So many times I hear people complain about others. Beyond “they didn’t do it right”, they often share that they don’t seem dedicated or as interested as you are in a problem or issue. Talking to different individuals they tend to blame the other side for this creation of apathy.
Which brings us to the age-old question, where does engagement begin? With a leader or an individual? An organization or an individual? A person or the teacher? The topic or its transformation into a cause? Much like, what comes first? The chicken or the egg?
This question generates the popular answer “it’s them” and “not us”. We rarely view apathy as being created by us. Instead, we commonly see ourselves as the victims of it. Our apathy is rarely explained as intentional on our part. This has never sat well with me. Especially when someone is in a leadership role and blames others. Complaints are easily generated whereas solutions involving people are always more complicated.
On the one hand, it’s ok to not be interested in something when you are not a leader. The mistake people make is to informally communicate they are interested while continuing their membership in the group. Where leaders go wrong, is they mistakenly assume that everyone will be engaged in their group, without them ever needing to create the context and urgency needed to nurture and develop a healthy feeling of engagement with other group members.
Where the is no engagement, you will not find commitment. Without engagement, it’s difficult to develop trust because neither side communicates. Ideas, different points of view, and constructive feedback are missing when there is no engagement. Destroying possibilities from energizing a group.
Engagement is always two-sided and dependent on the formation of a relationship that is two-sided as well. This leads us to this realization that speaks to our responsibility in both engagement and relationships in general:
We always participate in the experience of another when we interact.
(Please read this again and spend a few minutes thinking about just this one sentence.)
To see a smile on another’s face, we must participate in this experience by helping to create this smile in the way we greet another person. A teacher inspires their students by participating in the lessons they are teaching. Through the example of their commitment to detail together with the enthusiasm they bring to their explanations and the patience they bring to yet another question.
A leader is no different. They too must inspire, teach, provide an example of commitment, and communicate intentionally what needs to be important for the group to debate. While both the group and the leader have a responsibility to cultivate engagement, the leader assumes this task by accepting their leadership role. Needing to spend time developing relationships first in order to find the individual spark in each that leads to engagement.
Love is the ultimate form of engagement. Rare indeed and not easily duplicated. Much more common, helpful, and prevalent are fundraising efforts, non-profit groups, group trips, governing boards, clubs, and institutions, Where there is always something greater than the people involved. Engagement is built person by person, interaction by interaction, leading to the energy and excitement felt when engagement lives around you.
Now understanding it takes all of us to create and sustain engagement rather than it being only the responsibility of one side or someone else.