Who’s the Boss of Work Engagement and Happiness?

Time to Focus
Try a new perspective: Instead of asking what your employer is doing, check in with what you are doing.

Whose responsibility is it to create employee engagement, happiness and thus, results?

According to most old-school employee engagement assessments, the employee is treated as a passive participant. Questions like, “My employer encourages work/life balance” or “My manager gives me opportunities to set goals” take control from the employee and put it squarely in the hands of the employer.

Coaching guru and thought leader Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is working on a book based on research he and his daughter, Kelly, are doing on personal responsibility toward engagement and results at work. Kelly has a PhD from Yale in behavioral marketing and is now a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School at Northwestern University.

The Goldsmiths found that the employee has direct control over his or her own happiness, productivity and engagement. Engagement and results are a joint responsibility of the employee and the employer. As I see it and as the book portrays, the employee has more to do with the outcomes than the employer ever will. The results of their research flies in the face of most HR programs, which put the responsibility for engagement and results on the employer.

The results so far have been intriguing. Marshall shared his process and findings in a podcast with Dr. Cathy Greenberg and Dr. Relly Nadler. The podcast aired in January 2015 on the Leadership Development News. I happened to hear it recently while in the San Francisco Bay Area assisting with a workshop on relationship systems coaching through CRR Global.

As relationship systems coaches, we believe the quality of relationship systems is based on the emotional intelligence, social intelligence and relationship intelligence of the participants in each system. In other words, the individual is largely responsible for his or her own engagement, happiness and results.

The Goldsmiths’ research hinges on six questions:

  1. Did I do my best to be happy?
  2. Did I do my best to be kind-meaning?
  3. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  4. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  5. Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?
  6. Did I do my best to be easily engaged?

People evaluate themselves every day with this new paradigm. Instead of asking, “Is the company motivating me?” they now ask, “Did I do my best today to make progress toward goal achievement?” Rather than asking, “Do I have a friend at work?” they ask, “Am I doing my best to build positive relationships?” And so on.

So far the Goldsmiths have conducted 41 studies with 1,710 participants. According to Marshall, “We asked people to just answer these questions, and we give them a challenge every day: ‘Did you do your best to …?’ Then, two weeks later, we asked if they had become happier, is your life more meaningful, etc. What we found is, so far, 30% of the people said, ‘I got better at everything.’ All six items go up. 59% said 4–6 went up, 86% said something got better, 14% said no change, and nobody got worse at anything.”

The results are exciting. It’s more proof about the adaptability of the brain and new developments in neuroscience—what you attend to and focus on becomes prominent and is more malleable. In this case, focusing on doing one’s best to increase engagement, happiness and progress pays off.

Marshall’s 35th book, Triggers, will be published in May 2015. The promo reads, “Drawing on his unparalleled experience as an international executive educator and coach, Marshall Goldsmith invites us to understand how our own beliefs and the environments in which we operate can trigger negative behaviors, or a resistance to the need to change. But he also offers up some simple, practical advice to help us navigate the negative and make the most of the triggers that will help us to sustain positive change.”

Need some help getting started on the path to positive change? Contact Capiche’s Chris Cook to see if performance coaching is right for you. Call 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us.

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