We: A book review by Bob Morris

We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement
Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse
John Wiley & Sons (2011)

Why “there is nothing more important for a person or an organization than full engagement”

The term “full engagement” refers to a never-ending process rather than to an ultimate destination. Also, because people are not machines, they cannot be fully engaged (however defined) all the time indefinitely. In their Introduction, Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse suggest, “Being fully  engaged means you are motivated to give the extra effort that advances the goals of your employer. Your job might be tough, and it might be stressful, but when you are fully engaged you want to do it; you  want to go the extra mile.” I agree. The most effective leaders throughout history activated, in fact ignited self-motivation in others. However,  individuals can — and should — actively manage their lives and careers and should take full responsibility for the consequences of their decisions.

Much of the material provided in the book is based on research by Kenexa, a company of which Karsan is a co-counder and CEO; Kruse is a former partner. The research consists of employee engagement and opinion surveys each year that involves more then 10 million employees in 150 countries throughout the world. With regard to the book’s organization, “Part One, Career-Life, covers the big picture of how work and jobs have changed over time and how critical they are to overall happiness…Part Two, The You in We, is written for the individual and suggests ways that you can actively manage your career, including finding your true purpose, ensuring the right cultural fit with your employer, and managing the growth of your career…Part Three, How Great Leaders Harmonize Teams, details how employers need to be both  engaged and  aligned to reach what we call harmonization…Part Four, Manager’s Toolkit, is a tactical guide written for leaders and managers and is based on an analysis of more than 10 million employee surveys.”  Readers will appreciate the co-authors’ brilliant use of the bound volume as a “ticket to an interactive world” that includes a wealth of additional resources. These are identified in the Introduction (Pages xviii-ix) and supplement countless Figures, mini-case studies, boxed items of supplementary information, chapter summaries (key points and takeways), and countless Activities, several of which serve as diagnostic exercises.

These are among the passages that caught my eye:

o   “From Work-Life Balance to the Work-Life Blend” (Pages 25-26)
o   “The Three Ps: Passion, Purpose, Pay” (58-61)
o   “The Twelve Archetypes of Organizational Culture” (80-93)
o   “Level Five Relationships” (116-118)
o   “What Is Employee Engagement?” (133-138)
o   “Harmonization” (144-147)
o   “The True Cost of Turnover” (155-156)
o   Jeffrey Jolton: “Valuing versus Recognizing Employees” (176-180)
o   Peter Timmerman: “The Three Cs of Building Trust” (184-187)

Obviously, given the results of recent research by Kenexa and other firms such as Gallup, Towers Watson, NBRI, many (most?) organizations in the U.S. have a major problem: Less than 30% of their employees (on average) are actively and productively engaged. The others are either mailing it in or actively disengaged, working to undermine efforts to achieve the given objectives. In my opinion, Rudy Karsan and Kevin Kruse have written one of the most valuable books now in print on the subject of employee engagement. It is worth noting, again, that theirs is a research-driven (rather than a theory-driven) business book. The material they provide will help individuals (especially supervisors and their direct reports) as well as their organizations (in terms of quality of leadership, management, recruiting and hiring, talent retention, customer relations).

Charles Lindbergh selected “We” as the title of his published account (in 1927) of the Spirit of St. Louis’ successful flight to Paris (May 20–21, 1927). Why? Because he wanted to acknowledge with gratitude and appreciation all of the people who were involved with preparing him and his Ryan NYP monoplane for the first successful one-man flight across the Atlantic. Without mutual respect and trust, there can be no effective collaboration. The closer an organization comes to full engagement of its people, the more productive they will be and the more profitable it will be. It’s s simple and as difficult as that.

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