Did I Do My Best To …?

“You had me at hello” when it comes to the importance of employee engagement! Most people get this intuitively, but it also never hurts to have that intuition reinforced by study (… after study … after study) that produces conformational analytics. Abraham Maslow was one of the first prominent researchers to shed light on this reality. Employees that are driven by motives to survive and secure the means to provide for their families behave differently at work than those who are fortunate enough to have those needs reasonably satisfied and can concentrate on “being all that they can be.” Daniel Pink (among many others) has confirmed this conclusion over time.

Organizations have mounted reasonable responses to this evolving evidence. It varies of course, but most companies can point to programs, policies, training and compensation initiatives intended to increase levels of employee engagement. They do so (in large part) because of the mounds of proof that suggest employees (who have reasonable tenure in their current positions) can keep their jobs by leveraging as little as 30 to 35 percent of their work-related capability. The more organizations are confronted with these realities, the more well-intended and sophisticated programs, policies and initiatives they conjure up in an effort to attack those trends which (at some level) begs the question:

With all of that going on, how can global levels of employee engagement possibly be near an all-time low?

Consider that perhaps it has something to with the fact that “being all you can be” is more about personal choice than anything else. That would suggest that regardless of how many initiatives your organization rolls out intending to spark the flow of discretionary effort, maybe, just maybe, that approach can unintentionally incent increased passivity (“I’m still not engaged … what else you got?”). Perhaps authentic engagement is (has been and forever will be) a function of personalized subjectivity and individual choice. So, if that is indeed the case, where then do you start and what do you do?

I have found no better set of parameters to guide that journey than those offered by Marshall Goldsmith in his best-selling treatise “Triggers.” Consider how much different your life at work (and for that matter your life in its entirety) would be if you asked (and answered) each of these questions every day for the rest of your life:

Did I do my best to …?

  1. Set clear goals?
    • There are all sorts of pithy acronyms that provide criteria for effective goal setting. Pick one and use it! Every day!
  2. Make progress toward goal achievement?
    • Most of us have the ability to convince others how hard we are working or how much effort we are exerting. Forget them. In no way do they know you as well as you know yourself! Did you orchestrate a “meaningful advance” against the goals you established?
  3. Find meaning?
    • At some level, “being all you can be” translates to taking pride in what you do regardless of what that may be. When you think about it, what (besides you) is standing in the way of you finding that reason or establishing that meaning?
  4. Be happy?
    • Shawn Achor (among others) has advanced the notion that happiness is indeed a choice. That choice is primarily a function of our response to the events that make up our lives. In the end, we have much more control over those responses than many of us elect to employ.
  5. Build positive relationships?
    • Our impact (especially at work) is a function of the “what” and the “how.” The “what” is our tangible and functional contribution. The “how” is the impact we have on those around us. Building positive relationships typically translates to the relative emphasis we place on one in concert with or at the expense of the other.
  6. Be fully engaged?
    • At the end of the day, “being all you can be” is synonymous with “doing all you can do.” You control that — nobody else! And, in the spirit of Marshall’s sage advice, the irony associated with the conscious restriction of your discretionary effort is that sooner or later, you simply wind up cheating yourself.


  1. If you haven’t done so already, purchase and read “Triggers.” Ask yourself the six daily questions previously listed for a week and monitor the results.
    1. When you have made it through the week, consider repeating the process for the rest of your life!