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Posts Tagged ‘BlessingWhite

The X and I

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There is a great whiteboard video from the originators of the “X” posted at the Employee Engagement Network.  Come back after you watch.

If we can tell our personal story, it helps make engagement more real. If something actually has deep meaning to me and I can relate my own experience to others, I become a more credible source.

This is my personal story–how I have mapped the “x” in numerous sessions of BlessingWhite’s Managing Personal Growth. The story ran long, so I am posting it separately at my blog.

Telling my “x” experience is critical right now as I am about to use it to introduce myself, to open a proposal to our chief officers that is heavily influenced by engagement factors-the soft stuff that can drive operations managers nutty. My leaders need to understand me, my perspective, and most importantly the power of engagement as presented through the “x”. I need credibility, and telling my story here is a good warm-up for me. The X and I.  I’d love to hear your story too.


Engagement On-the-Job PART TWO

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THE KEY POINT from ENGAGEMENT On-the-Job, PHASE ONE  was that the recipe for high engagement has three main ingredients:

  1. Alignment and clarity of direction, goals and expectations;
  2. Satisfaction driven by connecting with an individual’s values or motivators and strengths; and
  3. Delivering results.

PHASE TWO gets complicated as there can be different outcomes after the initial newness wears off. To engage, or not to engage….that is the question.

PHASE TWO: Making the Turn to High Engagement

With experience and time, people in new assignments gather momentum and they begin delivering results of substance. Goals are established that are aligned with the company’s larger goals and efforts and strengths became more of a high-powered rifle than the shotgun they were previously.

As this topic took shape, it became clear that the impact of leadership style on engagement is a very important “AHA”. I was in Phase Two on at least three occasions, with one key difference—the leadership style of the manager to whom I reported. Here are a few of my paths to engagement and, unfortunately, disengagement. These are presented in universal terms where possible. Can you relate?

PHASE TWO(a). My leader was as new as I was to the greenfield project. He was my “manager” on the org chart only, and we worked as equals in every other respect. We had different strengths and complemented each other very well. It took time to make the turn but we both became very highly engaged, producing results and highly satisfied. We were ‘in the zone’ and winning championships… PHASE THREE: the Home Stretch.

When my manager retired, I was fortunate enough to get a new manager who was also very hands-off, and who had a complementary set of strengths to mine. Again, we worked extremely well together. The string of championships continued without missing a beat until that manager took an opportunity outside of the company.

POINT: new leader transitions can be seamless. It takes more than luck; it takes an intuitive leader, a good fit, and a conscious effort to make the transition smooth with minimal disruption. Minimal damage to existing levels of engagement is the payback.

PHASE TWO(b). Same assignment as 2(a), but with yet another new manager who was new to the department, new to the work. This manager was eager to learn everything there was to learn, which translated into micro-management. I was expected to provide a detailed accounting of everything I had done and everything that was in process, in an endless stream of status update meetings. Result: I disengaged. My satisfaction was terminal, and my contribution level suffered as well. It seemed at least that I was expected to account for my work so much that I couldn’t continue contributing, and the work environment was painfully in conflict with my core values–creativity; learning new and different things; freedom from unnecessary constraints.

I found a new assignment ASAP even though it meant leaving behind work that was a very short time ago truly engaging.

COUNTERPOINT: new leader transitions can be disastrous, shattering high levels of engagement and derailing productivity in the process.

PHASE TWO(c). A different greenfield project, a different manager who knew as little as I did in the initial phases. The start-up team was larger, the project was complex and task-intensive, and goals were more clearly defined than in 2(a). The six start-up team members possessed complementary strengths, and we all had specific tasks to manage. As a good deal of coordination was necessary among the independent tasks, the project manager was detail-oriented and hands-on, a.k.a. a micro-manager, out of necessity. But it was OK by me and the others.

While we may not have been highly engaged in the initial period, we got there quickly. All we needed was a little time to grow.

POINT: the same leadership style can either work well or lead to disengagement, depending on the circumstances. Even what would be perceived as micro-management may be appropriate, even for someone like me who has an intense aversion for unnecessary constraints. Hersey and Blanchard (situational leadership) had it right.

With all this introspection on my life in terms of engagement and disengagement, I think I’m getting closer to taking a shot at defining engagement—my original self-imposed challenge. But not yet. I do know it when I feel it or don’t feel it, though. Maybe that’s the definition…you know it when you feel it.


