One of the symptoms of a disengaged workforce is a lack of authenticity – when people leave their personalities at the workplace door. But if they don’t care enough, or are too insecure to be themselves, they’re not going to be fulfilling their potential.
Yet leaders often bang on about “going the extra mile” or “the need for innovation and initiative”.
Engagement is a simple concept, which hasn’t really benefited from the reams written about it. It’s just a term describing a state of focused attention. Whether we’re talking about colleagues, customers, the community or even shareholders, the aim is usually to bring about a positive reaction through a strong, positive connection. The hope is that this connection will result in additional effort – and ideally the nirvana of self-managing teams.
The problem is, that rather like rubbernecking on the motorway or simply following the crowd, engagement isn’t necessarily the same as having a good time for a long time. It can’t guarantee positive outcomes if the conditions and culture aren’t right. Cynics are usually powerful “engagers”, for example, as most of us can confirm – and the bewitching era of “spin” has cast a long shadow.
Oddly enough, one technique that works well as an engagement device is the use of the alter ego or avatar. It’s ironic, but creating and then discussing a “virtual persona” is both liberating and very revealing. Especially within cultures where there’s a fear of criticism or unwillingness to be open (and there are a few about at the moment), it gives people the licence to critique as well as praise, whether the “alter ego” is deliberately brand-focused or not.
It’s an approach that has worked very well at a range of organisations I’ve worked with, especially those with reputation issues to address. And anyone who was at Melcrum’s recent SCM conference would have seen the event company Involve use the process, which is also well showcased in my recent book Brand Champions: How superheroes bring brands to life.
So why not try creating your own brand superhero alter ego? Ask yourself, “what are the superpowers I wish I had to get me through the day at work”? Perversely, if you acknowledge that authenticity is at the root of engagement, why not encourage people to don masks, capes and insignia next time you’re working on an engagement intervention?
You might just find out what their true values are and what’s occupying their minds… not to mention what’s filling their tights!