We have said that engagement begins with the individual, grows among team members, and shapes the future of the organization. However, this is not always a smooth progression. What happens when there is a loss of engagement? The loss may be due to a difficult relationship or event, or the more far-reaching impact of a culture shift in the entire organization.
How do we re-build when there is not only a lack of trust, but a loss of trust? Can the promises that once worked create a sense of confidence among employees who are “once bitten, twice shy”?
There is good news and bad news about re-engagement. To offer the bad news first, regaining trust has special challenges. The process must begin with an understanding of what went wrong, and the dedications to make the necessary changes to be sure it won’t happen again. As in the story of the “three little pigs,” the right materials must be found to make sure the house isn’t “blown down” each time a storm of controversy arrives at the door.
The process of identifying the problems and their impact must be sensitive to the fact that different people may have been affected in different ways by the events that created the loss of engagement. Those affected by the problems and those responsible for them must find a way to identify solutions which everyone can accept, in spite of their differences.
It is only as plans to move forward and implement the solutions materialize, that there is the opportunity to re-establish a spirit of engagement. The good news is that as this happens, there is the opportunity to reap the rewards of what has been learned to create a stronger and more “storm proof” environment for the future. Individuals will be able to apply what they have learned about themselves, their team members, and the organization, as they seek to make a greater contribution. Heroes can emerge in this process who had not assumed this role before. Employees can assume a greater commitment to not only create a spirit of engagement, but to recognize its fragility, and their role in building the engagement culture “brick by brick” each day. In this way, employees can see how their contribution is needed more than ever to keep their work environment safe and sound.
As with individuals, fluctuations in engagement in an organization are inevitable. They create difficulties, but also opportunities for insight and growth. They point to weaknesses, and highlight areas of strength. The important thing is to approach them with more engagement and openness, not less, and to build engagement strength through increased resistance. In this way, employees will not to be left with no structure to support them, like the pigs in the woods!
In building your culture of engagement, it is important to discuss in advance what you will do when the wolf comes to the door. What are the values and outcomes you will protect at all cost? How are individuals in your engaged culture empowered to identify and communicate concerns before they increase in size? What resources are dedicated to reviewing the issues of concern and determining what action, if any, should be taken? How will this process be monitored? What result is anticipated, and how will this contribute to the success of the organization and its engagement culture?
Dr. Edward Morler, an organizational psychologist who works with leadership teams, refers to “integration” or “disintegration” in describing individual personality characteristics. His point is that as individuals assume a more “win-win” mentality, they adopt the best characteristics of other personality types. On the other hand, if they are less committed to what is best for others, they may adopt some of the less desirable characteristics of other personality types.
The challenges faced by an organization suffering a loss of engagement present the opportunity for the to move to a more “win-win” environment, adopting new positive characteristics along the way.. It is a process that requires patience and commitment, but is well worth the effort.
What challenges to engagement does your organization face? How are they addressed? In what ways can they help you to become better, and stronger in your commitment to engagement, than before?