By: Kevin Kruse



Engagement has been a buzzword for quite a while in the business world. For the longest time, there was little in the way of advice on how to systematically achieve it. Luckily, that has changed, and we can all now tap into the wisdom that some of the world’s best companies have shared with the world.

Ironically, to find yourself in an “engaged” workplace, the story starts at the individual level. As Karsan and Kruse tell us, the “WE” approach to engagement takes a dual responsibility approach. The employer is responsible for actively creating an environment that fosters engagement, and the employee actively makes career decisions that enable full engagement.

If you need any urging to continue through this summary and find the secrets of the WE approach, consider this: companies with high levels of engagement produce 5 times the shareholder value than those that have low levels of engagement.

Let’s get started.

Find What You Love To Do

As we start off on the employee side of the responsibility equation, we need to talk about finding love. No, not the romantic kind, but the love for your job, and love for the team that you work with.

It used to be that finding a job that you love to do was something you read about in magazines or watched on TV. Your parents most likely toiled their lives away in a job that they hated, or at best were indifferent towards.

The generation that entered the workforce over the last 15 – 20 years are now being told that it’s ok to look for a job that you love, and that it’s something that is possible for all of us. However, contrast that with what the authors are saying, and we are moving into completely new territory.

Today, it’s your responsibility to find a job that you love. If you can’t wake up in the morning excited by the work that you will be doing on a daily basis, what’s the point? If you are a leader or a manager, the impact should be clear – if you aren’t pumped up by the work you are doing, how can you expect those around you to be?

Faking it won’t suffice either – you only have so much energy to put on an act before you burn out. Also, think about the impact of this on your home life as well – do you spend the first hour once you get home complaining to your spouse about how awful your job is? Whether or not you love your job has a profound impact on the entirety of your life.

Next, you want to make sure that what you love also comes along with a tie in to your purpose in life, and also a paycheque that allows you the standard of living that you want. This is going to significantly cut down on your options, but that’s the point.

The combination of your passion, purpose and pay shouldn’t leave you with thousands of options, it should narrow the path to some obvious choices.

Find Your Kind of People

Now that you’ve figured out the bullseye between your passion, purpose and pay, it’s time to move on to find your kind of people. Company culture is another one of those issues that’s been a hot topic for a long time. But for most employees, it’s also been another one of those things that “happens to them” – which means that if your company culture sucks, that’s just the way it is.

However, if you consider that where you work and what you do is in your control, you are free to find a company that fits your cultural needs as well. To do that, you need to know what you are looking for. The authors have identified 12 distinct cultures to consider, and think about which ones you are attracted to as you work through them:

  • Caregiver – they provide a service to humanity, take care of their people and provide products and services that help others. You will fit in here if you feel good about helping others, and won’t fit in if you are self-centered.
  • Ruler – they believe in power and work to establish processes and tools that will give them that power. You will fit in if you thrive on process, and won’t fit in if you don’t like to follow protocol.
  • Creator – they believe in creative expression and imagination. People in these organisations are happiest when using their imagination to develop innovative services and products. You will fit in here if you enjoy working on new things, and won’t fit in if you have little originality.
  • Innocent – they focus on keeping workers safe and respecting tradition. They often have a vision for creating a better world. You will fit in here if you are an accepting person, and won’t fit in if you are overly critical.
  • Sage – they focus on the pursuit or spread of knowledge, typically found within research labs or universities. You will fit in here if you are highly analytical, and won’t fit in if you are not naturally curious.
  • Explorer – they are outwardly focussed and constantly looking for new ideas. You will fit in if you stay on the cutting edge of your field, and won’t fit in if you are highly dependent on others.
  • Revolutionary – they dedicate themselves to doing things differently. You will fit in here if you are a non-conformist, and won’t fit in if you are timid and like the status quo.
  • Magician – they work to help people change attitudes and conventions. You will fit in here if you want to make a difference in the world, and won’t fit in if you are cynical about change.
  • Hero – they strive to attract and reward people who produce results. You will fit in here if you are competitive, and won’t fit in if you are laid back and passive.

  • Lover – they want people to have more love and friendship in their lives. You will fit in if you are relationship-driven, and won’t fit in if you are socially awkward.
  • Jester – they have a playful attitude, and believe in having fun. You will fit in if you know how to balance work with recreation, and won’t fit in if you are humourless and too earnest.
  • Everyperson – they strive for an environment where everybody feels they belong. You will fit in if you focus on equal treatment, and won’t fit in if you expect to be singled out for special treatment.

