MAGIC: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement

"Engagement is a fundamental human need. It is a power that resides in most people, waiting to be unlocked. People want to be engaged in what they do. If employers build the foundation, employees will do the rest."

- MAGIC, page 4

Each year, corporations spend considerable time and money on employee engagement programs.  Why? According to the Maylett and Warner, engagement improves profits, reduces turnover rates, and increases shareholder value. Unfortunately, because it is hard to define, many of the programs are not focusing on engagement. Instead, they seek to increase happiness or satisfaction; although these may be precursors to engagement, they do not produce the same results as engagement. Since “anywhere from 63 to 70 percent of American workers are not fully engaged in their jobs, and results are similar outside the United States”, most companies are missing out of the results that engagement produces. For this and additional reasons, Tracy Maylett and Paul Warner wrote MAGIC: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement. Their goal is to increase our knowledge of engagement and to reveal how to “leverage it” as a “secret weapon”.

Structure of the book: MAGIC is based on Maylett and Warner’s extensive experience in using their Leadership Intelligence process to assist organizations in both increasing employee engagement and improving business performance. They offer academic and scientific theory as well as practical experience (the book is filled with company examples). Maylett and Warner wrote it for individuals in all levels in the organization. MAGIC is an actionable book. Most of the chapters offer questions to facilitate your understanding of engagement: as an individual and as a manager.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

It All Starts With a Little MAGIC

"These are the five keys to unlock the power of engagement: The elements of the organizational ecosystem that our extensive research has shown us are the most powerful for increasing positive emotions, energy, and commitment on the job."
- MAGIC, page 60

Engagement seems to be an elusive goal to which many leaders strive, yet most fail. Then what is engagement? According to Maylett and Warner, “Employee engagement is an emotional state where we feel passionate, energetic, and committed toward our work. In turn, we fully invest our best selves—our hearts, spirits, minds, and hands—in the work we do”. In addition, they stress, “Employee engagement is 50-50 proposition…” “Management must create the opportunities… but it’s up to the employee to say, ‘I’m in’”.

If you are a leader, the authors’ statement may resolve questions regarding responsibility but it can lead to more questions. In particular, the questions include: What is needed to encourage engagement? or Once we have it, how do we use it? This is where MAGIC is important.  “MAGIC is about changing the conditions of engagement”.

Maylett and Warner suggest that if the seeds of MAGIC are sown and if the employees are left to do the harvesting, engagement takes root. See if the five keys resonate with you and if you would be more engaged if your organization fostered the following:

Meaning: “Transforms the mundane into the transcendent,” “Your work has a purpose beyond the work itself”.

Autonomy: “The power to shape your work and environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best”.

Growth: “Being stretched and challenged in ways that result in personal and professional progress”.

Impact: “Seeing positive, effective, and worthwhile outcomes and results from your work”.

Connection: “The sense of belonging to something beyond yourself”.

Maylett and Warner have seen how MAGIC creates more engaged employees, those “who take pride in shaping and improving”.  But what are the foundations that support the magic of MAGIC?

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Hearts, Spirits, Hands, and Minds

"[Engagement] involves bringing hearts, spirits, hands, and minds to one’s work…. The heart is about meaning… Spirit is about attitude… The mind is about intellect… The hands are about effort. Heart and Spirit = Feeling. Mind and Hands = Action."
- MAGIC, page 50

There is a concept in marketing that in order to have brand loyalty, marketers must capture the heart and the mind of a consumer, because without those connections, the competition can easily steal your customers. Based on Maylett and Warner, capturing employee engagement is similar; engagement developed solely from perks (game rooms or casual Fridays) do not last. Perks are transactional and may influence the hands and possibly the mind (leading to action), yet transactional leadership rarely captures the heart and the spirit (feeling). The authors stress in order to have engagement both feeling and action are critical by providing examples of where employees were acting, yet they were not feeling (and vice versa).

To determine if MAGIC is present in your work environment, answer the following questions:

  1. “How does my job support what’s important to me?”
  2. “In what parts of my job do I feel I have the freedom and power to do my best work?”
  3. “What parts of my job stretch or challenge me to be better?”
  4. “Where does the effort I put into my work exceed the results I get?”
  5. “Do I feel like I belong in my role?”

Each of the questions relate to one of the five keys, yet in total they reveal if your heart, spirit, hands, and mind are in your work —if you are engaged.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

It’s All About Choice

"…. we’ve seen people in jobs that would be considered mundane, repetitive, even unpleasant and watched them turn those jobs into meaningful, fulfilling occupations because they chose to be engaged in what they were doing."
- MAGIC, page 36

Maylett and Warner offer additional points on engagement, for example the types of engagement and the levels of engagement. One interesting point is that engagement is a choice. Leaders cannot force engagement, each individual needs to choose whether to be engaged and at what level in which to be engaged. The authors suggest “put[ting] the employees in charge”. This does not mean total freedom. This is an innate power that each of us possess. Utilizing MAGIC is one way to develop the setting that can unlock each person’s power so that they “choose to be engaged”.

The Engaged Self: The question for each of us is “Have I chosen to be engaged?” One way to find out is to take the Engagement MAGIC Self-Assessment.  The authors offer an abbreviated survey in chapter 8 (also available online here).

The Engaged Manager: Have you chosen to be an engaged manager? It starts with the engaged self (take the self assessment). If you are engaged AND if you are creating an environment conducive for your team’s engagement, then you may be an engaged manager. Ask yourself: Are the members of my team happy, energetic, creative, and innovative? Am I free to inspire and facilitate—lead—rather than manage?

Maylett and Warner refer to Godin’s Linchpin when discussing the advantage of engagement:  “The competitive advantage the marketplace demands is someone…  with passion and energy.” To individuals: Do you to want to be a linchpin?  Do you want to be more in demand? To leaders: “Do you want more of those kinds of people in your organization?”

If so, the authors and I invite you to learn more about MAGIC: The Five Keys of to Unlock the Power of Engagement.

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Fonda Na'Desh

ABOUT Fonda Na'Desh

Dr. Fonda Na'Desh is a Consulting Principle who utilizes leading academic and industry practices to transform small business owners from workers to leaders...
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