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Employee Engagement… It Begins with You!

Posted By Erin L. Lasch CAE, Friday, August 4, 2017

By Don Phin


What are the costs of disengaged employees? Poor service, poor attitudes, and high turnover for starts. Then throw in weak work comp claims, lawsuits, negative Glassdoor reviews and brand damage.


A professor at Boston University, William Kahn, kicked off the discussion about employee engagement in a 1990 management journal article. He said engaged people are mentally, physically and emotionally involved in their work. 


Mind, body and soul all working in harmony. That’s engagement nirvana. And the key to a great bottom-line.


Encouraged by what they were learning, leaders looked to engagement to increase an employee’s productivity by generating “discretionary effort.” 


In 2000 Gallup began using their enormous survey resources to track worldwide engagement numbers. And I must tell you…it’s not a pretty picture. In surveys since then less than one third of employees have considered themselves engaged. 


That means two out of three people go to work every day simply to collect a paycheck… and many hate their jobs. For these people work is a life draining affair…and it has far reaching consequences. 


I am sure you and your employees are a lot like me. I feel engaged in my work when I am clear about the goals, I’m good at what I am doing or I am learning something new, I work with great people, in a great environment and I produce great results. 


I look forward to doing that work because it is energy giving, not energy depleting. 


This means my goal as an owner or business leader is to provide the opportunity for an engaging work experience. That’s the culture we want because as Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast”.


Engagement Begins with You


I believe this: no professor can tell you what engages employees at your company better than you can. And nobody has a larger impact on the company culture…or engagement …than you.


What experience have you had with engaging bosses? What was is it about them that inspired you? What motivated you to take action and become more engaged in the process? When I facilitate this in live presentations I get back a similar set of responses. I am told these engaging leaders were:

  • Passionate
  • Highly skilled
  • Inclusive
  • Good listener
  • Challenging
  • Strong values
  • Vision

Chances are my list and your list have many similarities. This is not rocket science. We can also do a list of the characteristics of demotivating, uninspiring and disengaged bosses and those lists would match as well.


So…how do you rate yourself as an engaging leader?


Being an engaged leader is a choice. One we make every day. When you look at the characteristics of the engaging leader how would you rate yourself? 


I have often done an exercise with the executives I coach. I'll do it with you now. On a piece of paper write down the answer to this simple question: what 3 things would people like to see you change about your leadership style? Invariably the response I get is spot on. You probably already know what people want to see you change about yourself. My question is what is your resistance to it? Do you maybe need coaching or training? Are you running too hard to feel what is going on?


Solicit feedback


Success is an inside-out job. As the good Buddha said, “what comes to you comes from you.” Be not afraid and solicit honest feedback…if you truly want to improve:

  • What do I do that is engaging?
  • What can I do that is disengaging?
  • Be open and listen
  • Be thankful
  • Be thoughtful
  • Let them know what you will do



In a future article, I can write about engaging “them.” For now, the place to begin is with you.


Don Phin is an attorney, HR catalyst and trainer. He just launched a training on Employee Engagement. You can learn more about Don at where you can get his Tip of the Week and free tools. Don is one of ARCSI’s speakers for the Residential Cleaning Connection package at the 2017 ISSA/INTERCLEAN Trade Show and ISSA Convention. Phin will talking “Master Human Resources Like a Boss” in a two-part session. For complete details, visit

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