Ingagement, Do You Dare?

by:Evan Hackel

Evan Hackel

“Engagement” is a fairly common buzzword nowadays, both in business and everyday jargon. But what does it really mean? And in business, is it enough?

Think about the fans who root for a particular professional sports team, they are certainly engaged. They scour the sports pages for news about their team, they willingly don head-to-toe team apparel at the game, and the root at the top of their lungs. Yet no one from the team calls them up for their input on what free agents they should look to acquire next. They’re close to the action, but not part of it.

There’s a similar situation in business. You want your employees to be engaged. You want them to passionately root for the company. You want them to don your figurative apparel with pride – and in my opinion there are going to be times when you invite them to participate in the next round of draft picks.

So how do you win their heart and soul?

It starts with top management being transparent, sharing the company’s vision and goals, and telling people what to do and what’s happening. But I’m here to suggest that real engagement goes beyond this. There exists a level of engagement where employees go beyond rallying for the team – a place where they dedicate their heart and soul to the company.

I Have Seen the Higher Level

I ran a company called Flooring America that the company I worked for, CCA Global Partners, had bought out of bankruptcy. The owners of Flooring America franchises were incredibly unhappy that we were there. They had just gone into bankruptcy. We, the company that bought them, had been their main competitor. There was a lack of trust. It was as if McDonalds had bought Burger King. The opposition we were encountering was fierce.

Furthermore, CCA Global had very little time to win over the Flooring America franchises owners. Per the court order, they were free to leave after a year. They couldn’t use the company name if they did, but they could stay in the flooring business.

Our management team had to take an incredibly unhappy group of people and find a way to win their hearts, minds and souls. What did we do? We worked with them to involve all the storeowners – all the employees of the company – to build a strategic vision and plan.

We had town hall meetings all around the country. We surveyed of employees. We held workshops with employees to get their input. We talked to suppliers to get their input too, so that everybody was part of the process. We also created an advisory council of Flooring America owners and let them meet and make recommendations to us.

The result was that 200 out of 202 owners decided to stay. And then results got even better. In the next four years, the company went from system-wide sales of $700 million to $2 billion. The same-store sales had increased to more than twice the industry average. And the store count doubled.

Ingagement

We had won the hearts, minds and souls of people at Flooring America. We had built a culture of Ingagement. Everyone felt ownership and responsibility for the future success of the organization. We wooed, we earned their hearts and their trust – and we had a fanatical team to show for it.

Engagement

If we had simply locked the management team in a room, built a plan, and then gone around and paraded it in front of everyone, that would have created engagement. That might have allowed the company some growth, maybe even short-lived success, but Ingagement allowed the company to thrive. After all, when a plan is simply delivered to people – one that they did not help create – their first reaction is, “What’s wrong with this . . . what’s the hidden agenda?” Why? Because that’s the way people think when they are not part of the process.

Engagement does have its perks. Given my experience, most companies utilize the “Mushroom Approach” where they keep everyone in the dark and feed them manure. Engagement is good, but Ingagement is better. Ingagement supercharges the organization by winning over the hearts, minds and souls of employees.

When Ingagement Doesn’t Happen – Leaders Lack the Guts!

The real reason we don’t see true Ingagement happening widely is that leaders are fearful. They are fearful that will look weak when they ask for help, they are fearful they will lose the confidence of the team if they don’t have all the answers – and they are fearful that someone else may have an idea better than theirs.

From my experience the opposite is true. People see strength in leaders who want help and input, and they see strength in leaders who are willing to shift when a better idea comes up. People see true leadership when they see a leader who cares about them.

Engagement has been well documented in research conducted by Gallup, which has long investigated the impact of engagement on organizational performance. To cite just one recent example, an article by Chris Groscurth and Stephen Shields in the June 7 Gallup Business Journal, “Managing in Touch Financial Times: Does Engagement Help?” documents that engaging front-line managers is critical to organizational performance. Also, that taking pains to manage engagement at all levels is a key to remaining profitable in challenging times.

When you win the hearts, minds and souls of your employees, customers, and vendors, you create amazing results. In my own business, by implementing Ingagement we took a stagnant $3 million company to $25 million in four years. At CCA Global Partners where I worked for 20 years and was the fifth employee, we grew system-wide sales in 20 years from those of a small company to over $10 billion.

Now that is the power of true Ingagement. I urge you to Ingage your people and experience it too.