Which company do you want to work for?

Harmonise Your Team

Now that we’ve covered the things that employees are responsible for, we will move on to what employers (and leaders) are responsible for. In essence, they are responsible for harmonising their team, which is the combination of engagement and alignment.

The first thing we need to do is look at engagement. In order to create a team that is fully engaged, you need to understand what a fully engaged team looks like. Although there are many different definitions of employee engagement, one of the easiest to understand is the cliche of “going above and beyond”.

It’s the effort put in beyond what’s written down in their job description. The authors have found that there are 4 main components in engagement. How your team answers these following statements on a scale of 1-5 will determine how engaged your team actually is:

  • Pride: I am proud to work for my organisation.
  • Satisfaction: overall, I am extremely satisfied with my organisation as a place to work.
  • Advocacy: I would gladly refer a good friend or family member to my organisation for employment.
  • Retention: I rarely think about looking for a new job with another organisation.

If you or your team members could give 4s and 5s to all of these questions, you’ve got an engaged team. If you gave 1s and 2s for each question, you’ve got an actively disengaged group on your hands.

Keep in mind here that happiness doesn’t equate to engagement. Many people who have found the intersection of passion, purpose, pay and people spend plenty of time complaining – but they complain because they care.

At the same time, you could have a team full of people who seem happy and are always having a good time, but are completely disengaged with their work. So, don’t use your team’s outwardly expressions as your measuring stick – use these engagement measures instead.

To complete the harmonisation of your team, you also need to have alignment. Engaged employees without adequate direction may produce a lot of activity, but not necessarily the results that the company is looking for.

Finding out if your organisation is aligned or not is as easy as picking up the phone and calling 4 people you work with on a regular basis and asking them this: “what do you think our mission is, and what are you doing today to get us there?”

The answers you get from this question will instantly tell you whether or not you’ve got alignment. Anybody can fake the “what’s our mission” part of the question if they paid enough attention during their orientation session. However, it’s hard to fake the second part of the question that asks what you are doing today to support it.

The benefits of an aligned team are plentiful. You’ll eliminate unnecessary time and resources on things that don’t align with the goals of the organisation. You’ll increase performance across the board, as people with clear objectives get more done.

You’ll increase the capacity for useable innovation, as the entire creative force of your organisation will be tightly focussed on one goal. Lastly, you’ll increase the talent at your organisation because you’ll be looking for people that fit the mission and goals of the organisation.

Do What Great Managers Do

Although there is no magic formula for creating engagement in your company, all GReaT managers focus on three specific things: Growth, Recognition and Trust.

Growth potential within your company is critical if you want engaged employees to work with you. Why? Because anybody who is engaged with their work is constantly thinking about how they can help grow the company, but also how they can grow themselves. These employees should be able see themselves achieving their career goals in the company, and feel that the company is providing ample opportunity for growth and development.

So, make professional development an important part of your discussions with your team. Ask them what skills and abilities are critical to their jobs and where they want to take their careers. Determine what you need to develop as a manager to help fill any gaps in that knowledge. Do this well, and not only will you give your team the ability to grow, they are going to be that much more loyal to you.

Recognition is one of those things – much like smiles at McDonald’s – that cost you nothing but bring back great rewards.

Your employees should be able to say to their family and friends that your organisation regularly recognises employees for outstanding customer service. This is a sure fire sign that good deeds will not go unrecognised, and further fuels your team’s desire to produce great work. Whenever possible, you should tie the recognition back to the overall goals of the organisation so that you are reinforcing that good work is only good work if it helps accomplish the mission.

Lastly, your employees need to be able to trust the organisation, and in particular, you as the leader. To quote Colin Powell, “trust is the essence of leadership”. In order to gain that trust, you need to pay attention to the 3 Cs – competence, care, and commitment.

Competence is important because nobody likes to follow a leader that they believe isn’t suited for the job. You need to establish your technical skills AND your leadership skills with your team members.

Care is the extent to which you are perceived to have the best interests of your team in mind. Have you showed your team that you care about them as individuals lately?

Commitment is critical, because you are on a stage everyday. You expect your team to align their actions to the overall mission of the organisation, and they expect it back from you at an even higher level. Make sure you are displaying your commitment to the mission at all times.


So there you have it. Everything you need to focus on to create an organisation or team that is fully engaged in its work. Do these things, and reap the financial and emotional rewards that you deserve.