En-gage:  To occupy the attention or efforts of a person or persons.  To attract and hold fast.  To bind by pledge, promise, contract or oath.  Choosing to involve oneself in or commit oneself to something. Synonyms include: absorb, engross, interest, involve.

Are you engaged?  And no, I’m not talking about the kind of engagement that involves the romance of rings and roses.  I’m referring to you as a leader of people.  Over the past few years I have witnessed significantly more dis-engagement than acts of commitment in business.  I’ve watched as employees become emotionally distant, with no interest in the success of the company, losing faith and motivation.  And when leadership comes up with good ideas, they are met with skepticism and resistance.

A company is a community and not a machine.  Mediocre leaders consider their business to be a machine with employees as moving parts.  Some create rigid structure with tight rules and then try to maintain control by “shifting gears” and “steering”.  Great leaders see that business is a collection of individual hopes and dreams all connected to a higher purpose.  They engage their people. They are committed to the success of their people. They are sincerely involved.

Some less-than-stellar leaders see their people as second-rate who can’t be trusted if they aren’t closely watched. Their people respond in kind, expending energy on looking busy and talking about what is wrong with the relationship.  There is no contract, no promise, no reason to hold fast.  Great leaders treat everyone as if they are the most important person in the building. They expect and often receive excellence from others in every role and employees take charge of their own destiny.  They are engaged.  And they are respected, sometimes even loved.

Sometimes, things get really bad – like during an economic downturn or a rough period for the company and leadership fails to create and maintain any kind of pledge with its people.  Feeling abandoned and defenceless, these people sink into a state of discouragement, low morale and diminished devotion.  They break off the “engagement”.

Some might consider caring leadership “soft”.  Some aren’t interested in building relationships with their people. Most don’t know how.  In fact, I’ve heard some leaders go into detailed explanations as to why avoiding personal relationships with their people is the right thing to do.  It’s not.  There is no business without people and there is no long term success without engagement.

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