Is Your Team Captive or Captivated?

Talk about diversity!

I hear about engaged and enabled employees all the time. When the corner office sees that the survey says that our engagement score is 72%, they want to know how we will weed out that other 28%. When I hear the number, I wonder why our employees are only feeling engaged 72% of the time.

It’s survey data with science behind it, but it is still imperfect. Open to interpretation and misuse.

I think an equally important measure is my own daily survey. Experience teaches us to read our co-workers eyes and body language. Consciously or not, we are comparing the enthusiasm of today with what we have come to expect from a person, and even small differences are detectable. You work with anyone for a while, and you can put a number on it. (OK, in the pool I had 74%, but I was close!)

In recent layoffs, I have seen people leave who were not prepared for this possibility. Good employees, they delivered the expected work when asked, but didn’t fit the future plan. They were captive in a couple of ways. Captive in their routine, in doing what they do but not extending that to new levels and new ideas. And captive in their self-complacency. Their identity was tied a little too closely to their employer. Most of them will get past that quickly, and I am confident that I will soon hear of a few who came to see the loss as the best thing that ever happened to them. I can’t think of a layoff or cutback through the years that didn’t turn out that way for a good number of people.

It’s a quirk of the way English adopts words that captive and captivate are so closely related, yet mean something so drastically different when we think about our teams. Captivated is such a romantic word, implying a loyalty and dedication much different than you would expect from someone who is captive.

But to truly captivate people and teams, we need to speak to their spirit each and every day. We need to sometime remind them that we are glad they showed up for work today and that we don’t take them for granted. We need to connect them to the desired business outcomes and recognize their contributions. And if we sense they are feeling captive, we need to work harder at getting the best we can from them.

Take a look at your team today, or your co-workers if you are not a team leader. Are they captivated or merely captives? And what are you going to do about it?

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