My father, Harry, was a good man. One of the many things I admired about him was his even-temperedness. No matter what was going on around him, he never seemed to get riled up or withdrawn. So it’s not surprising that he was the sort of person to whom others were drawn. When they needed assistance with a do-it-yourself project—he was the handiest person I’ve ever known—or advice about this or that situation they faced, they’d turn to him. They knew that Harry would be willing to lend a hand, or an ear, or a comforting shoulder.
One of my great regrets is that I never talked to him about any of this, since it’s not the sort of thing that fathers and sons—men!—talked about in the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s. Unspoken though it might have been, the most important lesson I ever learned from him was this: “Treat others with respect. All the rest is noise.”
I haven’t always lived up to my father’s example, but what I can do is pass along his wisdom, so...
There is a tendency to see things like employee engagement as being incredibly complex. We get all caught up in the tools and the techniques, in looking to maximize our return on human capital, and in so doing we put more and more comforting layers of insulation between ourselves and the heart of the matter.
But employee engagement isn’t complex at all. It’s really quite simple, a matter of treating others with respect. Understand that "simple" is not a synonym for "easy." Being vigilant about respecting others—giving them due consideration—is hard. But you’re a whole lot more likely to be effective at dealing with this simple/hard challenge if you approach it from the clear-eyed, even-tempered point of view that my dad applied to life. He might not have said it, but he sure as hell lived it.
(For more on this point—from Jim Kouzes—see yesterday’s Musing.)