Forbes-Poetry-of-Disengagement

Over the past few years, 31-year-old British rapper Kate Tempest has gained international recognition for her observational spoken-word poetry rhymed over unconventional hip hop beats. She was a poet and published author prior to her breakout musical career, and much of what has critics praising her work has been her signature literary style. As great poets should, she possesses the rare capability to articulate relatable, universal themes in a fresh way.

Recently, Ms. Tempest put out a track called, “Where the Heart Is.” It’s a story of down-and-out disillusionment and, basically, settling into a life of disappointing mediocrity.

The lyrics of the song struck me right from the get-go. Here’s how it opens:

So you’re off to work again
You need to make a wage
Although you kind of feel like
It’s a waste of days
Measuring the hours of your life
In the paper made
Now your pleasure is devoured
And it’s getting tedious
To take the pace
I mean, you’re sick of staying late
And rising early with the day to face
You know, punching numbers in the database
And pretending that you care
About the day to day
These office politics, man,
They’re enough to make your faith decay

This, I thought, is real. The character in the song is experiencing something the majority of us have known — or are going through right now at work.

How do I know that?

Those lyrics are reflected in one stark statistic given to us by Gallup in their State of the Global Workplace report: 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.

This disengagement means indifference — putting in the time and minimal necessary work without having the desire or capability to put in much else.

I’d guess that the number 85% represents a lot of people who might look at those lyrics and say, “Yep, I can relate.” As a coach, I’ve heard the signs of disengagement many times, and they sound a lot like that: indifferent, lacking purpose and checked out.

According to Jim Harter in the above Gallup post, this lack of engagement is having a dire impact on the global economy. He says, “The economic consequences of this global ‘norm’ are approximately $7 trillion in lost productivity.”

That’s a lot of dollars lost. But what do you do about it?

I want to pose a challenge to company leaders and managers out there: Don’t simply dismiss the lack of engagement as the fault of your employees.

Here’s a test for you. If I were to put Ms. Tempest’s lyrics in front of you and say, “This is what one of your employees is saying about their job.” How would you react?

Rhyme scheme aside, perhaps some of you would start asking questions: What’s going on that has her so disengaged?

But there’s another response that, based on my observation working with executives, is common: blame.

Here are some common knee-jerk responses to hearing about employee disengagement that I’ve heard working with groups of managers, including CEOs:

“What does she expect? This is a job! It’s called ‘work’ for a reason.”

“I’m sick of all the complaining. She’s got a bad attitude.”

“She gets paid a lot and gets great benefits, what more does she want?”

Here’s one that baffles me:

“Millennials are so entitled, they want everything handed to them.”

(Sidenote: It’s worth taking a look at the habit of denigrating an entire generation of workplace employees. Replace the word “millennials” with any other social demographic. Would you tolerate that kind of stereotyping in the workplace? After all, it’s 85% of the workforce that’s disengaged, not just people of a certain age.)

Sure, plenty of employees shirk ownership and accountability for their own well-being. But the level of disengagement is too high not to ask the question, “How are we, as managers, at cause?”

Daniel H. Pink explored the topic of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation at length in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. In short, he explains that the distinction between these two kinds of motivations looks like this:

Extrinsic motivation is the kind of motivation driven by the promise of some external reward, (e.g., a paycheck, a pay raise or the fear of losing a job).

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. We are motivated by the satisfaction of engaging in the activity itself. We would do the activity with or without an extrinsic reward.

The research is still out over which of these forms of motivation are the most important. Ultimately, as human beings, we’re simultaneously driven by both. But research does suggest that it’s programmed into us as mammals to seek out activities that provide that sense of intrinsic reward. Called the SEEKING system, it is “believed to function as an objectless appetitive system — a ‘goad without a goal’ — until the exploratory disposition it produces leads to the discovery and learning of useful regularities.”

Basically, we’re driven to do things that challenge us to discover and learn for the sake of discovery and learning.

