Okay, so Trevor in accounts payable turns up late every day, never contributes any ideas and, at best, his work can only be described as 'adequate'. He can be counted on to have a negative opinion on everything, except going home early.

Trevor is one the 57% of New Zealanders not engaged in their work.*

Isn't employee engagement mostly about leadership?

Usually we attribute poor engagement to poor leadership, but there's another way of looking at it.

The best leadership is unlikely to turn New Zealand's Trevors around unless they make a commitment too.

We can encourage staff who would rather be somewhere else to make some life-changing choices that will help them to be more engaged, but ultimately they must decide.

What life-changing choices?

Two key choices for anyone who works

If we are at least partially engaged, we might be able to achieve more by making the choices a focus. The Trevors may never have considered them.

1. Choosing to take charge of our own life

Psychologists refer to an 'internal locus of control'. I like the analogy of being the captain of our own ship. The captain sets the course. A ship without a captain just wallows around in the sea. We can choose to see ourselves as responsible for our lives, not victims of events. Even if we cannot control the events, we can control our attitudes to them.

Leaders can help develop captains by restraining themselves from micromanagement and allowing their staff to make decisions and see the results.

2. Choosing to define our work as a mission

Trevor may see his job as a series of tasks, none of which he enjoys.

He could be persuaded to see his role as a mission - a cause beyond himself. He might decide that his mission is to protect your organisation's reputation by ensuring that all its payments are timely and accurate. Alternatively, he might decide that his mission is to ensure that all your small business suppliers get paid on time, so that their staff can pay their mortgages and feed their families.

Leaders can help by suggesting missions. Do it in a low-key way by suggesting a theme for a staff member's job. Our executive assistant is our manager of efficiency. Our accounts colleague (who is not the slightest bit like Trevor) is a safe pair of hands for our finances.

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* From Organisational Effectiveness and Employee Engagement - Right Management Results of a survey of 28,000 employees in 15 countries in 2008-9.