A new approach to employee engagement. 

I’m at the HR Summit in Birmingham, hearing from Marshall Goldsmith.  Best selling author, leading executive coach and recognised as one of the worlds most influential business thinkers.  He is here today to talk about the subject of employee engagement.

It’s a topic that I have mixed feelings about, as a backward look over my past blog posts will demonstrate. So I’m interested to hear what he has to say. What is new about this subject that has had so much written about it already.

Only he didn’t talk all that much about employee engagement.  He talked of other things instead.  Ideas, thought provoking notions, and challenges too. So many that they were hard to capture in a live blog.

Here are some of those that resonated with me:

We spend so much time trying to be right. Our behaviour is triggered by what is around us. Someone tells us that they have had a bad day and it is our immediate instinct to try and go one better and prove that ours was worse. We don’t have to do this.  We can chose to do something else. In the moment between stimulus and response there is choice. We can take the positive road instead.

We spend so much time thinking about tomorrow. This mythical place where things will be different. When we will finally follow our dreams. But tomorrow will be no different to today, unless we are.

The great western disease: ‘I will be happy when……’  Complete as applicable. Be happy now instead.  If you don’t follow your dream now, when will you? Just do it. Even if people think you are crazy.

He goes on to recommend these exercises that he does with coaching clients.

Set yourself a question that you can challenge yourself with every day.  

Imagine you are 95. You are about to take your last breath when you are given a gift. The gift to go back to talk to you, now. What would you say? What advice would you give? 

So I am sat here now, thinking of my question, thinking of the advice I would give, from my future self to me today. I know what it is.  I knew it already, somewhere. But the session has made me think and that is why I enjoyed it so much.

When he did speak of engagement, he said this.

He looked at the research and listened to the standard engagement discourse. Talk of reward, leadership, surveys, and so on and so on.

Only this.

Companies talk about what they can do to engage their employees. They don’t talk about what employees can do to engage themselves.

Most of the questions that are asked of employees about work are passive questions.

Take this standard example – Do you have a best friend at work? Answer…. Nope. I don’t like anyone around here. End of discourse. Passive. The employee taking no responsibility for change. It’s someone else’s problem.

Instead…. Ask these questions of people.

Did I do my best today to…. Be happy, find meaning, build positive relationships, be fully engaged.

And then. Reflect.


If you knew you were going to be asked how you would improve this for yourself what would you do?

In all the people he has asked this question no one has ever said ‘nothing’.

If you are negative, disengaged or unhappy at work, in that meeting, everyday… then who loses? It’s not the company it is you.

Finally, he said this.  Life is easy to talk.  It is not that easy to live.



Graphic by those very nice people at IIP.

1 thought on “A new approach to employee engagement. 

  1. Absolutely re employees taking charge here

    Arguably a lot of “HR doing it to them” leads to disengagement – and as per the presentation from Ant Shearn at NAP a few years ago – the key is employees doing it for themselves.

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