“Pause and Share Power”: Why real engagement requires real change

John Smythe

John Smythe

Employee engagement isn’t just a nice thing to do. Engaged employees improve business outcomes and directly impact the bottom line. But how do we achieve real engagement?

Engagement expert John Smythe, in an interview with CW’s Executive Editor Natasha Nicholson, tells us that leaders have to break away from the traditional command-and-control system and be generous with their leadership. Genuine engagement, he says, happens when leaders “don’t assume they are God,” but instead they “pause and share power.” By engaging the right employees in the decision-making process, leaders are able to liberate the good ideas in their company and enrich their own solutions.

Though the benefits are impressive, Smythe, the author of The Velvet Revolution at Work: The Rise of Employee Engagement, the Fall of Command and Control, acknowledges that many of us work for leaders who won’t jump at the opportunity to abandon their executive throne for the sake of engagement. For those communicators, he provides the following tips:

  • Identify pockets in your organization where engagement is already occurring—note that most likely these programs and activities won’t be labeled as “engagement”—and demonstrate to leadership how it’s already being done on a smaller scale.
  • Step in as an executive coach and show CEOs how to change their leadership model. Smythe says that many CEOs know there is a better way of doing things; they just need someone to guide them there.
  • Keep in mind that it’s not simply about implementing engagement programs, but about involving employees in real work that adds value to the business.

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For more ideas about unlocking the potential of employee engagement, you can listen to the interview here, or attend Smythe’s session at the 2014 IABC World Conference “This is the end of engagement programs.”