Engagement & Involvement
Engagement & Involvement: Are they the same or different? What about you — are you engaged – or involved? What should you be?
“Engaged” and “involved” at first glance may seem quite similar – however, if we delve a bit deeper into how these two words might be less synonymous…maybe we might find more power as a leader. The difference is one of the fundamental tenants of Active Influence.
Engaged: busy; occupied. Involved: having a part in something; included; actively participating.
What Do You Do?
These two concepts come up again and again – whether I’m working with my individual clients or with teams. Almost everyone (including me at times) has a bias towards action– busyness. That’s what leaders do — we make stuff happen – we are busy, we are occupied, we are in action. People pause when I suggest that they may want to rethink that approach. The real goal for you as a leader is not how to busy yourself, it’s to become significantly aware of where you need be more actively participating (involved), and what that participation should look like at any point in time.
Take a look at this table and note the tasks that typically take up the biggest chunks of your time on any given day:
|Stopping breakdowns||Creating outcomes|
|Fixing problems||Finding solutions|
|Reminding people||Supporting people|
|Answering calls/texts/emails||Scheduled calls|
|Impromptu meetings||Regular focused meetings|
|Generating reports||Observing the work|
|Being available||Being a role model|
Which column contains most of your tasks? If you were in the left column, you may be “busier” than you think. If you had more on the right side, then you just might be more of an Active Influencer. It is not that the items on the left-hand side are necessarily bad. The point is the right-hand side is more oriented towards being proactive and eventually even predictive in our behaviors. Are you stopping breakdowns or are your creating outcomes?
One very easy example that I see across all industries and leaders is the constant struggle in being involved in developing the people in their business. It is easy to get tied up with the day-to-day challenges, the busywork is like an addiction. People development always falls into the category of someday-maybe-later. Then we wonder why we lose a high potential employee. You may find yourself never spending time leading because you have not involved yourself to grow the capacity of your team leads.
Research shows that people leave businesses mostly because of their direct reporting management. Their second reason to stay is they are developed and coached to become a better employee and person. It seems so obvious to me that making the choice to be involved in developing your people is the best thing you can do for them AND for you. Otherwise, you end up managing for your managers and then must ask yourself “why have managers if I don’t let them lead, coach, and contribute actively to the growth of their teams?” This plays out too much in too many organizations.
I’m not knocking “busy” here. As leaders, most of us will not have the luxury of idle time (although we do need to allow ourselves some of that – that’s a topic for another blog). I’m coaching you to be aware of how you are busy and if that ultimately contributes to the end-all goal of actively influencing those around you. In other words, you need to become actively engaged in where you are putting your time and energy.
Being actively engaged requires you to be aware, fully present, and connected to the system(s) you’re working in and their parts (systems perspective). Much of engagement centers around process, which is critical to understand because the source of much of our busyness has to do with process breakdowns. Here are some lookouts on process:
- Check to make sure there are clear goals for the process you are engaged in. Are the goals evident and understood? Is the process efficient? Current and/or relevant? Necessary?
- Are some processes so embedded in your routines that you’ve stopped assessing their value?
- For low-value processes, is there a way to raise their value? Or could you omit them entirely?
As a leader, having a systems perspective allows you to pull yourself out of the problem (and its solutions) so you can back up and see the possibilities. From that stance you can choose how and where you need to become involved as a participant. Eventually you see that you need to let others take on the engagement needed by delegating to them.
Stay involved with your managers so that they can be engaged with your employees and business objectives. It takes time to shift and move to involvement. I’ve coached some farmers for several years before they finally get it. This is partly because they are playing multiple roles and also because most of us grew up on the busy side of life. It’s what we know and learned from the time we were “knee high” to just about anything. You can transform — if you want to.
In Active Influence we’ve defined five primary roles — Leader, Coach, Supervisor, Manager and Facilitator. The roles are fluid and can bounce around in the course of a single interaction. The key to Active Influence is to intuitively know the role you need to take and shift roles as needed to maximize results.
A Quick Scenario
I have recently started working with a family-owned business that is more than 140 years old. People were engaged and loyal to the company and their managers. However, no one was involved across the leadership team in mapping out a new future. It is easy to just respond to customers and “hope” that things get better. Repeat the next season. The definition of insanity.
A new family member was tasked with leading the business. The previous manager was engaged in all kinds of business and busyness. The organization became stagnant and needed to change how they saw themselves and how they worked with people within their company or the future was clear –the business would not last another 10 years.
Things had been done the same way for such a long time. And many good things existed but were not really getting momentum across then entire company because the leadership was not asked to be involved. They were engaged, but no one shared any possibilities for growth. It was status quo every day.
Enter the new manager and through some challenging coaching, he has recreated the organization. He is involved, and he is engaging everyone in the right busyness. It is almost miraculous to watch the transformation because this one person has taken Active influence to heart. He is willing to set direction, expectations and is playing whatever role is necessary. It takes courage to lead, coach, manage, facilitate, and supervise a new future into existence.
Start small and grow your commitment to influence outcomes and people one decision at a time. In no time you will see that you have some momentum and more people involved in helping you influence the business and outcomes that you need. Influencing your future starts just like that.