Motivated or Engaged?

I love to study the differences between motivation and engagement. These hot concepts lead to many and divisive discussions. Some arguments get as out of hand as if a thousand “Probama” and “Nobama” extremists were locked in the dark hold of a cargo ship.

With paint-ball guns.

You’re probably expecting me to come up with my own definitions. Well, I have. And I’m publishing them here because they are so simple:

Motivation: What’s in it for me.
Engagement: What’s in it for us.

That’s it. No big deal.

Here’s a common management frustration: “What must I do to get this person to do my bidding?” A raise, threat of job loss, flex time, a better job title, time off, a promotion? But we all know that these tactics provide temporary benefits, at best. The fleeting jolt created is like a Fairy Godmother’s Tazer. It’s an exhilarating kick in the pants when the employee gets their wish, but the motivation disappears by midnight.

Now consider the a differently-worded question as posed by an “engager”: “Where can I find common purpose between the employee and the organization?”

Good employees meet requisite requirements. The best employees, those who are the most engaged and engaging, productive, driven and happy, are those who know themselves inside and out. They know their skills and their weaknesses. They appreciate their abilities and what others see in them. They have a greater sense about the purpose of their lives than retirement. Their introspection leads to clarity, which leads to confidence, and when management opens the door, real engagement is created.

Help employees to discover themselves. Give them confidence. Go beyond their job descriptions to  find opportunities for them to apply those interests and strengths to suit the purpose of the organization. The results are magical.

The onus is on the shoulders of management to help employees discover themselves, but management needs instruction about how to implement this new thinking. It’s not enough to help people write down their goals; it goes much deeper than that. The individual must be led to own a crystal clear definition of what it is that he or she wants to have done with his or her life. It’s very deep, and very personal.

It is then the responsibility of management to help the employee find places in which the purposes of the employee might match well with the purposes of the organization. The greater the match, the greater the engagement.

Managers: if you wish to engage employees,

  1. help them to discover – and own – their strengths and passions (ask me for resources)
  2. look past the job description to find areas in which their drivers can serve the purposes of your organization
  3. look for ways in which the organization can satisfy the interests of the employee
  4. let ’em have at it

What’s the difference between motivation and engagement? Profits. Retention. Productivity. Goal achievement. Organizational sanity. So now, are you motivated?

Or engaged?

This entry was posted in 1. The Power of Who You Are, 2. The Power of Who You Will Become, 3. The Power of Capacity, 4. The Power of Relationship and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Motivated or Engaged?

  1. Janet scott-mace says:

    I really liked the brief definitions. I have found your philosophy to be very true after 25 years of management. The challenging part for managers is to find the passion in the person. I recently found out some very passionate things about an employee who I thought was a “deadbeat” until I interviewed her for another [position in the agency. The new job is a perfect match for her skills and interests and she if out-performing herself. I wish I knew 6 years ago what I know about her now.

  2. Larry Stadtmiller says:

    Your message is a good one Jeff. The one thing the employer/manager can sometimes fail to do is to be certain the employee understands that the action undertaken is for his/her benefit as well as the company. I have been party to spending thousands of dollars in seminars, books, videos and personal coaching only to find out later that the recipients felt it was only for my benefit. It was a serious mistake I made in not getting the message across in the right way from the get go. I will not make that mistake again.

  3. Rasmus says:

    When you talk about engagement it sounds a lot like intrinsic motivation – what is the difference between engagement and being intrinsically motivated?

    Im working on my master thesis, and are really interested in hearing your thoughts?

    • Jeffrey Tobin says:

      Rasmus,
      Thank you for your question. My response follows.

      I’m very interested to hear more about your thesis and your findings. I do hope you’ll contact me with your thoughts. My ideas about motivation, especially intrinsic motivation, are probably best expressed in the following article: “Discover Employee Motivation on Steroids.” Please feel free to post your thoughts in this forum for others to discover, Rasmus.

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