Earlier this week, I received an UNSUBSCRIBE request from a now-former subscriber to these Musings. The automated system that handles these things includes a small field in which the reason(s) for leaving can be typed. This is what the unsubscriber wrote: “You write a lot about what not to do. I get that. I need prescriptive advice. Tell me what I SHOULD do!”
My dilemma. A major theme of Otherwise Engaged is that when it comes to employee engagement, prescriptive “how-to” lists offer the illusory benefit of giving you the satisfaction of actually doing something! about a matter of some import when you might actually be causing harm. What looks like a sensible, rational action plan to a leader can feel a lot like condescension and infantilization to the rank-and-file.
The goal is to have engagement levels be as high as possible. One way to achieve that goal is to do the things that can make the levels go up, i.e., recognize that it’s not about what you do but about the effect you’re having on others. Another way is to stop doing the things that make engagement levels go down. To invoke some TQM-speak—that’s where the low-hanging fruit is! You may undertake an engagement-related program that could nudge levels up in a corner of your organization, but the chances are very good that those gains are being more than off-set by losses resulting from some of the more ill-considered aspects of your engagement to-do list.
Said more simply—and to invoke the aphorism about what to do when you find yourself in a hole—here’s a 1-item, prescriptive list that will do more to help engagement levels than anything else I can think of:
1. Stop digging.
A pity that the unsubscriber isn’t around any more to see it.