Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Engaged vs Disengaged

I had the good fortune to sit in on a briefing this morning from a representative of The Gallup Organization. Central question: Can character be measured? Answer from the speaker: Yes.

It is, of course, more complicated than that. But that's it in a nutshell. Most importantly, I came away convinced.

More importantly still, I came away wanting to work for the company that said they could do it. I came away convinced that they get it. That, for all their inexperience with military culture, they can translate. I came away thinking that the most cogent quote of the day might have been, from John C. Maxwell, translated and paraphrased, "There's no such thing as military ethics. There's just ethics." In other words, for the most part, there's no need for translation.

I also came away a little saddened, and clearer than ever in my mind that, for my good, and for the good of an organization I've loved for a long time, and given 26 years of my life, it's time for me to leave. I am anything but disengaged, but I share too many characteristics at the moment with the disengaged. At some point, when I have time to pull from the web the characteristics I mean, I will explain them one by one. Disturbed, I asked whether possession of the characteristics was what classified a person as disengaged, or if some other test determined that, and then the disengaged could simply be expected to exhibit those characteristics? I was told that the measuring of engagement was independent of these factors.

Let me offer a few examples. The engaged and the disengaged tend to have opposite answers to questions like, "Would you recommend this company to a friend?" or "Do you want to still be working here in a year?" Engaged workers are happier and more productive. I'll buy all of that, but there is still that chicken/egg question: disengaged, therefore unhappy; or, unhappy, therefore disengaged. More importantly, can you still be engaged, yet share answers with the disengaged. These are questions I'm pondering, but questions I'm sure Gallup has the answer to.

Probing my own situation, I found some consolation in one more point. The quote went something like this: "People join organizations; they leave individuals." You can love your job, love your organization, and reach a point where you can no longer watch it driven into the ground by one or many in positions of authority. The longer you watch that occur, the more you may find yourself in the "disengaged" camp in answering certain questions. The more you love your work, your mission, your teammates, the more devastating the impact of poor leadership on your morale. Does that make you disengaged or too engaged? This is more than semantics. There is something very basic at stake here.

There is a book answer, I'm sure. But I'd love to hear any comments. Bookish or otherwise.