John Guaspari

For the past thirty years, John Guaspari has helped leaders take on the challenge of being more effective at attending to Employee Engagement and the rest of the so-called Intangibles.  His newest book is Otherwise Engaged: How Leaders Can Get a Firmer Grip on Employee Engagement and Other Key Intangibles (If, That is, It Were Possible to Grip Something That's Intangible).  Follow his blog--Musings--at his website:

The latest edition of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” features a story about the “trophy culture” of youth sports—the awarding of a trophy to any child who participates in an organized athletic activity. Actually, “participates” is too stringent a standard in one Los Angeles youth soccer organization. According to the organization’s commissioner, anyone whose name is on a roster receives a trophy at the end of the season. Interviewer: “They don’t even have to show up for the games?” Commissioner: “No, they don’t.” Why am I writing about youth sports in a space ostensibly focusing on matters of business leadership? Because I see disturbing parallels to the way the topic of employee engagement is being dealt with in too many organizations.



Too many leaders are abdicating their responsibility for actually rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard, slogging work it takes to ensure that their people are more highly engaged.

Imagine if there were someone in a position to be able to say this—directly, unambiguously, fearlessly.  Here’s what such a bold pronunciamento might sound like.

By reducing the Employee Engagement challenge to surveys and project management when it is really more a matter of institutional soulcraft, you run the risk of taking unearned comfort in the illusion of rigor: “This must be valid. There are many numbers, and many of those numbers have several decimal places!” You also run a serious--and ironic--risk of causing them to dis-engage by treating people as resources or capital assets rather than as important contributors to the cause.


There is currently a lot of enthusiasm for the concept of employee engagement. This is because of substantial amounts of credible research showing a strong positive correlation between higher engagement levels and better business results. Things like "research" and "business results" sound like solid, respectable things to deal with. But here's the dirty little secret about employee engagement: achieving higher levels of engagement calls for the application of selling and marketing techniques, and the thought of that can make some people a little squeamish.

If you want a good demonstration in how not to lead served up in a convenient, 43-minute package, just watch an episode of Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen.



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