THE BLOG

A Radical New Approach to Employee Engagement!

04/07/2015 05:13 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2015

In my new book Triggers, I propose a radical new approach to employee engagement. To me, this new approach is the "other half of the equation", the missing piece, the thing that we've been overlooking that could change the business landscape for good!

What is this radical new concept? It's that the key variable in employee engagement is the individual, the employee, not the program. Although it may sound obvious, this idea is not taught or acted upon. Instead, companies spend billions of dollars every year trying to get employees and leaders to believe that the solution to employee engagement problems is "out there" not "in us". For example:

  • Historically, almost all of the evaluations of leadership development programs have focused on participants grading the popularity of the speakers. The goal of the program developers is to develop popular programs. Who learns to take responsibility? Who is really being trained? The speaker! The speaker is reinforced for being a popular presenter. The speaker almost never has any responsibility for the actual development of the leaders. The leaders may or may not take responsibility for their own development. Many take no responsibility for implementing what they learn in programs and, not surprisingly, do not become more effective.
  • Historically, almost all of the evaluations of executive coaching is on the popularity of the coach. Companies want to hire coaches who are popular with executives. Who learns to take responsibility? Who is really being trained? The executive coach is reinforced for being popular. The coaching clients may or may not take responsibility for changing their own behavior. Many take no responsibility for implementing suggestions from their coach and, not surprisingly, do not become better leaders.
  • Historically, almost all of the evaluation on employee engagement has focused on the company. These are important things like delivering fair pay and benefits, providing tools and resources, creating a safe workplace environment, and so on. But who is learning to take responsibility? Who is being trained? The company learns to roll out popular employee engagement programs; however, the employees may or may not take responsibility for engaging themselves. Many take no responsibility for engaging themselves and, not surprisingly, do not become more engaged though they do have good benefits.

I am not suggesting that all development and engagement programs are helpful - or that if their ideas are implemented they will work. I am merely pointing out that ideas which are not implemented definitely will not work!

I want you to achieve positive, lasting change, and I want you to have a better life. And while some of your life is going to be impacted by your environment, by a program, coach, or company - a lot is going to be up to you! The fact is that while you can't make yourself taller, you can make yourself more engaged. And maybe you can't change your company, boss, or employee, but you can change your reaction to them.

Your success in becoming engaged, being happy, finding meaning, and leading people will largely come from inside you - not from some teacher, coach, or program. It is not just what you learn, but how you (and if you) use it that will make the difference.

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Please view the Marshall Goldsmith Thinkers50 Video Blog. The next video in the series Triggers: Employee Engagement accompanies this article. I'll post these blogs once a week for the next 50 weeks. The series will incorporate learnings from my 38 years of experience with top executives, as well as material from my previous research, articles and books, including What Got You Here Won't Get You There, MOJO, Coaching for Leadership, and Succession: Are You Ready? The blogs will also include material from my exciting new research on engagement and my upcoming book Triggers (to be published by Crown in 2015). Pre-order Triggers at TriggerstheBook.com!