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The Habits of Engagement

Isolation is death; Integration is Life.

“I’m so alone.”

My friend startled me with his answer to my question: As the principal of a large high school, what is your biggest challenge? Several months earlier, I heard the same answer in a different context when a state department manager described his working conditions:

“We don’t relate at work. We all march to our cubicles, work in isolation, and march home again…day after day, week after week, year after year. We do not collaborate and there is no such thing as cross functional teaming. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. We don’t relate; we lookout for ourselves. Many in the organization do not even bother to participate at any acceptable level and no one seems to care. I’m depressed when I am there; I feel so isolated.”

Then it was a teacher, an office worker, the executive director of a non-profit, and on and on the conversations went. These conversations provided the thread that I began to pull. Now, I was curious. What would others say when asked the question? Would everyone point to this idea of isolation, lack of collaboration, non-existent relationships? Did engagement within and among employees have any role in the relative success of the organization? And lastly, was this phenomenon limited to certain types of organizations?

So, I kept asking the questions. The vast majority of people shared the same or similar views on the greatest challenges of their organization and it didn’t matter the type of organization: corporate, educational, political, non-profit… religious. While differing in context, each shared the challenge of engagement within their organization as the root to the other problems and challenges of the day. And so began a journey into the two roads that are open to every organization: A pathway to encourage a trajectory for success, or the trail to the quicksand of organizational malaise.

Even more discouraging is that when allowed to dwell in the symptoms identified by the examples above, the organization spirals into segregation and any hope of continued improvement or improved long-term organizational success is at best stifled and at worst, eradicated.

How does this cultural detachment occur? Many organizations exist today in the Death Cycle – a maddening vortex of inadequate systems leadership, insufficient purpose, short-term solutions, reactiveresolutions, fear, self-preservation, and ultimately… individual isolation. Corporate executives slash expenses for short-term stock gains. Educators scramble in the annual hunt for new reforms to improve standardized test scores. Metrics serve as the exclusive motivator for shaping strategy, with all eyes fixed on the scoreboard to determine next steps.

As a result, fear of failure starts to simmer on the front burner of hearts and minds rather than focusing on a meaningful purpose. We slide down the slippery slope of this “Blink”ing decision process, while experiencing an ever-increasing overload from advanced technology which dupes us into thinking that sending a text message is actually engaging anyone.

The habits of engaged organizations are derived from extensive research and review in many types of organizations and applies to each of them. These measurable tenets, when incorporated into an organization’s framework create a network of integrated relationships between leadership, staff, and customers (or families in a re-cultured organization) that eliminates isolation by building meaningful relationships, expanding efficacy, and generating desired results.

The Habits of Engaged Organizations

Unite in Common Purpose

Bond the actions, intentions and emotions of all stakeholders in a common, meaningful purpose that transcends traditional thinking and practice. Constancy requires the universal sharing of ideas, information and resources to support, grow, and sustain the organization.

Banish the Quick Fix

Exercise patience in strategic study, planning, and execution. Persistence is the only path to effective and sustainable success. Focus on root causes of problems not the superficial symptoms.

Encourage Agility

Agility in any organization incorporates a culture of innovation, reimagination, flexibility, systems approaches, and individualized contributions to the whole. Encouraging agility is inherently engaging.

Clarify Expectations to Liberate Hope

Communicate clearly, creatively, and effectively to develop a culture of trust. Eliminate fear so that the faith and hope of all will emerge and thrive. Camaraderie and strong relationships will replace hopelessness and isolation.

Nurture Excellence Rather than Results

Focus less on results and more on realizing potential. Cultivate desire throughout the organization. Desire begets motivation, and motivation nurtures a willingness to achieve personal and organizational objectives.

Celebrate Accomplishment to Sustain Success

Honor the accomplishments and participation of all which promotes new capital. Support the recognition of individuals and their contributions to the organization and celebrate the participation of individuals and their contribution to the organization. Encourage individuals to continue their path toward improved results that will sustain the purpose of the organization and solidify lasting, positive change.

Over the next several months, the new work at drsteveconstantino.com will center on expanding and translating these concepts into actionable items that when implemented can be  the catalyst for creating a truly engaged organization or help individuals engage with the important aspects of their lives.

New Ideas. New Work. Everyone engaged. Stay tuned!