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Marshall Goldsmith: Employees should take more responsibility for their own engagement

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Employees need to make more of an effort to be engaged, according to coaching guru Marshall Goldsmith

Employees should take more responsibility for their own engagement, according to influential HR thinker and executive coach Marshall Goldsmith.

Goldsmith, who is adjunct professor of business administration at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business and listed number 21 on the HR Most Influential Thinkers ranking, was speaking at the HR Directors Business Summit in Birmingham.

“A hundred per cent of employee engagement dialogue is focused on ‘what is the company doing to engage you?’” he said. “There’s nothing on what the employee needs to do to engage themselves. You are missing half of the equation. The difference is on the inside [of the individual].”

To illustrate his point, Goldsmith used the example of taking a flight where one flight attendant was engaged and happy and one was “cynical and miserable”. “They have the same uniform, the same pay and the same employee engagement programme,” he pointed out.

“Companies should do whatever they can to engage employees, but it should be a two-way street and employees should take responsibility for engagement themselves,” he added.

Goldsmith advised HR professionals to ask “active” rather than “passive” questions around engagement, as passive questions that receive a negative response encourage the individual to blame the environment rather than think about how they might change their own behaviour for the better.

He encouraged the audience to ask themselves six active questions every day:

  1. Did I do my best to be happy?
  2. Did I do my best to find meaning?
  3. Did I do my best to be fully engaged?
  4. Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
  5. Did I do my best to set clear goals?
  6. Did I do my best to make progress towards goal achievement?

“You can’t control the ‘triggers’ that come your way,” he said, “but you can control your reaction to them and your behaviours.”