It’s not a huge leap to suggest that when our jobs do not provide us with that sense of self-satisfaction, we’d naturally want to disengage to find something that does. Or, as is more likely, become resigned like the character in the Kate Tempest song.

Engagement is an issue of intrinsic motivation. According to the Gallup data, the majority of the disengaged employees still show up and do their jobs (i.e., enough to get the extrinsic reward of the paycheck). They are not, however, motivated to go above and beyond — the kind of extraneous effort you see from an intrinsically motivated employee.

So how do you tap into this intrinsic motivation?

First, be curious. Recognize that what motivates you does not necessarily motivate others. Could you walk through your list of employees and say, assuredly, you know what motivates them, intrinsically?

When your employees get that you’re looking to match their jobs with their motivations, it’s the right start.

Justin Follin
Justin Follin is a founding partner and CEO at BLUECASE Strategic Partners. He is a CEO coach and organizational consultant with primary expertise in the areas of visionary leadership development, cross-functional strategic leadership, solving complex adaptive challenges and innovation. He is the primary designer of the BLUECASE Leadership Development Process for fast-scaling, mid-market companies and M&A environments. He has led hundreds of Executives, Directors, and Managers through cross-functional leadership development and has coached public and private CEOs, business leaders, TEDx presenters, academic professors, musicians, and athletes to perform at optimal levels. He has also designed or executed leadership development and consulting approaches delivered inside some of the world’s largest oil and gas, construction, and mining companies.
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Justin Follin
Justin Follin is a founding partner and CEO at BLUECASE Strategic Partners. He is a CEO coach and organizational consultant with primary expertise in the areas of visionary leadership development, cross-functional strategic leadership, solving complex adaptive challenges and innovation. He is the primary designer of the BLUECASE Leadership Development Process for fast-scaling, mid-market companies and M&A environments. He has led hundreds of Executives, Directors, and Managers through cross-functional leadership development and has coached public and private CEOs, business leaders, TEDx presenters, academic professors, musicians, and athletes to perform at optimal levels. He has also designed or executed leadership development and consulting approaches delivered inside some of the world’s largest oil and gas, construction, and mining companies.
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Christine Trevino
Christine Trevino is Chief Operating Officer and efficiency extraordinaire at BLUECASE Strategic Partners. She has a strong commitment to ensuring our processes create an exceptional experience for our clients and our internal team. After spending nearly a decade within one of the nation’s largest health systems, Christine knows the foundational infrastructure necessary for operational efficiency, conflict management, resolution strategies and creating connections to truly understand what is wanted and needed and how to best accomplish it, whether supporting the business or supporting people. Christine has served in other mission focused organizations, like Texas Exes (Hook Em’) and Whole Foods Market where she had the opportunity to be a servant leader and contribute to making an impact in the lives of others as she also does through our work at BLUECASE. Christine is married to her high school sweetheart and they have five children. She enjoys the outdoors, photography and volunteering in various organizations.
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David B. Greenspan
David Greenspan, Ph.D., is the Founder of BLUECASE Strategic Partners. He has a PH.D. in High-Performance Psychology with expertise in why certain individuals and teams perform at exceptional levels, even in suboptimal circumstances. BLUECASE facilitates strategic planning and teaches managers and executives at fast-growing companies how to create seamless cross-functional collaboration, feedback-rich cultures, and high levels of engagement. An expert in creating high-performance corporate cultures and teams, David is an energizing leader, coach, and facilitator known for his capacity to galvanize groups to generate breakthrough results. David has over fifteen years of experience working with senior executives at Fortune 100 companies and executive teams of fast-growing PE-backed companies with between $50 Million and $2 Billion in annual revenue. Notable clients include ESO, Vida Capital, Intersys, Four Hands, AffiniPay, Logix, University of Texas, Maidbot, Bypass Mobile, Austin Fitness Group/Orange Theory Fitness, Kerbey Lane Cafe, ShippingEasy, Triangle Services, Allegiance Mobile Health, and YPO.
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David B. Greenspan
