How to Engage Employees in the Great Game of Business
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How to Engage Employees in the Great Game of Business

Talent Management

How to Engage Employees in the Great Game of Business

September 14, 2017 ejohnson

Guest Author: Dr Ilan Kogus, Performance Psychologist and Chief Executive Officer, Kogus & Associates
Performance psychologist Dr Ilan Kogus has worked with elite sports teams, including the Wallabies and Australia’s Olympic handball team. In addition, for 25 years he has consulted to private and public organisations across the globe, using his insights to boost performance. In this guest blog, he looks at how his methods can be applied to business using a model he calls ‘The Great Game of Business’ *

The Fire Principle
Success, whether in sport or business, is not an accident. It is a deliberate endeavour that requires planning and application. Although I have worked with elite sports men and women to improve their performance, at the heart of my practice is a model that can be applied equally to businesses.

Like sport, business is a game, a game I call “The Great Game of Business”. Integral to the Game is “The Fire Principle”, an analogy that divides employee engagement and performance into three elements.

A fire needs three elements to burn: fuel, oxygen and the initial spark or heat. In The Fire Principle these correlate to our physical and mental being. This is how the analogy works:

  • The oxygen is the MIND (goals, strategy, determination, focus, discipline)
  • The fuel is the BODY (strength, power, speed, agility, endurance)
  • The heat/spark is the HEART (motivation, love, desire, passion, commitment)

The new employee’s journey
When people decide to join a company, they are in what I call the ‘mind’ phase. They are thinking about how the company can enhance their careers, or bring them more money. Next, they learn how to perform the job, the job’s parameters, its KPIs and routines. I call this the ‘body’ phase.

The ‘heart’, in business, kicks in when people become motivated and engaged. They begin to love the business; they have a passion and a desire to go to work and make a difference. This is the ‘heat’ of the fire, the final element.

To keep the fire burning, a company needs to create an environment where people want to be, where they want to stay back and work long hours. When you have that, you know the staff are really engaged. Engagement is not with the head, engagement is with the heart.

Engaging in The Great Game of Business
To engage employees in the Game, we first need to engage their minds. We teach them about the business, how it creates value, how it makes customers happy, how it makes and spends money, and what’s critical for its success.

We want as many people as possible to be involved in the planning, because people engage better if they are part of the decision-making process. We want employees to feel, think and act like business owners.

Regular meetings ensure that staff is involved in the Game. In these short weekly meetings (we call them Huddles) we “follow the action and keep score” in a way same as in sport. These meetings staff contribute, management appreciates them. It’s not an opportunity for the CEO to talk while everyone says, “Yes boss, thinking, “It is a waste of time” The CEO listens to the staff. People feel good when they have an opportunity to show how well they perform and in so, they “look good”. Giving staff a platform to do that is part of a CEO’s role.

Deliberate practice for better outcomes
The key to success in business is engaging in deliberate practice, which involves five steps:

  • Setting stretch goals and measures (Planning)
  • Working to achieve the goals (Doing)
  • Receiving timely feedback (Checking)
  • Deciding how to improve performance and process (Acting), and
  • Seeting more demanding goals (Raising the bar)

The average company employee performs 25% to 35% of their potential in the workplace. The goal is to lift that 25% to 35% engagement to 60% to 65% by building a culture of Trust, Openess and Transparency, Commitment. Accountability, and focus on team results.

When employees are engaged in deliberate practice at work, every day they reflect on what they did that day and set goals for the next. The next day they do what they planned to do then check the results, and so on and on. –  They constantly review “What happened today? And decide What to do tomorrow to be more successful”

Culture changes from the top down
To paraphrase Napoleon, who was talking about officers and soldiers, I believe “there are no good or bad employees, only good or bad managers”. If the manager doesn’t model the way to apply deliberate practice, the rest of the staff will do whatever they feel like. This company will not win its Great Game of Business”.

But if management does apply deliberate practice staff will be engaged and results sky rocket.

By having all engaged in the Game no one feels like substitutes, sitting on the bench waiting for a chance to play. They become active players in The Great Game of Business

* The Great Game of Business was invented by Jack Stack CEO of Springfield Remanufacturing Corporation (SRC), Missouri.

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