Why Is The Wrong Definition of Engagement So Appealing?

In previous Musings, I’ve written (ad nauseam) about the two competing definitions of engagement.  One definition frames engagement in terms of connection and interaction, while the other one—the one behind all the research about engagement—uses an energy/effort frame.  I’ve also written (also ad nauseam) that leaders tend to be drawn to the interaction/connection definition rather than the more correct—for purposes of actually achieving higher levels of engagement— energy/effort definition. 

Here’s why.

Interaction and connection are pretty tangible things.  Want people to interact more?  Hold an all-hands meeting.   Want even stronger connections to be forged during those meetings?  Include breakout sessions.  The implementation of such tangible tactics is also something well within our comfort zones.  Plus which, they’re pretty easy to pull off.

Getting people to invest additional energy and effort on the job, on the other hand, is a lot less tangible as a goal.  Doing so means trying to plumb the depths of just what makes Zack and Miri tick, and that begins to stretch things out of those comfort zones.  And even if you roll up your sleeves and try, there’s no getting around it; it’s bloody hard to do.

So there’s a fork in the road.  One path reads:  “Tangible, Comfortable, Easy.”  The other path reads:  “Intangible, Uncomfortable, Hard.”

Guess which path is going to have more traffic.