Thou Shalt Be Engaged! Why Employee Engagement Is a Behavior Change That Comes From Within

Author: Bryan Ritchie

In the classic film, The Ten Commandments, the Pharaoh, played by Yul Brynner, is fond of saying “So let it be written, so let it be done.” This is an example of a “stroke of the pen” strategy that can be implemented when senior management or leadership simply decides to do it. Unfortunately, many of these same senior leaders seem not to understand that anything that requires a behavior change on the part of employees is not a good target for such strategies. Case in point, while most leaders want to improve employee engagement in their operation, many think that a directive to improve such engagement will be enough to get the job done.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, treating employee engagement as a problem that can be solved by simply declaring a new reality is as likely to backfire as help. So if simply demanding that employees be more engaged doesn’t work, what does?

It turns out that employee engagement improves when the employee decides it should. Now many of you might be saying, “duh,” or “great, but that’s not very helpful.” Actually it is very helpful if we can figure out what makes employees decide to get more engaged. Terms like empowerment, self-directed work, and visibility to the boss are all ideas that help us understand what motivates people. And while the things that motivate one person might not motivate another to the same level, there is an idea that seems to have tremendous and broad power to create engagement that receives very little attention. This idea is the concept of “line of sight.” In short, it is a bi-directional clear view of who the organization is and what it is trying to accomplish and exactly how what the team member does on a day-to-day basis impacts those results.

So many times an organization’s high-level mission, vision, strategy, and objectives mean nothing to the people at the front line. Most can’t even tell you what these things are, let alone how what they do every day impacts the organization’s achievement of these things. When employees are not connected to the higher purposes of an organization, it’s easy to get cynical, feel like a pawn to achieve other’s purposes, and ultimately check out. Without a high level of validation of one’s importance, engagement is virtually impossible.

The good news is that creating that validation and visibility into the importance of every member of an organization’s team, while not easy, is doable. In a great article, Dan Grimm identifies the “10 C’s of Employee Engagement,” which provide great insight into how employees can move from “compliance” to “commitment.” But in our experience, we’ve found that moving all the way to “conversion” can happen by doing two related things. First, connect the day-to-day work of each team member to achieving the organization’s most important objectives. That is, make sure that each team member is actively working to accomplish something that they understand crystal clear how it will help accomplish the organization’s top level objectives and strategies. And second, relentlessly and continuously recognize and promote, from the highest level of the organization, those who win in that effort.

These two activities ignite the latent animal spirits that all humans have: the desire to win and the desire to be validated. If a person knows that they matter to the success of the organization and the organization recognizes that contribution, employees will walk on fire and run through walls for that organization.

Creating a leadership and management structure where every person in the organization understands the top level mission, vision, strategy and objectives AND knows how their objectives align with those is not easy to do, but is critical if the organization wants to create a culture of performance that will engage every member of their team. To find out how much your employees align with your organization’s objectives, take our GrowthSPORT assessment, found here. After taking the assessment you will get a SPORT score as well as ideas on how to improve any areas of weakness your organization might have.

Bryan Ritchie and James Western are co-founders of GrowthSPORT, a successful consulting company whose mission is to improve SCORES (Stimulate Culture, Optimize Results and Engage Staff) for Teams, Divisions, Departments and Organizations through the SPORT model (Strategic Alignment, Personnel Performance, Operational Execution, Results Accountability and Team Strength), which are the Five Core Elements of Success.

GrowthSPORT provides resources, tools and experienced consultants to effectively implement the SPORT performance model from companies ranging from Startups to Fortune 500 companies.

Feel free to reach out to GrowthSPORT at (801) 676-2500 or at


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(801) 676-2500