Is it an illusion of grandeur to claim the existence of tangible employee engagement? I think not… I think.
There have been times in my career as an employee engagement advocate, that I have been entranced by a fantasy world similar to that of Don Quixote.
Before becoming the famed Don Quixote, Alonso Quijano was just a Hidalgo (a down and out cowboy). Through his love for reading stories about chivalrous knights, beautiful princesses, magicians and enchanted castles… he weaves his own illusions-of-grandeur to alter reality.
Employee engagement should not be a fantasy or a once-upon-a-time story. But if it’s not really real… then it is just a figment of your imagination, and the company’s employees are taken along on the same fantasy ride.
So then – engagement is simple to get right – right?
I am important. I matter. I make a difference. My opinion means something. I am part of this team. I am noticed. You know who I am. I feel secure. I am proud.
Or is it a case of: I am not sure I am important. I am not sure I matter. I am not sure make a difference… you get the point.
As an engagement professional which of the above statements do you feel? Not what your engagement plan promises to deliver – but what do you really believe? And here, I say – is where it all goes a bit belly up.
You can’t tell just tell people you believe in engagement… that would be like Don Quixote convincing his neighbor, Sancho that by becoming his squire he would receive riches, fame and an island. Poor Sancho!
There have been times when I have felt real and believable engagement. I have had senior leadership remember my name and take the time to ask how my family is. I’ve made suggestions and lived to tell the tale. I’ve shared the podium with my team when we celebrated a success. I’ve been asked for my opinion, not once or twice but on a regular basis. To be fair, I have felt engaged more often than not.
So why is it so hard then to conquer the giant of believable employee engagement? Is it an illusion of grandeur to claim the existence of tangible employee engagement? As I said, I think not… but I am not sure. So many times I do genuinely feel it and I puff my chest out in pride, but then I have to start the journey all over again.
Perhaps I can learn a lesson from Alonso (aka Don Quixote). I don’t have to alter my reality but maybe I should change my perspective. I can’t be responsible for how others feel about engagement, but I am responsible for how I feel about it.
There will always be an opponent to engagement. Corporate red tape, the perception that engagement is soft ‘n fluffy, difficult financial conditions, restructuring, mediocrity and so on. I am sure as an engagement advocate – you too could add to this list! But I do believe that by getting up, dusting yourself off and getting back into the engagement saddle after someone or something has knocked you to the ground – will prove us worthy opponents!
Don Quixote was captured and forced to end his fantastic adventures, takes off his armor and confess his madness. He recovers his full sanity, says sorry and dies. Yes, an anticlimax. I for one don’t want to put away my sword just yet!
By believing, really believing in engagement and experiencing it for yourself, well – only then can you take your colleagues along on a believable adventure! But start with you… the rest they say is happy-ever-after, I think.
Author: Misty Oosthuizen, Employee Engagement Specialist