There’s Nothing Contemporary About Engagement!

Making The Hard Yards - Is The Key...

"The skills you need to fully engage people are already in your organisation – your challenge is to create the playing field on which they can flourish”

Despite our focus on Contemporary Leadership Development, we have an aversion to jargon, fads and fancies. Our passion is not solely driven by an irritation with the development of the current fads, but rather with the belief in many organisations that there is some very special pixie dust that, when sprinkled (the word often used is “cascaded”) liberally down an organisation, will somehow create dramatic change.

Being an ardent sports fan, I am always mesmerised by the flashes of genius that illuminate a cold, wet afternoon, whatever the game. But I am equally conscious of the commitment, energy, confidence and competence of individuals that must exist before that genius can be released. In rugby this is called: “making the hard yards” and it’s that extra level of individual skill and energy, which when combined in a team can achieve extraordinary results.

Common Sense?

It is very easy to say that leadership is just common sense, but that sense is often not very common in some organisations. Still at the heart of leadership lie the solid frameworks of motivation, communication, performance development and the whole panoply of knowledge, tools and techniques that we have relied on for years. These are the leadership “hard yards”.

As professionals in leadership development, we are always interested in any tools and techniques that can enhance and sustain the impact of what we do with our clients. So where does Engagement fit in all of this? Over the last few years we have focused heavily on this area, to the point where we can demonstrate that it is one of our core capabilities. However, even describing it as a core capability is a little uncomfortable, because our work is really about re-enforcing what we have always covered with clients who want to learn more about effective leadership of change. In the end this comes down to how effective the organisation and its leadership is in engaging their people by:

1. Simplifying engagement conversations: Understanding what Engagement is and isn’t, so that managers recognise how simple conversations can make a big difference, and how little time they need to take.

2. Creating an environment for engagement: Drawing on research and experience, in order to establish the critical factors for creating an environment in which people “choose to engage”.

Some practitioners in the field justify their “specialism” by saying that “engagement” is a highly skilled activity, and that many leaders lack the capabilities to deal with the issues that it opens up! This surely is a development issue for the organisation rather than a reason for developing another new initiative and language. Yet, I also harbour a suspicion that we have to take some of the blame. Together with our fellow leadership development professionals, we acknowledge that some of the work we have done on leadership and motivation in the past may have fallen on deaf ears. We have allowed our clients to say: “We tried X, Y & Z and that did not stick what do we do now?”

Contemporary Conclusions

Organisations don’t need another new development technique called “Engagement”.

Instead it’s about simplifying, re-learning and implementing the techniques already available, in a rigorous way. When all the cost-cutting, de-layering and process improvements have been made, Engagement remains the key factor in achieving the “Hard Yards” – with conscientious managers being supported in a culture that enables them to practise what they know and to instil it into “the way we do things around here”.

In other words: Creating Places Where People Can Perform.

And that flash of genius – that pixie dust from above?

Trust me - it’s there in your leadership teams. It just needs revealing...

We have developed two Resource Packs which will help in enabling your organisation to address these challenges:

For more information, please contact Ray on 01865 339558 or email the team at