David Greenspan, Ph.D., is the Founder of BLUECASE Strategic Partners. He has a PH.D. in High-Performance Psychology with expertise in why certain individuals and teams perform at exceptional levels, even in suboptimal circumstances. BLUECASE facilitates strategic planning and teaches managers and executives at fast-growing companies how to create seamless cross-functional collaboration, feedback-rich cultures, and high levels of engagement. An expert in creating high-performance corporate cultures and teams, David is an energizing leader, coach, and facilitator known for his capacity to galvanize groups to generate breakthrough results. David has over fifteen years of experience working with senior executives at Fortune 100 companies and executive teams of fast-growing PE-backed companies with between $50 Million and $2 Billion in annual revenue. Notable clients include ESO, Vida Capital, Intersys, Four Hands, AffiniPay, Logix, University of Texas, Maidbot, Bypass Mobile, Austin Fitness Group/Orange Theory Fitness, Kerbey Lane Cafe, ShippingEasy, Triangle Services, Allegiance Mobile Health, and YPO.
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Christel Frietsch
Christel Frietsch is the Operations Administrator at BLUECASE Strategic Partners. She has 30 years of administrative experience with expertise in scheduling, correspondence, logistics and project coordination. Prior to joining the BLUECASE team, she was the Director of Operations for an Austin based CPG healthy lifestyle company, an Executive Administrator for a land use consulting firm, and an Executive Assistant to the CEO of an international disease prevention and wellness company. Originally from Austin, TX, Christel graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Chemistry, and completed her minor study in Psychology. She is an IIN Certified Integrative Holistic Health Coach and an IPHM Certified Energy Healer. Christel currently lives in New Braunfels, TX with her partner and two rescued dogs. She enjoys spending time in nature, gardening and reading.
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Lori Darley
Lori brings nearly two decades of experience as a transformational coach and consultant and has worked extensively with leaders and C-suite executives in many industries. She coaches organizations from multi-national corporations, such as Ferro Chemical, a global cosmetics firm and a Fortune 500 “Class One” rail transportation company. She has also worked with a wide variety of entrepreneurial ventures and individuals in non-profits, manufacturing, financial services, management consulting, commercial real estate and the arts. Lori is a certified somatic coach, recognized by the Strozzi Institute, and a certified Peak Potentials trainer. Additional certifications include Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership, Gallup Strengths-Finder, the Myers/Briggs Personality Assessment and the EQi-2 (an Emotional Intelligence assessment and 360 feedback model).
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Lori Darley
Lori brings nearly two decades of experience as a transformational coach and consultant and has worked extensively with leaders and C-suite executives in many industries. She coaches organizations from multi-national corporations, such as Ferro Chemical, a global cosmetics firm and a Fortune 500 “Class One” rail transportation company. She has also worked with a wide variety of entrepreneurial ventures and individuals in non-profits, manufacturing, financial services, management consulting, commercial real estate and the arts. Lori is a certified somatic coach, recognized by the Strozzi Institute, and a certified Peak Potentials trainer. Additional certifications include Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership, Gallup Strengths-Finder, the Myers/Briggs Personality Assessment and the EQi-2 (an Emotional Intelligence assessment and 360 feedback model).
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Robin Knudsen
Robin combines 20 years of international corporate experience with that of leadership development to bring insight into creating diverse and inclusive cultures and improving how teams function. As a coach and facilitator, Robin has worked with a broad range of companies across industries from Fortune 100’s through to entrepreneurs and SME’s. Robin holds a BA from The University of Texas at Austin and a Masters in Organization Development from St. Edward’s University. She is a certified executive coach, trained in NLP, HeartMath, and Reiki.
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Robin Knudsen
Robin combines 20 years of international corporate experience with that of leadership development to bring insight into creating diverse and inclusive cultures and improving how teams function. As a coach and facilitator, Robin has worked with a broad range of companies across industries from Fortune 100’s through to entrepreneurs and SME’s. Robin holds a BA from The University of Texas at Austin and a Masters in Organization Development from St. Edward’s University. She is a certified executive coach, trained in NLP, HeartMath, and Reiki.
