Employee engagement, love, belief systems and simplicity

So, I tweeted this morning; I have several blogs that I can’t finish, I seem to be stuck.  I had some great advice from experienced bloggers; “set a timescale” “go back to basics and think about your key points”, “just write and publish.”  I’m going to work with all of these suggestions.  Then –  @simonheath1 suggested I publish and invite others to finish it.  So I’m jumping in, a bit scared at my raw unedited writing, unfinished thoughts and I’m going to see how we could to finish it/add to it, improve it. I’ve left the title in; maybe that will provoke thought.

Update  – I had some encouragement that it made sense, so a couple of days later, I finished it,  and here it is.


Here goes:

We already know…

We know what an employee engagement programme probably looks like.  There’ll be a survey, internal communications; there’ll be some change models –  perhaps the most (over)used  – the Kubler Ross curve.  There will be leadership development activities, discussion groups, perhaps working groups.  And we’ll put all the managers through 360.  (Although the CEO, FD and HRD probably won’t have to do it.)

Our organisations are still built on command and control; in particular in relation to the mental model that we all hold; if we accept this  then we must also recognise that  it is simpler to change, modify or rewrite a theory to reinforce those mental models than to question underlying belief systems.

Our command and control model leads to having an over reliance on the rational; we focus on the logical reasons for change; we do not create space for individuals to make their own sense, and we reinforce the silos people complain about by separating different work groups when working on engagement programmes. On many occasions I have had  I have to advocate strongly even to mix disciplines in discussions let alone differing grades when working with many organisations.

Fear of death doesn’t bring about behaviour change

For the same reason that 90% of people who have heart transplants don’t change their lifestyle habits, even though it threatens their life; people – us, you – me, resist behaviour change.    For heart transplant patients; research shows that fear of death is not actually a change  motivator, joy of life though, is with constant reinforcement.  John Kotter in his book “Our Iceberg is Melting” concluded after years of research and consultancy, that to change behaviour, it’s the thinking that has to change and to change the thinking, it’s how we feel that has to shift.

Each organisation is unique in that the people and relationships only exist there.   Our persistent belief in the rational – we value it more somehow because we can command and control it, , and our resistance to the emotional which we cannot command or control is the undoing of so many schemes.

There is no template; all of these things – leadership development, discussion groups, can all be done to high standards, where individuals may get personal insights.  But – people  may still not be engaged.

Let’s take love; we probably have a list of what makes the ideal relationship.  It’s probably very similar for most of us.  Maybe there’s a day where it all be sorted automatically for us all.   But right now, we have to discover the connection, the chemistry, the cohesion through time, effort, misunderstandings, and shared secrets.  I can only do that with you, you with me.

Someone else can tell me you love me (that is quite exciting) but when you tell me yourself, looking into every part of me, then it is mine. And yours.

Unless we unearth the underlying beliefs, the ideology that exists; (Employees are our biggest expense, I “should” be in charge, seniority dictates who makes decisions, I’m a specialist and will therefore tell others”), and discover how they play out for each organisation, for each person, we are more likely to reinforce the ideology of command and control.

The solution is simple, create time and space for people to talk with each other to make meaning. Time, patience, space, respect.  Simple and yet so difficult.







3 thoughts on “Employee engagement, love, belief systems and simplicity

  1. I’m glad you finished the blog. Have to agree on the over reliance on the ‘rational’ at the expense of how the change feels for people. This is even worse when the ‘rational’ reasons for change are based on views held only by a powerful few. I would add that successful change of ‘hearts and minds’ (sorry for the cliche) also needs confident and humble leadership. Confident enough to give away control and humble enough to truly take feedback on board. Simple as you say, but not easy.

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