PHASE THREE: the Home Stretch.

A substantial challenge is emerging from this essay…how do you keep highly engaged individuals in the zone of high satisfaction, maximum contribution? Coming soon…what’s all the buzz about strengths-based leadership? Why not the good old “acceptable level of competency”?

Getting Personal TWO: Engagement On-the-Job

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Engagement is getting a lot of airplay and appears to be an important concept…. whatever it is. The ongoing challenge: come up with a working definition for engagement. In Getting Personal Part One, I tried to more clearly define engagement by tracking my own level of engagement through my music career based on four “truths”. OK, “truth” may be stretching it. My opinion only.

This musical reminiscing was relevant to engagement in business. But here I am going to track a portion of my career path against those same truths, in more universal terms. My hope is that this personal analysis will help develop an operational definition of engagement, for my own sanity if nothing else. The four “truths” below are reworked a little from Getting Personal ONE:

ONE: engagement is highly personal, as it is based on an individual’s core values (motivators, drivers). My core values include creativity; learning new and different things; freedom from unnecessary constraints.

TWO: engagement is more than feel-good stuff. For engagement to be considered to be worth pursuing by decision-makers, it has to add value to the bottom line. It can’t just be “I love my job and I’m working pretty hard too.” I favor BlessingWhite’s model of engagement (sign up for access to The State of Employee Engagement 2008 — North American Overview. See pp 3-4) which defines engagement as that rare state where maximum satisfaction and maximum contribution peacefully coexist.

THREE: I need to fully utilize my strengths to be fully engaged. A strength is more than just “talent” or being good at something. A strength is a skill that I get satisfaction out of utilizing because that particular skill means a good deal to me—it fits my motivators or core values.

FOUR: a person’s level of engagement, even in the same position or career, is not a carousel, it is a roller coaster. My roller coaster was great fun, and I’m sure many of you have been on the same ride, some of you several times around as I have.

I’m going to break the ride down into phases.

PHASE ONE: out of the gate. On a few different occasions I was placed in a new position where I really didn’t have a huge amount of expertise to start out with. A couple of these were greenfield initiatives with nothing but a blank sheet going in–no predefined goals or expectations. I was happy as heck with these assignments as they fit my motivators, and I worked really hard at making things fly. I was contributing, but was I a top contributor of results? Certainly not initially.

Engagement Pluses: motivators met, satisfaction high; strengths utilized, decent level of contribution.

Engagement Minuses: low level of alignment; little clarity of direction. The alignment and direction  elements were works-in-process. I was providing little bottom line impact, which was expected and acceptable in start-up phase. Still, the “contribution” factor drove my overall grade down: not bad at all, but still not totally engaged. “B-minus”…there’s still room to improve.

KEY POINT: the recipe for high engagement has three main ingredients:

  1. Alignment and clarity of direction, goals and expectations;
  2. Satisfaction driven by connecting with an individual’s values or motivators and strengths; and
  3. Delivering results.

PHASE TWO: making the turn to high engagement gets complicated as there can be different outcomes after the initial newness wears off.

To engage, or not to engage….that is the question.


Written by Craig

May 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

Roadmap: Engagement in the Education and Business Worlds

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I’ve seen a recent spike in viewers on the topic of “engagement” and thought it might help you find what you’re looking for if you had a roadmap of recent posts on engagement here at In Pursuit of Excellence. The following posts explore engagement in both the academic and business / industry worlds, as they are very much related.

The Business Case for Alignment and Engagement  is a lengthier piece that details a good amount of data and estimates for how engagement impacts execution and productivity. 

What IS Engagement Anyway?  One of the focal points for In Pursuit of Excellence is “engagement”.  So…what IS it anyway? In exploring the blogosphere, I came away even more confused than when I went in. There is huge disparity of experience-based opinion among practitioners. Add all the academic debates, studies and dissertations on “engagement”….forget about it! I made a stab at concocting a working definition for engagement in this three-post series:

  1. Engagement Per Commercial Authorities: three heavy hitters weigh in on engagement: Towers-Perrin, Gallup Management, and BlessingWhite.
  2. Engagement: the Gap Between Academics and Shop Floor. Framing, for my own clarification, some of the academic language surrounding engagement…. Studies, dissertations and meta-analyses of the previously established constructs of satisfaction, commitment, involvement and motivation… Operations managers need plain talk, centered around results. They don’t live in the world of studies, constructs and dissertations. The quickest route to a manager’s stonewall is to espouse theory without substance.
  3. Engagement: Now We’re Getting Personal!  The challenge: come up with a working definition for engagement. Not easy, but I’m going to give it a shot based on four attributes I hold as truths. OK, not “universal truths” but my opinion.