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Shawn Clark
Shawn Clark is a certified Executive Coach who brings extensive hands-on leadership experience to every coaching session. His business background includes senior leadership roles for mission-critical teams and initiatives with global Fortune 500 companies and U.S. Government agencies. Shawn delivers powerful, effective and efficient coaching experiences which enables his clients to achieve results that were previously unattainable. Shawn strives to ensure the coaching journey is a fulfilling and enjoyable experience loaded with exploration, discovery, creativity, growth and achievement.
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Shawn Clark
Shawn Clark is a certified Executive Coach who brings extensive hands-on leadership experience to every coaching session. His business background includes senior leadership roles for mission-critical teams and initiatives with global Fortune 500 companies and U.S. Government agencies. Shawn delivers powerful, effective and efficient coaching experiences which enables his clients to achieve results that were previously unattainable. Shawn strives to ensure the coaching journey is a fulfilling and enjoyable experience loaded with exploration, discovery, creativity, growth and achievement.
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Trish Perevich
Trish brings over 10 years of experience as an Executive Coach and has coached a range of professionals from emerging leaders to C-Suite Executives. Her experience includes individual and group coaching; design and delivery of corporate training and coaching programs; and facilitation of SVP and C-Level Peer Advisory Groups. Trish has worked with a range of organizations from startups to Enterprise Fortune 100 companies including Genentech/Roche, Google, NASA and the United States Airforce. She has served dozens of industries including technology, finance, life science, construction, healthcare, education and more. Supporting her experience is a BS Degree in Business/Marketing from The Rochester Institute of Technology. Trish holds the PCC coaching credential along with certificates in Conscious Business Coaching and Team Advantage Coaching. Outside of work Trish enjoys golf, hiking, yoga, fitness classes, cooking and travel.
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Trish Perevich
Trish brings over 10 years of experience as an Executive Coach and has coached a range of professionals from emerging leaders to C-Suite Executives. Her experience includes individual and group coaching; design and delivery of corporate training and coaching programs; and facilitation of SVP and C-Level Peer Advisory Groups. Trish has worked with a range of organizations from startups to Enterprise Fortune 100 companies including Genentech/Roche, Google, NASA and the United States Airforce. She has served dozens of industries including technology, finance, life science, construction, healthcare, education and more. Supporting her experience is a BS Degree in Business/Marketing from The Rochester Institute of Technology. Trish holds the PCC coaching credential along with certificates in Conscious Business Coaching and Team Advantage Coaching. Outside of work Trish enjoys golf, hiking, yoga, fitness classes, cooking and travel.
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Kan Yan
Kan has worked as an international humanitarian for the United Nations, a lawyer for the US Federal Courts, and a management consultant for McKinsey & Company where he consulted Fortune 500 clients across numerous industries with a focus on organizational health and leadership development. He has a law degree from Harvard Law School and a Masters of Law and Diplomacy from the Tufts Fletcher School.
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Kan Yan
Kan has worked as an international humanitarian for the United Nations, a lawyer for the US Federal Courts, and a management consultant for McKinsey & Company where he consulted Fortune 500 clients across numerous industries with a focus on organizational health and leadership development. He has a law degree from Harvard Law School and a Masters of Law and Diplomacy from the Tufts Fletcher School.
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Paulin Laberge
