Engagement is not Enough

Almost everyone who gets involved in leading or volunteering in ministry is initially engaged. They are switched on, ready to go, and keen to make a difference. There is no shortage of evidence that churches or other kinds of Christian organisations with great leadership and engaged people are very effective in what they set out to achieve. This is great but experience tells us that people usually become less engaged as time goes on and some just drop out.

So what happens?

In his book ‘Engagement is not Enough’, Keith Ayers* observes that much of the world has been dominated by left-brained thinking since the beginning of the industrial age, and similar thinking has influenced many of the approaches to leadership in the past. However, the people we lead are not always logical; their behaviour is greatly impacted by emotions. Dealing with people requires the use of both left-brained thinking (competence and knowledge) and right-brained thinking (emotional intelligence). Ayers states ‘It takes more than thinking to be a leader who ignites passion in people’.

The first place for leaders to look when seeking a solution to this problem is the mirror. Leaders need to ask themselves: How can I change my behaviour to help people remain engaged?

You can start by recognising:

  • The need for respect. Everyone needs respect even if they look for it in different ways.
  • The need to learn and grow. When people feel respected, they want to increase their engagement and contribution.
  • The need to be an “insider”. Beyond being respected is the knowledge that you are truly valued.
  • The need to do meaningful work. People need to know that what they do matters- it is important.
  • The need to be on a winning team. Nothing ignites passion in people like the team spirit generated by achievement.

While there is no single item from this list that will result in effective leadership, all the pieces together, rather like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, result in a picture of effective leadership.

If you need help to put the pieces of the jigsaw together to build engaged people, contact a coach who can help you in this journey. In the meantime, you can begin looking in the mirror by using some of the resources listed below.

Keith Ayers is the CEO of Intégro Leadership Institute, author of “Engagement is Not Enough” and a respected authority on the topics of engagement, leadership development and organisational trust.

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