Engagement Required

The topic of engagement has become quite an important one in the world of business and management.  Various studies have been conducted and have shown that there is a strong correlation between various levels of engagement and the financial performance of such a company.

In the world of work, they have identified four levels of engagement.

The first level would be the group of people who are considered to be disengaged. These people appear to be busy but actually do not contribute anything to the success of the organization.  One could go so far as to say they actually incrementally destroy value.  They gossip and play politics, all in the name of fighting some or other cause.  I have also referred to them as sub-tractors.  They are insidious, and are difficult to pick up.  They arrive on time, and spend their time at the office. They are not really productive.  Bosses can also fall in this category.  Instead of leading, they want to punch their ticket and live off the returns of the position. They want to be everyone’s friend, and do not realize that if you have rank, you have no option but to acknowledge that rank and be the boss! You also find sub-tractors in the academic community, where they are easily identified by the attitude of academic superiority, an arrogance of “I know more than you!”

It’s bad enough to have this group of people in the organization.  It becomes much worse when you have the actively disengaged.  These people go out of their way to be destructive. They are the saboteurs in the organization. They would be the ones that abuse their sick leave. They are the ones who spread malicious rumors, who abuse the good faith of their peers, who get others to do their work, or who even could not care less whether it gets done or not. These are the dividers. They do not destroy value incrementally like the sub-tractors, but do it in an exponential fashion!

But all is not necessarily bad.  We then get the group of engaged people. They are also referred to as the adders.  These people are productive and lead others to be good and productive workers as well. They add value in that they care for others around them; they care for the customers and consumers.  They are a delight to have on board. They do more than just their job, they enjoy doing it and it is visible to others.

Lastly we have the actively engaged group. These people lead leaders; they help others to become leaders, to become better at what they are doing. They add exponential value. They would function at the higher order levels of Herzberg’s motivational levels. They build the culture to a productive one; they help to develop and inculcate a set of values that provide meaning for those around them. They frequently struggle to say no, and in the process end up with a workload that is difficult to deal with. This could also be said about the adders, but probably to a lesser extent.

We also find these people in society. You have those that destroy society in an exponential value. They exploit the circumstances of others for their own political benefit, which by necessity needs to be of a short-term nature. They would use the poor as a base to gain political power. This will lead to a scorched earth end-result. These dividers either do not know what they are doing, or care so little that it does not matter to them. We see them in South Africa, and they make me very afraid for our country’s future! The political situation in South Africa as in August 2012 makes it easy to spot these people.

We also find the sub-tractors in our society.  These are those that frequently mean good, but end up destroying the fabric of society in a piece-meal fashion. Instead of consciously putting up the good of society as a clear and lofting purpose, they end up making decisions that benefit their own parochial decisions! I see them everywhere, even at our institutions of higher learning, where we end up protecting ourselves instead of doing what would be good for society. The sad thing is that we believe our petty and sad motivations for our selfish actions and decisions.

Fortunately we also do have our adders.  These people go out of their way to help others. They actively seek roles to play to make the world a better place. They are people that would contribute their time, energy and money to bring about good results. They are selfless and are pure of heart. They help others find a job, to find caregivers, and to find food and shelter.

The last group of multipliers in society are people such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mother Theresa, Beyers Naude, and Martin Luther King, to name but a few. These put had a magnifying effect, an exponential impact on society in ways we could not fathom.  We have Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu to thank for our Rainbow Nation. At great personal sacrifice these people helped make humanity a better place. They inspired others to be better leaders, to be people with a conscience.

The tragedy is that the dividers and sub-tractors tend to be stronger in their destructive power, than the adders and multipliers. One needs to be a very high level multiplier to overcome the destructive power of a divider. One would also need to be a multiplier to pull up a sub-tractor to the level of an adder.

When I look at the family as unit in society, I see the same trends. What bothers me is that I see in the state of our youth that we have more sub-tractors and dividers as parents, than adders and multipliers. As parents we are either physically or emotionally absent. And then we have no idea as to why our children act out the way they do! Hats off to those parents who do contribute as adders and multipliers. The world would have been a much worse place without you!

Marriages have the same trend. I see husbands and wives at all four these levels, where their actions or lack of action, their emotional commitment or lack of emotional commitment, lead to either destruction or wonderful marriages. Success in business frequently has the unwanted side effect of negative influences on both the marriage and the family as unit. There is also a great danger that a destructive marriage could have a negative impact on the children in such a marriage.

The reality is that we would probably find people doing their bit as adders in business, but are dividers and sub-tractors in society and at home. Organizations such as business tend to suck one into the trappings – we become so busy with our careers and achieving business objectives that we end up as failures at home.  I know I am generalizing, but I would probably be correct more times than not! We can be schizophrenics at the best of times!

It takes a very strong and balanced individual to be an adder and multiplier in all three spheres!

I also think that it would probably be very difficult to be in a positive space all the time. We would find ourselves in a multiplier role in some instances, whilst slipping into a divider role in another. The trick is to be self-aware, and to reflect consciously and consistently on your daily actions. We need to develop the ability to stop and think about the consequences of what we will be saying and or doing. What will the impact be on the greater whole, whether family, business, or society? Is it necessary to do or say this? When you slack off and not contribute in the way you should (which you incidentally frequently get paid for!), what will the impact be on the organization’s attitude, culture, and results?

This needs to be done in all three spheres! This means that it is a path, a process, in which we continuously have to grow and develop. To stop growth and development is tantamount to dying. When you as an individual die in metaphorical manner, rest assured your family dies with you, your business dies with you, and your society dies with you!

We are again in this country of South Africa at a stage where we are in dire need of adders and multipliers, of engaged and actively engaged people! Will those with potential please step forward! We need you!

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1 Response

  1. Johan van der Merwe says:

    Thanks for this brilliant post, Johan, and especially for applying it to so many different areas of life.