Let the Rabbits Run  is a great parable from the book Soar With Your Strengths by Clifton and Nelson. This book is a classic in the strengths-based leadership field pioneered by Gallup Management. The more a person has the opportunity to utilize their strengths, the more they are fully engaged.

Engagement Goes to School. The hypothesis: high school kids are disengaged in both their education and in thinking about their future….education is perceived to be irrelevant to their future. The underlying issue: students are not engaged in any kind of “future thinking” to even know what is, and isn’t relevant to them. An even deeper issue…teachers, and parents too, are also disengaged.

The High Cost of Student Disengagement?   The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools, a McKinsey report, predicts that the U.S. GDP would be $1.3-2.3 trillion higher if the achievement gap between the United States and its international peers were closed in 1998.

Meaningful School-to-Career There is a good deal more to be said about this topic, a definite work-in-process. If students saw the connection between what they were doing in school and the rest of their lives, they would become more engaged. In the meantime, the rest of the developed / developing world is kicking US students’ butts in standard achievement scores.

School-to-career requires a real partnership between education and B & I. (pssst…..this is not just an education crisis-this has everything to do with competitiveness in the global economy)

And after all this, I still don’t have a working definition of engagement in twenty words or less…


Engagement: Now We’re Getting Personal!

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Engagement-Now We’re Getting Personal!

The challenge: come up with a working definition for engagement. Not easy, but I’m going to give it a shot based on four attributes I hold as truths. OK, not “universal truths” but my opinion. I feel these truths are pretty indisputable, but if you want to challenge any of them we can have some fun with this.


In Post Three, I promised to take a stab at defining engagement. So here comes my personal take on engagement, with examples of what my engagement journey has looked like. What’s your personal take on engagement, and what has your journey been like?

First installment of this “In Search Of” mini series was What IS Engagement Anyway?

Second installment: Engagement Per Commercial Authorities

Third in the series: Engagement: the Gap Between Academics and Shop Floor



ONE, engagement is highly personal, as it is based on an individual’s core values and how fully you are enabled to living those values. My core values did not formally present themselves to me until the middle 1990’s. But these have been with me since early grade school: creativity, learning new and different things; freedom from constraints. Based on the next three attributes and these core values, I can easily track my engagement journey going back many years.

TWO, engagement is not just touchy-feely as it is also based on a person’s level of contribution. BlessingWhite spoke very clearly to me in their definition of engagement as the apex of maximum satisfaction and maximum contribution level. Which again becomes very personal, as contribution is driven by how fully a person is utilizing their unique strengths.

THREE, strengths are more than just “talent” or being good at something. Strengths are talents that are aligned with the person’s core values…when I get a huge amount of satisfaction out of utilizing a skill because that particular skill means a good deal to me.

FOUR: a person’s level of engagement, even in one specific position or career, is not a carousel, it is a roller coaster.

Putting all this together, here are a couple examples of my own engagement roller coaster ride.

I didn’t like school-boring classes, boring assignments. Disengaged. I learned very early how to give myself a believable temperature with tap water. But I didn’t read comic books or watch TV. I studied what I wanted to and the extra credit for projects I turned, and a God-given talent for BS’ing through most tests carried me. Note-this strategy did NOT work in college.

I played music professionally for a lot of years. A great match for my core values, and I was quite good at it. There were some musical endeavors that were extremely creative and the other musicians were great friends. But as my career digressed I discovered I was doing more for money rather than for the love of it. In the most dynamic phase of my music career I had my fully engaging creative band, but also signed on as a mercenary with a couple other bands for the steady money. The wrong music, the wrong juke joints, the wrong personnel, but good money and I was still a maximum contributor. Just disengaged.

When the “disengaging” assignments began to more and more outweigh the engaging, I knew it was time to give it up. That was over twenty years ago. I still hold my love for music, have still played but not in bands until fairly recently. I found a couple of other people who liked the same kind of music, were good to be with, and didn’t need to play for money. Engaged again. We’re even thinking about trying out the next time “American Has-Been” auditions come to Iowa.

