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Monday, August 15, 2016

Global Leadership Engagement

Last Thursday and Friday I had the opportunity to be on site at Willow Creek Community Church during the Global Leadership Summit (GLS). I find the Summit unparalleled in generating highly inspirational talks, leadership coaching, and insightful interviews with high profile game changers in both the for profit and non profit arenas. Speakers include several people in what we would call Christian ministry.

The audience at Willow Creek was separated into three different rooms. The largest group was in the main church sanctuary. It seats a few thousand. In two other rooms—both large—people view the Summit on video monitors. But that’s just the beginning. Several hundred satellite sites around the US carried the live broadcast. Within the next several months, many international locations will feature their own presentations of the Summit—some with full translations. When all the numbers are totaled, over 300,000 people will benefit by this conference!

To be clear, I was not there to attend the GLS. My role was to conduct sixteen interviews in two days for my talk show. Most of my interviews were somehow connected to the Wlllow Creek team—either the church or their partner ministry, the Willow Creek Association (WCA). A few of my interviews were people who were attending the Summit including international guests.

With that being said, I heard only a few segments of the actual Summit program—none of them in their entirety. I heard many conversations coming out of those sessions and the buzz created around some innovative thought processes that create energy and motivation for many. Well known communicators such as Melinda Gates, John Maxwell, former Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mullally, Erin Meyer, and Patrick Lencioni were big hits. One of my personal favorites, Bill Hybels, always strikes gold.

There is something about being around creative, hard charging, forward thinking people that gives life to the human spirit. Being around the WCA team, one senses the clear view of purpose that these people possess. I could name their names but collectively they have a fusion of enthusiasm for their mission. It’s fun to be around them. In a sentence, these Willow Creek team members are highly engaged.

It is that word where I put my focus today. There is ample material to be read on employee engagement. One basic definition goes like this: “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This emotional commitment means engaged employees actually care about their work and their company.”

An excellent article along this line appeared in 2012 on and is written by Kevin Kruse, author of the book Employee Engagement 2.0. His article is titled, appropriately, “What Is Employee Engagement?” It’s easy to find online.

I’ve written about this subject before, usually around the theme of how many people in the workplace are not fully engaged in their work. The number is startlingly high. As Kruse points out, employee engagement does not mean employee happiness. Nor does it mean employee satisfaction. This might seem counterintuitive to the subject, but it is not.

Developing a work team that is engaged is management art. It involves getting team members to understand the why of what they do and that it makes a difference. But there is also a component of true people management that generates a belief that each employee matters. It’s why Willow Creek people are so aware of their common purpose. And they see caring all throughout the organization. It’s in the DNA.

Two challenges exist in building an engaged workplace culture. First, getting it established. That alone is a course to be studied. But a secondary and equally important consideration is that engagement can slip. Vision can fade or drift. Passion can diminish.

I felt that was core to what many appreciate about the Global Leadership Summit experience. They come expecting to be revitalized. And they are. In big doses. Bill Hybels spoke on this himself in his opening talk.

One way leaders have shown they care about their team advancing in engagement is to get them to the GLS. One man from South Africa paid “full freight” for some of his team to attend the GLS in Chicago! Wow.

At lunch on Thursday, I ran into a chiropractor who has a radio program on AM1160, Dr. Jeremy Barone. He had in his company an employee he brought with him to the Summit, and paid her fare. He said his conviction is to invest in good people. Like…keeping them engaged. Bravo!

There is much in the church we can learn about this. And particularly we should consider how to apply this to those full time servants on a church staff. They are most worthy of our abiding attention.

Regardless of the kind of work you do, it would be wise to evaluate your own engagement. Then, determine how to take some steps to elevate it. A payoff is definitely there.

The disciples of Jesus of Nazareth were captivated by His message and His love for people. Even after others turned away after difficult messages, the disciples stayed loyal. As the apostle Peter said to Jesus, “Master, to whom would we go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. We’ve already committed ourselves, confident that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69, MSG)

Engagement. Loyalty. Commitment. You could build a team around that. One that might change the world!

P.S.  Next week’s blog: where disengagement shows up. And why.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app. 

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