#Leadership is Engaging People by Going to Where They Are At

Engagement is the new coin of the realm. We seek to engage people at work, in social media, when we sell things to them, and in the classroom.  Which brings up a couple of questions: 1) What is engagement, 2) Why is engagement important, and 3) How do you engage people?  (Okay, that was three questions… call that literary license.)

So let’s start with the definition of engagement. Kahn (1992) defines engagement as a psychological state that consists of four components, (attentiveness, connected, integrated, and focused), which combined result in physical, cognitive, and emotional behaviors or “personal engagement”. There are suggestions that the degree of engagement shifts depending upon the environment and the task.  High levels of engagement result in high levels of energy and engagement in one’s work (Gruman & Saks, 2011).

Two decades of research show that higher levels of engagement tends to lead to higher levels of performance (although not always) in the workplace and in education. We are more likely to be loyal purchasers of a brand if engagement is higher.

Engagement can be enhanced in a number of ways.  First, by increasing motivation, you increase engagement.  Since motivation involves both relevance and self-efficacy, reinforcing the relevance of a task and supporting the individual’s confidence in their ability to complete a task  can both increase engagement.

Designing tools that meet the person “where they are” helps to increase engagement. For example, we know that the Millennial generation tends to engage more when using visual materials such as video than when they read. So using their preferred media to enhance engagement makes sense. Further, using a tone that is relevant and fun tends to engage this generation more than one that is serious.  Before you serious types get all bent out of shape, I’m not saying that this generation can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t read.  I’m saying that to hook their attention, you need to meet them where they are at.  Then, once they are interested, you can deliver a mix of approaches to ensure engagement, depth, and rigorous thinking.  Here is the first video in a series we designed to reach high school students to encourage them to consider entrepreneurship as a career.



You’ll note that the host is young, enthusiastic, and a bit ironic. The tone of the video is fun, interesting, and a little bit ironic. As a leader, sometimes you need to meet your followers where they are at.  If you don’t you risk losing their enthusiasm and engagement.   By first understanding your followers, and by interacting with them on their terms, you increase the likelihood of creating engagement. This is the first step to becoming an engaging leader.

Note:  If you would like to see the rest of the video series, go to the Just Own It! YouTube Channel.  If you are a teacher who would like access to the accompanying teacher’s guides, just go to the Just Own It! Website.


Kahn, W. A. (1992). To be full there: Psychological presence at work. Human Relations, 45, 321−349.

Gruman, J. A., & Saks, A. M. (2011). Performance management and employee engagement. Human Resource Management Review, 21(2), 123–136.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s