How Organizations Rob Us Of Our Personal Power

Employee Engagement is Lacking

The lack of Employee Engagement is the number one issue in Deloitte’s 2015 Human Capital Trends Report. People Engagement just edges out the dearth of leadership at number two. According to Gallup, only 13% of the global workforce is “highly engaged”.

Rather than separate these two dire issues, it seems to me that Engagement and Leadership are directly connected.

When people are “engaged”, they’re passionate and enthusiastic, they share their ideas widely with others to create new solutions, and they’re open to both the challenges and joys that work brings every day as part of their learning journey. People are able to be their best self at work and enjoy building authentic caring relationships with the people around them.

It is their leaders who inspire them to participate, contribute and grow in this way. When leaders establish a strategic framework that invites ideas and views about what to do to realize aspirational goals, people naturally engage! They open up to learning and collaborating to find new ways to add value and create an experience for customers that they love us for.

The 7 Key Ways Leaders Lose Engagement

Many executives in leadership positions bow to conventional organizational norms that rob us of our power. Here are 7 key ways we lose engagement in the business and stunt our own growth as leaders.

1.  Boring, Unproductive And Dismissive Meetings

When we regiment people to show up at certain times for unproductive meetings where they simply have to listen and be quiet, follow instructions and behave in line with the group norms, we disengage them. They give us the appearance of being part of a group or a team, yet we fail to engage their hearts and minds in their work and who they are as people or altogether as a community. They’re physically present but often mindfully absent.

2.  Codes of Conduct Are Inadequate For Genuine Relationships

Bullying takes place in insidious ways. Often because of the bully’s positional authority and the victim’s tendency to please others, the behavior gets overlooked for some time. While it starts with very small infringements on a person’s sense of safety and self-esteem, the longer it goes, the worse it gets. Until finally they must speak up or be lost. The codes of conduct in many organizations do not meet the minimum standards that would provide people with the foundations to build genuine, authentic and respectful relationships with each other. Another leadership opportunity!

3.  We Rely On Positional Authority Rather Than Personal Authenticity

Many of us have had the experience of being ignored or overruled on decisions that don’t make any sense to us, even though we’re chiefly occupied with the work and committed to making it a success. This makes us feel that we’re not important which of course results in disengagement. Therefore if we don’t invite our people to participate and join in the conversation or make those decisions that immediately affect their work, we’re actually reducing them to being mindless machines working under instructions. Very disengaging.

4.  Work Is Delegated By Way Of A Set of Activities Or Processes

Being charged with “doing” work, without any “thinking” or creative work prior to the plan of activities being set, is another form of disempowerment. When we don’t give people the opportunity to use their individual ingenuity to collaborate with others on how best to achieve the desired results, their minds begin to close down and their spirit deflates. The scope of their discretion becomes much smaller and they have little chance to learn and develop their opportunity to contribute in a more meaningful way. Wasted talent!

5.  Everyone Is Measured Individually On What They’ve Done

Individual performance management sets up silos and separation. It also sets them up for failure, as there is little interest in helping one another out when they have jobs of their own to complete. As most jobs require more than what we can handle at times, and also don’t always mirror our individual strengths 100% of the time, it makes much more sense to work as a team. Team performance creates unity through shared goals and shared resources so that everyone contributes to their best to achieve the desired outcomes. Teams engage!

6.  There Is Very Little Or Sporadic 121 Contact With Team Members

When 121 meetings are overlooked by many a busy Senior Executive, people lose their individual identity. If they have no-one who mentors or guides them, coaches them to grow, learn and see wider perspectives, or is sufficiently trustworthy to support them during tough times at home or at work, people disengage and even begin to dissipate. To care about their work, people need to feel cared for – in the most professional and personal way. They need to know that their leader is on the lookout for their individual growth, career advancement and personal wellbeing. This requires regularly scheduled 121 meetings focused on their work, themselves and their team.

