First Engage Yourself

We are honored to welcome back Jesse Lyn Stoner. Jesse has a tremendous way with with evoking words that thrills and inspires. Employee engagement can be made complicated or simple. Jesse takes the simple route and turns the mirror on us. Engagement starts with you. Read on for an important message.


Employee engagement is “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work,” according to The Conference Board.

A popular and important topic, most advice focuses what leaders need to do to increase employee engagement.

But what about you? If you are a leader, how engaged are you? It’s difficult to engage your employees if you yourself are not engaged.

Here are 7 questions to assess your own engagement and suggestions for actions you can take to engage yourself.

1. Do you have a balanced life?

If you’re a workaholic, you’re not necessarily engaged. Engagement is about discretionary time, not about all of your time. Don’t let your life revolve totally around work. Find other interests you enjoy. Learn to relax without having to fill every moment. This same advice holds for couch potatoes. Too much time watching TV or on the Internet is not a lot different from being a workaholic. The more engaged you are with life, the more engaged you will be with your work.


It is possible to get satisfaction from even these tasks when we see how they serve a larger purpose


2. Do you see how your work is worthwhile and makes a difference?

Uncover the purpose of your work. Consider the difference in engagement between the construction worker who saw his job as laying bricks and the worker who saw his job as building a cathedral.

It’s nice when others see your job as worthwhile, but regardless, you can determine this for yourself. How might you be “building a cathedral?” How does what you do contribute to the overall goals of the company? How do your co-workers and customers benefit from your actions? If you’re not sure, ask your boss or coworkers to help you find the line of sight between your work and the value it provides.

3. Is your job mentally stimulating? Are you challenged or bored?

All jobs include activities that are not interesting but still need to be done. As discussed above, it is possible to get satisfaction from even these tasks when we see how they serve a larger purpose.

You can also make work more interesting by expanding the scope of what you do. Volunteer for a special project, participate on a committee or help to host a conference or charity event. Not only will it make work more interesting, but it is also great for networking as it gives you an opportunity to meet people who wouldn’t normally notice you.


It’s difficult to engage your employees if you yourself are not engaged


4. Do you see opportunities for growth and career advancement?

There might be opportunities you’re not aware of. Let your boss and people in other departments know about your interests and skills. If there are no opportunities for advancement, look for opportunities to increase skills that will help you with your next job. Don’t shy away from challenging assignments.

5. Do you like your co-workers?

You don’t need to like everyone, but it makes a big difference to have at least a few people you enjoy and who you feel comfortable and relaxed with. If you have isolated yourself, pick someone who you think might be interesting and reach out. Ask them questions about what interested in. You might be surprised to find commonalities you hadn’t anticipated. Avoid participating in “complaining sessions” as they perpetuate an unpleasant atmosphere for everyone.

6. Do you value your relationship with your boss?

Develop a positive relationship with your boss. If you forge ties with your boss based on mutual respect and understanding, both of you will be more effective. John Gabarro and John Kotter give good advice in their Harvard Business Review article Managing Your Boss.


If you’re a workaholic, you’re not necessarily engaged.


7. Are you proud to work for your company?

Do you feel a personal connection with your company’s vision and values? If you are not sure, focus on your own sphere of influence. According to Michael Beer of Harvard Business School “Managers don’t have to wait for senior management to start a process of organizational revitalization.” See When Leaders Don’t Lead  for guidelines on holding an engaging discussion with your team on identifying team vision and values.

Connect with Jesse

Jesse Lyn Stoner is a coach, former business executive, and bestselling author of several books, including the internationally acclaimed Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision, with Ken Blanchard, which has been translated into 22 languages. For over twenty-five years, she has worked closely with leaders in hundreds of organizations ranging from Fortune 500’s to non-profits worldwide.

Learn more at Seapoint Center Her leadership blog can be found here. Follow her on Twitter @JesseLynStoner and on Facebook


Photo courtesy of  Deviant Being

Jesse Lyn Stoner is author of several business books including the international bestseller Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision, which has been translated into 21 languages. She is currently the executive director of the Berrett-Koehler Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the next generation of leaders. As a consultant, Jesse has worked with leaders in hundreds of organizations using collaborative processes to engage the entire workforce in creating their desired future. Her clients range from Fortune 500's to non-profits worldwide, including Honda, Marriott, Edelman Public Relations, Skanska, SAP and YPO to name a few. Jesse has been published is many magazines, including the Harvard Business Review, and weekly leadership blog is widely read. Follow her on Twitter @JesseLynStoner and find her on Facebook.

  • Thank you Jesse for this perspective on employee engagement. Employee engagement isn’t a hierarchical exercise. As your fellow Extraordinary Thinker, Daniel Newman says, ‘Leadership isn’t a position, it’s an activity’. Everyone in the organization should ask themselves your 7 questions. The job of the leader of the leaders is to put in place the conditions to allow them to answer the questions.

  • This is a great post, Jesse! It is always great advice to look inward first and make sure that you exhibit the behaviors that you desire from those you lead. I agree with Alan about everyone in an organization should ask themselves the questions that you offer in this post.

    These questions really make up an excellent self evaluation for any career. Very insightful!

    Thank you.

  • Hi Jesse,
    Great questions. In fact, these are the questions people should ask before they even join an organization. It’s unfortunate, that in this information age, far too many people are still operating from an “old-school” perspective and not doing the required self-reflection and research when they create their careers.

    Leaders, like parents need to remember Ralph Waldo Emerson:
    “Your actions speak so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

    Thanks for the guidance.


  • Excellent post. I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that puts a premium on flexibility. I can go outside on my laptop and work if I choose. Or go to Barnes & Noble, or work from home. This allows me to think about work while I’m working, but when I close the laptop, my mind goes to the drive home, the stop at the store, and the kids waiting with homework they need help with, stories they have to tell and games they want to play.

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  • Artika Tyner

    Dear Jesse Lyn: This is a great reminder that inspiration begins with the leadership. Once a leader is inspired, he/she can set the course for others. This type of inspiration is a sense contagious. It will motivate the entire team to reach their full potential. The byproduct of these efforts is success.

    Lastly, your post reminds of a quote from Dr. King related to finding your purpose and working with a spirit of excellence:

    “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he
    should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven
    composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so
    well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here
    lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”

  • Pingback: Let's Grow Leaders | Real Leaders, Better Business | 27 Experts On Employee Engagement: April Frontline Festival()

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