Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement

The popular TV show ‘Rules of Engagement’ had at the heart of its storyline; commitment; commitment between a married couple, a newly engaged couple and two single friends. I am quite familiar with the show as my husband often likes to quote Jeff Bingham, usually when he believes I am in the wrong! Although the humorous anecdotes do take the sting out of an argument situation, the bigger lesson to be learned is the commitment the characters have to make relationships work despite the challenges of everyday life.

This commitment otherwise referred to as engagement is a hot topic in organisational leadership today. Read any article on modern-day organisational challenges and statistics surrounding millennial engagement and retention will surely be mentioned. This got me thinking, what do we really mean when we speak of engagement and why does it matter. The writers of the show mentioned above, linked engagement with commitment, so how as leaders do we find this commitment?

For investigation purposes, I further define engagement as connection. The author and researcher Brene Brown in her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ provides a more in-depth definition of connection;
‘the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship’.
How great is this definition! We simply need to ‘feel seen, heard and valued. Brown says we are wired for connection, it is in our biology. This connection is food for our soul, Brown refers to it as sustenance. It might be a simple definition of connection = engagement but not a simple task. It is not a one size fits all. For example, in my research into introverted styles of work I can see how differently we all approach leadership, communication and relationships depending on where we lie on the introvert-extrovert line.

The term employee experience is often used to replace engagement and I like it because it seems to acknowledge the uniqueness of each of our expectations of work and provides a broader term on which to explore connection, commitment and engagement. It would seem any strategy on employee experience needs to be agile and open. It needs to come from employees themselves and leaders need to continually reflect and ask for feedback from employees.

Many companies do a really great job on a large scale of engaging employees, from providing amazing workspaces, community involvement projects, social events, bonus schemes, mentor programmes, leadership development, learning opportunities and so on. But what if you are a small or medium sized business without a large dedicated budget to engagement? It can be done, invite your employees for tea and a chat or provide opportunities for employee participation and feedback. Remember, your introverted employees may prefer participation through paper and pen or e-mail rather than verbal. Support employees’ participation in community involvement on projects dear to them. Consider work-life balance compromises. Provide positive employee experiences by reflecting on styles of leadership and communication. Building connection doesn’t have to take a big budget but it does need a strategy and processes in place to ensure success.
If you are looking for support in this area send me a message, I am passionate about supporting organisations to create great places to work.

As ‘Rules of Engagement’ shows us engagement or experience starts on the ground, it is the commitment to make relationships work despite the everyday challenges, get that right and you’ll build a strong workforce with a great connection.