P is for Being Positively Engaged

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People often do their best work when they are positively engaged, rather than partly or pretend engaged. Sounds obvious, so how can you translate this into action? Let’s explore these three kinds of engagement.

Positively Engaged

What happens when you feel fully engaged? Some people go through the process of absorption, adventure and achievement.

They often go into their equivalent of flow. Time goes away. They lose themselves in the activity, but they often feel stronger afterwards.

When does this happen for you? Here are some answers that people gave to this question.

I feel positively engaged when I am:

Educating motivated students … Gardening … Cooking a meal … Travelling in a new country … Writing code … Counselling a troubled person … Sitting in silence.

Designing a building … Solving a complex problem … Selling to a demanding client … Studying success … Working with my horse … Helping other people.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific activities in which you feel positively engaged.

Describe the specific things you feel when doing these activities.

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Partly Engaged
and Pretend Engaged

When do you feel partly engaged? Sometimes you are interested, sometimes you are not. The feeling is:

“I could be spending my time doing something more worthwhile.”

One CEO quickly identified and stopped such activities when taking over a large company. He oversaw six distinct businesses, with the Managing Directors of each reporting into him.

His predecessor insisted that all six Managing Directors attend a 3 hour joint-meeting every Monday morning, even though they had little in common.

The theory was that they should ‘discuss the total business and look for possible synergies’. But the reality was different. The previous CEO simply put each MD on the spot in turn.

Drilling down into the complexities of each business, he adopted a critical tone that turned-off the MDs. They wanted to be back in their own businesses where they could shape the week ahead.

The new CEO scrapped the old format and held separate monthly sessions with each MD. He still brought the whole group together once a quarter, but he made sure these meetings were stimulating.

So when do you feel partly engaged? If you work in an organisation, there are bound to be times when your mind wanders and you would prefer to be doing other work.

This is part of the organisational package, but watch out if it occupies more than two hours of your week. If you wish, try completing the following exercise on this theme.

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Let’s move on to the most dangerous part. What are the activities in which you feel pretend engaged?

You feel uncomfortable, unreal and must make a real effort to appear professional. Something bugs you.

Maybe it is the values of the people or the company. Maybe you don’t believe in what they are doing.

Nevertheless, you summon-up energy to do your best, but afterwards you may get headaches or other symptoms. Continually putting yourself in these situations can have consequences for your health.

Where do you feel pretend engaged? Try completing the following exercise.

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Positively Engaged
In The Future

We often do our best work when we are positively engaged. How can you follow this process in your own way? What will be the benefits for yourself and for other people?

“I took this route in my work,” said one manager.

“Looking back at my work pattern, I found that I felt positively engaged only 20% of the time.

“This was having an effect on both my personal and professional life. Looking to the future, I decided to do three things.

“First, to list the activities in which I felt positively engaged. These included selling to certain kinds of customers.

“Second, to spend more time doing these things.

“Third, to show the business case for doing these things by getting some quick wins.

“This approach proved successful. I began to put together the high points like a string of pearls across the week.

“Within six months I was spending 80% of my week doing stimulating work that brought benefits to the company.

“There are still some meetings where I feel partly engaged, but I try to be professional and make a positive contribution. I feel much happier in both my personal and professional life.”

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe how you can do more of the activities in which you feel positively engaged.

Describe the specific benefits of doing these things – both for yourself and for other people.

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