I could have just as easily tracked my engagement journey through my post-rock-star professional career. It probably would have been too revealing, and you never know who reads these things.

But I can assure you the four “truths” and my core values have played out at least as much in my second life.


Written by Craig

April 21, 2009 at 5:31 am

“Engagement” Per Commercial Authorities

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Unless otherwise indicated, the following excerpts are taken directly from the sources noted. This post is part of “In Search Of Engagement”…what IS it, how do you DO it? First installment of this “In Search Of” mini series was What IS Engagement Anyway?


Towers Perrin


…our (Global Workforce Study) study paints a picture of a workforce that is energetic, ambitious and committed to working hard and giving its best. Engagement measures the level of connection employees feel with their employer, as demonstrated by their willingness and ability to help their company succeed, largely by providing discretionary effort on a sustained basis.

But turning people’s energy and ambition into engagement – and ultimately into significant performance lift – demands attention, focus and some very different behaviors from senior leaders.



“Head, hands, and heart” …the sum total of these three elements is what we used to measure overall employee engagement levels.

1.      “Head” refers to the rational part of the engagement equation, how employees connect with their company’s goals and values.

2.      “Hands” refer to the employee’s willingness to put in a great deal of extra effort to help the company succeed.

3.      “Heart” is the emotional connection between employee and employer, such as the employee’s pride in the organization.


…engagement is not just part of someone’s DNA from birth. It is definitely possible to increase employee engagement levels among existing workers.




The Three Types of Employees

Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.

Not-engaged employees are essentially “checked out”. They’re sleepwalking through their workday, putting time – but not energy or passion – into their work.

Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work; they’re busy acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.


(a side, but critical, thought…what about new people coming into a company? Which way will they lean; what are the influencers? What can be done to tip new people toward engaged?)




(Excerpts from The State of Employee Engagement 2008 — short registration required)

Engaged employees are not just committed. They are not just passionate or proud. They have a line-of-sight on their own future and on the organization’s mission and goals. They are enthused and in gear, using their talents and discretionary effort to make a difference in their employer’s quest for sustainable business success.


Employee engagement is a complex equation that reflects each individual’s unique, personal relationship with work. As such, there are limits to what organizations can do with broad-brush workforce processes or communication programs (it’s up to leadership and individual relationships).


The term “employee engagement” means different things to different organizations. Some equate it with job satisfaction, which unfortunately can reflect a transactional relationship that is only as good as the org’s last round of perks or bonuses. Others measure engagement by gauging employees’ emotional commitment to their organization. Although commitment is an important ingredient, it is only a piece of the engagement puzzle.


While organizations are keen to maximize the contributions of each individual toward corporate imperatives and metrics, individual employees need to find purpose and satisfaction in their work. BW’s model focuses on

·         Contribution to the company’s success

·         Personal satisfaction in their role.


We believe that aligning employees’ values, goals and aspirations with those of the organization is the best method for achieving the sustainable employee engagement required for an organization to reach its goals.


Full engagement represents an alignment of maximum job satisfaction (“I like my work and do it well”) with maximum job contribution (“I help achieve the goals of the organization”)


Engagement has been hailed as the secret ingredient to competitive advantage and organizational success. It is an intuitive concept: committed, aligned, and passionate employees are good for the business.


Coming… Engagement: the gap between academics and the shop floor

Written by Craig

April 18, 2009 at 3:46 pm

(Resource) BlessingWhite: Gurus of Engagement

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You will have to register before you can access a whole lot of really good stuff, primarily engagement, leadership in these tough times, coaching etc. From “About”…

BlessingWhite: employee engagement & leadership development delivered through consulting and content, informed by ongoing research.

We are a global consulting firm dedicated to creating sustainable high-performance organizations. We provide consulting, processes, tools and training to:

  • Create high-performance cultures that drive bottom-line results and reinforce your organization’s mission and values.
  • Develop leaders at all levels who can manage the business and inspire your employees.
  • Align employee self-interest, energy and talents with your organization’s strategy.

BlessingWhite material is based on solid research, much of which is available here.

 Take special note of The State of Engagement: 2008 (North America, or your choice) and Uncertainty’s Antidote: Three Leadership Imperatives. And there is bunches more!

Written by Craig

March 31, 2009 at 3:02 am