At the recent HRD Conference at the ICC in Birmingham my colleagues spent a considerable amount of time doing a straw poll to find out what senior HR people were finding their biggest challenges in the current economic times.

Their answers mainly came down to two things – how do you get people to be proactively involved in the business and how do you increase employee engagement. What strikes me when I hear this is that leaders need to inspire people more so that they become more passionate about the business. This will have a huge impact on both of these issues.

However, frequently we confuse inspiring people with needing to motivate them and in my experience, the people in the higher echelons of the organisation feel the constant pressure on them to get people more highly motivated. I would question whether that is a useful way to think.

Let me ask a question that I frequently ask my clients. ‘Do you think it is your role to motivate the people who work for you?’ Nearly always when I ask this the majority of people put their hands up saying that they think it is critical. I fear this is a dodgy assumption as, if you have that as a belief, what ever are these people going to do when you are not there? I would suggest a subtle and yet powerfully different way of thinking – you are there to inspire them to motivate themselves.

Once we begin to truly understand this and then think in a different way it usually becomes patently obvious that our behaviours need to change considerably. We move away from communicating from the ‘I think…’, ‘I suggest….’, ‘I don’t agree…..’. Instead we will be encouraging them and supporting them to think for themselves so our communication will be more about ‘what do you think….’, ‘how might you approach that….’, ‘what are your ideas to improve…..’. If ideas and ways of thinking and being come from the individual then they are many, many times more likely to take ownership, to feel more determined to make something work, to find new and different ways to achieve their goals. They now own the idea and feel more passionate about it. This is the first really simple step to encouraging proactive involvement and raising the levels of employee engagement.

More to follow shortly ………………..