August 31, 2017

Why Engagement Has to Start With the CEO


Given that 87 percent of workers globally are disengaged, there’s a good chance our CEOs are disengaged, too. The global disengagement problem can only be solved if everyone from the entry-level worker to the CEO deals directly with their own engagement.

Engaged CEOs lead their cultures. The very word “engagement” suggests connectedness and transparency. The failure of most engagement programs begins when the CEO turns the initiative over to someone else. Engagement includes an emotional component, and many CEOs are uncomfortable with the feelings generated by the human side of business. Others are so absorbed in dealing with market and shareholder expectations that they believe they cannot add culture concerns to their crowded plates. Nothing could be more wrongheaded.

To some, it might seem counterintuitive for CEOs to be saddled with culture development, but developing awakened cultures can make a CEO’s job much easier. In fact, whenever I’m coaching a chief human resources officer looking to make a career change, I ask: “Is the CEO leading the culture?” If the answer is “no,” I tell the client to keep their bags packed. I also tell them it will not be worthwhile to start an engagement program. Without the CEO taking a leadership role, the results will either be mediocrity of failure. Bottom line? Wasted time, effort, and dollars.

When a CEO tells human resources to take over engagement, the CEO becomes disengaged. As I explore in my new book, The Workplace Engagement Solution, the process of waking up – of snapping out the trance and getting engaged at work – requires personal change. About 87 percent of today’s workers don’t know how to do it, don’t believe they can do it, or are not changing fast enough. How can we possibly expect talent to wake up if they look to the CEO and see business as usual?

This challenge becomes even clearer when we accept that engagement and personal change is difficult for all of us. The journey from disengagement to engagement requires deep personal change and some new life skills. Unfortunately, too many of us fear the discomfort of personal change and avoid it at all costs. We do not understand that we are working against our own best interests when we do this! We lack the insight because we simply don’t know what we don’t know.

It is critically important for the CEO to wise up to the cause and effect relationship of a culture. They need to be the first to put their feet to the fire and embrace the life-altering possibility of deep personal change. They need to become role models for employees.

Now, this is something to get excited about.

Will it happen? I believe it will. I’m an optimist. I’ve watched more than 42,000 people awaken and change in the course of my work. I want everyone to love what they are doing with their lives.

David Harder is the founder of Inspired Work.

Read more in Employee Engagement

Im 1990, David founded Inspired Work, which has helped more than 42,000 professionals transform their relationships with work. Individuals from all walks of life attend Inspired Work’s public programs to launch new careers, new businesses, or to become more successful in their existing roles. David views work as a profound opportunity to become more fulfilled, contributive, and effective. His leadership, employee engagement, executive development, and social networking programs are used in a wide variety of organizations, including The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Loyola Marymount University, University of Southern California, The United Church of Religious Science, Morgan Stanley, and many others. Inspired Work’s leadership programs, career development, and team building programs produce some of the worlds most outstanding satisfaction numbers in any business: 92.6 percent. David has appeared on many business and human-interest programs, including CNN, KTLA News, KFWB News, and Business News Network. David’s new book, "The Workplace Engagement Solution" (Career Press), is available at all bookstores.