The notion that an employee needs to be engaged, enabled, or energized is certainly not groundbreaking. But the problem is that they’ve generally been considered separately. Instead, think for a moment about these three traits visually, as shaded circles in a Venn diagram; when the three traits overlap, their three colors combine to form darker, richer tones. Any one without the other two is good but not sufficient for truly exceptional results.
A hamster on a treadmill is energized, for example, but it doesn’t really accomplish much by spinning its wheel. It isn’t enabled to take the wheel out for a spin in the woods. Likewise, an eager new military cadet may be engaged. He may care about the corps and be eager to serve his country, but without training and the right support, he’s unlikely to be of much use to his comrades. A teenager can be given all of the enabling freedom in the world, but if she isn’t engaged by an interesting challenge, she will likely be bored rather than energized and won’t accomplish much. Each of the E(energized) + E(ager) + E(ngaged) can be held hostage by an imbalance in the other two.
The flip side is that each of the three, when present, builds on each other, or you could say they combine as in a chemical reaction, becoming combustible.
As we have traveled around the world, we have found that most organizations regularly assess where they stand on employee engagement, using attitude surveys or pulse surveys. But to address real needs and move forward, they must also assess how enabled and energized their people feel. To determine the degree of E + E + E on a corporate level typically involves quantitative surveys, focus groups, and benchmarking against organizations in similar industries. And yet to understand the specific dynamics of their particular team, managers can conduct a simple analysis of their own. The key is that you must be able to interpret conversations and jumpstart honest face-to-face dialogue in order to make ongoing assessments through less structured, more intuitive means.
Below we provide three questions to help you start to determine if any of your team members are disengaged, dis-enabled, or un-energized. As you read the questions, take a moment to think about your team:
- Do you have employees who care about the organization, but who are burned out?
- Do you have people who are energized to do big things, but who feel stifled and not able to run?
- Do you have employees who care, but who aren’t always focused on the right behaviors?
Did anyone come to mind? You most likely came up with clear images of people on your team or perhaps those in other areas of the company who match those descriptions. Does that mean they’re "problem children" who you should give up on? Not at all. But in most cases, by thinking about which of the E + E + E might be an issue for your employees you can begin to help them make needed corrections. For instance, Julie is a real go-getter with lots of ideas and energy, but she’s spending so much time on her passion—making your social media sites better—that her day job of setting up new customers is suffering. Jared has been one of your most productive people for several years. He’d walk in front of a train for you or the company, which is probably why he never says ‘no’ to new assignments. The pressure is sapping his drive, he’s short-tempered and overwhelmed, and he mentioned last week that his new girlfriend has just about had it with all the long hours. No matter how much you are paying him, it’s not enough.
As you can see, it’s fruitless for an employee to feel engaged without feeling he or she is energized to sustain momentum or enabled to succeed on the team’s real priorities. Each driver is unable to sustain our success long-term without the other accompanying elements.
Excerpted from ALL IN: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton. Copyright 2012 by Gostick & Elton, LLC. Reprinted with permission by Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
[Image: Flickr user Carrie Cizauskas]