Paulin has co-founded two technology companies and has served as CEO of five. After more than 30 years of senior leadership roles in the technology industry, Paulin recently made the transition from running companies to helping teams grow their companies. His most recent engagement was as CEO of iCompass Technologies, a SaaS company that delivers solutions that strengthen open and efficient government, and which resulted in a successful exit at the end of 2017. He has been an advisor and mentor to numerous technology companies. Paulin has firsthand experience in building organizations, developing effective strategies, securing financing, developing market-leading products, establishing strategic alliances, marketing, and selling domestically and internationally. He has worked with boards and management teams to help them precisely execute critical corporate objectives and business strategies, create performance-centric cultures, and engaged, motivated teams, focused on driving results. Paulin has been an Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Columbia Innovation Council, where he established a province-wide mentor program. He was also actively involved in the development and delivery of growth, strategy, and market validation programs widely used by several technology accelerators. Paulin started his career as an Electrical Engineer after graduating from the University of Alberta. Throughout his career, Paulin has trained in numerous areas including, strategy, finance, sales, marketing, negotiations, organizational development, mentoring, and coaching. He resides with his wife, Lea, and their dog Huxley, on the west coast near Vancouver, BC.
Senior Strategic Planning Consultant
Paulin Laberge
Paulin has co-founded two technology companies and has served as CEO of five. After more than 30 years of senior leadership roles in the technology industry, Paulin recently made the transition from running companies to helping teams grow their companies. His most recent engagement was as CEO of iCompass Technologies, a SaaS company that delivers solutions that strengthen open and efficient government, and which resulted in a successful exit at the end of 2017. He has been an advisor and mentor to numerous technology companies. Paulin has firsthand experience in building organizations, developing effective strategies, securing financing, developing market-leading products, establishing strategic alliances, marketing, and selling domestically and internationally. He has worked with boards and management teams to help them precisely execute critical corporate objectives and business strategies, create performance-centric cultures, and engaged, motivated teams, focused on driving results. Paulin has been an Entrepreneur in Residence at the British Columbia Innovation Council, where he established a province-wide mentor program. He was also actively involved in the development and delivery of growth, strategy, and market validation programs widely used by several technology accelerators. Paulin started his career as an Electrical Engineer after graduating from the University of Alberta. Throughout his career, Paulin has trained in numerous areas including, strategy, finance, sales, marketing, negotiations, organizational development, mentoring, and coaching. He resides with his wife, Lea, and their dog Huxley, on the west coast near Vancouver, BC.
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Lisa Jaecklein
Lisa is well known in high tech industries for her work in developing and leading high-performance teams. She has “walked the talk” as President and CEO for private and public engineering based companies in Satellite Communications, Telecom and Commercial Enterprise markets. Lisa’s corporate background includes leading an IPO, Strategic Planning, Mergers and Acquisitions and integration of global teams. She draws from her diverse market experience and passion for coaching to support professional development of executives and senior management teams. Her focus areas include supporting development/ refinement of strategic plans, executive coaching to advance leadership capabilities and organization alignment necessary to support strategy implementation. Lisa brings a unique understanding of the interdependencies of people and business that drives results and ways to sustain a positive level of energy in her clients personal and professional lives. Lisa holds a BS in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco and has served as Director on a number of corporate and not for profit Boards.
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Lisa Jaecklein
Lisa is well known in high tech industries for her work in developing and leading high-performance teams. She has “walked the talk” as President and CEO for private and public engineering based companies in Satellite Communications, Telecom and Commercial Enterprise markets. Lisa’s corporate background includes leading an IPO, Strategic Planning, Mergers and Acquisitions and integration of global teams. She draws from her diverse market experience and passion for coaching to support professional development of executives and senior management teams. Her focus areas include supporting development/ refinement of strategic plans, executive coaching to advance leadership capabilities and organization alignment necessary to support strategy implementation. Lisa brings a unique understanding of the interdependencies of people and business that drives results and ways to sustain a positive level of energy in her clients personal and professional lives. Lisa holds a BS in Organizational Behavior from the University of San Francisco and has served as Director on a number of corporate and not for profit Boards.
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