb—a verb that takes an object—then you’ve probably got the wrong definition in mind.

You hear it all the time:  “I’ve instructed Ellen to engage Greg so that she has the benefit of his insight and expertise.”  “Before moving on to phase 2 of the project, we fully engaged the leadership team.”  And so on.

But the right definition of engagement—that is, the one that correlates with dramatically improved business results—is this: The extent to which an individual invests additional effort and energy in the tasks at hand.  It’s a psychological state, not a series of activities.  As such, it is not something done by or to people, and therefore should not be used as a transitive verb.

But isn’t that just a matter of semantics?  Yes, it’s a matter of semantics.  However, there’s no “just” about it, not unless you think that investing large amounts of time and money on very visible organizational interventions all the while focusing on the wrong objective isn’t a big deal.  To quote Mark Twain: “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

Get in the habit of applying that simple “transitive verb” test.  It will help keep your focus where it belongs when striving to increase engagement levels, another "really large matter."

(Click here for an excerpt from Otherwise Engaged that goes into considerably more depth on the matters discussed in this Musing.)