The term Engagement has become increasingly popular – for example in its use as ‘Employee Engagement’. Organisations even invest in, albeit still simple, levels of research into levels of employee engagement through undertaking ‘surveys’ of Employee Engagement.
Of course, even introducing the term ‘employee’ with the term engagement immediately highlights the difficulty, and the opportunity. Employee becomes a term that might limit the appreciation of people for what they could engage with.
People often join organisations for reasons of work, for the financial priority of earning a living. This then enables many people to live the rest of their lives, and what really engages, and motivates their interests, outside of the organisation.
The challenge of motivation of people has been a topic that has been well studied. It is tempting for people to do as little as possible at work, rather than as much as possible, when life outside the organisation is more stimulating and satisfactory than life inside the organisation.
The famous ‘Hawthorne‘ research  started the record of reported understanding about this topic. It showed up the startling impact of the ‘ placebo ‘ effect, where an experiment with level of lighting available for workers showed improvements in productivity – no matter what the level of lighting was. Performance just went on improving even when the level of lighting was lowered to dark levels. It was concluded that it was simply giving attention – of any sort – was the really motivating – engaging - factor.
Coaching is about this idea of giving people quality attention. However it is also still a challenge for Coaching as to whether the Coach makes the difference, or whether just giving someone the time to themselves might work by itself!
Coaching at its best provides a quality of attention that enables a person to express and learn about themselves in a way that they don’t find easy to find anywhere else. Coaching can also bring important fresh perspectives to this question of getting people engaged with their context, e.g. their organisation, and finding ways to improve how they engage with it.
It is still very easy though to look at coaching as being about something remedial – help a person achieve minimal requirements, or else the organisation may ‘let them go’ elsewhere.
Voluntary organisations are often the best example for how an organisation can engage with peoples’ positive energy. After all, when people are working without normal financial rewards, it must be for some inner reward? Is this the idea of ‘self’ that is beginning to form in our understanding of Coaching and what it is about?
This attention to the ‘ self ‘ and that form of self-motivation can really impact the sort of positive energy and focus that a person wants to bring, and then how they can bring it into the context so they can really start to live it more actively.
As Coaches, we also have to keep our own selves carefully managed in such dialogues! Many managers in organisations can get so self focussed, for example, about creating a (totally non personal) system, that this then denies space to any other person not thinking the same way as them... or their system. This then denies the attention needed for the unique features of any self.
Coaching attention can involve creating a form of, confidence in the way the relationship works, that then produces a form of real – confidential – intimacy about the self, the person, the coachee, involved.
- It is something to do with showing a sincere and insightful interest and understanding of another person’s possibly half formed awareness about themselves … where they show possible interest in understanding and exploring themselves further… in words they use …
- These are not best the textbook – mechanical - questions and words coaches use when talking about coaching/it is a conversation that can start to invent private meanings between the Coach and Coachee
I find when these conditions are achieved, the coaching agenda can shift significantly. More of the real whole person becomes involved with the conversation. This can provide new insights into the matter that may have started the agenda. How can I be more effective in my role in an organisation, moves more towards not only what the organisation wants, but what the coachee would enjoy bringing more to the organisation in a way all would value it.
A good example of current thinking about employee engagement is offered in a report by one organisation – ‘Becoming irresistible a new model for employee engagement’ by Deloitte University Press 
Of course starting with the term ‘employee’ in talking about ‘employee engagement’ already invents some big traps. The word employee can carry some serious limitations of thinking in addressing the matter!
The report suggests building an irresistible organisation is the answer, rather than talking about employee engagement. And then goes on to emphasise a need for the right organisation ‘culture’, and of course that other big idea – a coaching culture.
- Culture is still about people! But the front line of any culture is still down to the kind of interaction that takes place between people. And this is where Coaching, at its best, still needs to be held in higher focus.
Employee engagement will only create a genuine quality of participation when the employee is engaged as a full person for who they are, and how they want to live their own personal energy.
- Even Time out! Employee engagement for some organisations has now resulted in accepting that the ‘ employee ‘ can only achieve this by being given time out of the organisation …as the best way of enabling them to find an outlet for their fuller self. So employees have time out of the organisation – where they may work on a voluntary basis for some other (voluntary) organisation that more closely enables them to live their passion and real interests.
As Coaches we still have a great opportunity to help others close this gap … how organisations can tap into the real energy that engagement could bring. We also know how much work it can take to get this sort of level of dialogue even in our coaching sessions, still.
- How confident are you of achieving this sort of intimacy with your Coachees
- How do you achieve this?
- How well can you get this across to others about why it is important?