7.  The Tide Of Negativity Is Allowed To Pervade The Workplace

Things will always go wrong, as often as they go right, until we find the balance within ourselves that enables us to row down the middle of the river living in tune with our authentic purpose and learning from both lessons and successes. This requires a positive outlook, realistic expectations and amazing aspirations. Negativity, blame, personal criticism, an ‘us and them’ mentality is toxic to a high performance corporate culture. If these views are allowed to go unchallenged, unaddressed and unresolved, if there is no avenue for open dialogue and no commitment to finding a better way or even just accepting that this is the best that is possible for now, people will disengage and the organization will not thrive.

As A Senior Executive You Can Create Your Own Culture!

In my experience coaching Senior Executives over the last few years, it’s become evident to me that as a Senior Executive, you must choose to consciously rise above your conventional organizational norms to establish a strategic framework that engages, empowers and uplifts your people.

You have the power to build what I call the strategic scaffolding that creates the safe and secure container for individual ingenuity, respectful relationships and team performance to realize aspirational goals in partnership with other stakeholders. You can create your own culture provided you decide to become an authentic, inspiring, strategic leader who empowers and trusts your people.

It’s a bit like flying above the ground so that you no longer need to concern yourself with the highways and byways, red lights and sentries, or clutter and clatter. Instead you create an expanded strategic frame by implementing the following proven 7 Step System captured in 7 S’s to establish your own Strategic Operating System – Executive SOS.

  1. Master Time by Running Your SCHEDULE with a Dynamic Diary Rhythm
  2. Master Vision by Defining the SCOPE of a Transformational Strategic Agenda
  3. Master Focus by Setting the SCENE with a Major Milestones Roadmap
  4. Master Values by Creating the STYLE with a Values-based Leadership Culture
  5. Master Teamwork by Knowing the SCORE with Cascading Team Charters
  6. Master Voice by Stepping Up on STAGE with a Compelling Signature Presentation
  7. Master Collaboration by Leveraging SCALE with Orchestrated Stakeholder Engagement

Find out more in my book illustrated with a number of client success stories. Please contact me if you’d like to rise above the noise, transform your culture and create and realize strategic aspirations that would be more meaningful for you. If you need a business turnaround, need to renew your strategic focus or just want to focus on realizing the potential of your people, I’d be delighted to help you. Find out more here.

100% of the clients who participated in my PhD Research Study made the shift to becoming an inspiring strategic leader in just one year instead of several (mostly from High Achievers to Catalysts); Leadership Effectiveness lifted by 20% from the 60th percentile to the 80th in one year with a 1,000-person client organization; and People Engagement lifted by 30% within 6 months of launching a Culture Transformation Program with another similar sized organization.

If you are an aspirational Executive Leader who would like to transform your workplace by collaborating with someone with a proven track record, please contact me at or set up a time for us to talk here.

I can work with you in a number of ways:

  • Executive Coaching and Group Coaching
  • Facilitating Executive Team Strategic Off-Sites
  • Holistic Leadership Development Programs
  • Strategic Culture Transformation Programs

To find out more by video, click here, or for a pdf, click here.

If you would like a Complimentary Coaching Meeting with me to talk through your situation, please book a time here.

It’s my intent to enable clients to make the quantum shift from operating under conventional business management norms to become inspiring strategic leaders so they can bring their Vision, Values and Voice to life, create an amazing workplace and generate awesome results. Click here to find out more.

If you would like to keep track of my posts and updates, please follow and connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Please join the Strategic Holistic Leadership Group to continue the conversation.

Wishing you all the very best,


Antoinette Braks is an Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership with 25+ years international experience. She has led People and Culture with Shell in Latin America and Africa, and Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific. She has an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing a PhD in the psychology of leadership transformation.

She loves her work as an Executive Coach, leading strategic off-sites for Executive Teams and running Leadership Development Programs in organizations to uplift People Engagement and transform Corporate Culture.

Published by Antoinette Braks

Antoinette Braks leads the design and delivery of SHIFT Leadership Development Individual and Group Coaching Programs for Senior Executives and High Potential Leaders to enable them to join the shift from being high performing achievers to becoming inspiring strategic leaders at divisional, regional and C-suite levels.

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