A theory in philosophy that your own existence is the only thing that is real or can be known
That’s the dictionary definition of solipsism, which, I realize, is a pretty obscure word. In this context, though, the word’s obscureness is a feature, not a bug, since many of the problems inherent in driving up engagement levels come from the fact that engagement is such a common word.
Solipsism is what makes leaders think that the way to nurture engagement in others is to focus on what they themselves ought to be doing. And it’s solipsism at an institutional level that leads to discussion of false choices such as work/life “balance”. (In the Venn diagram, the circle for work would be inside the one for life, not overlapping with it.)
Ultimately, engagement has to do with respect for the other person, a concept that is invisible to the solipsist. This is less an indictment than a diagnosis. Entropy being what it is, a tendency toward solipsism is the natural state of things. Simply being aware of this tendency can go a long way toward mitigating against it.
If you’d like to delve a bit more deeply into this topic, click here to read an article I wrote some time ago for The Conference Board: “The Solipsist Syndrome”. While it talks about solipsism in the context of how businesses deal with customers, the same principles hold true when it comes to attending more effectively to our employees.