I do a lot of thinking about “engagement.”

How I can engage with existing customers to create the best product experience.

How I can engage new prospects and convert them into paying clients.

How can I engage customers in a way that they want to pay me.  Lots.  (I actually think about this one a great deal of the time).

The word engagement implies more than just contact – it implies a commitment to perform.  No performance, no engagement.

When a person is engaged to be married, they perform certain outward signs supporting the promise to commit to a new state of being – for example, dating other people becomes a no-no; usually a ring is worn signifying the promise to marry; and things like keeping the toilet seat up become tremendously huge deals.

When a person engages in a business relationship, they also are making promises.  Promises to perform, promises to deliver, promises to be there when support is needed.

For many people, especially with the ubiquity of social media, engagement has become somehow synonymous with connection.

It. Is. Not.

Without execution on promises made, there is no commitment.  Without a commitment, there is no engagement.

I’ve had several projects this year where the engagement factor of participants has been less than satisfactory.  Bad economy, “do more with less”, too many fires to put out… many excuses could be made.

But part of the problem – and I think, the biggest part of the problem – is that people simply have forgotten what it means to truly commit; of themselves, and on behalf of the companies they work for.

Seth Godin had a great post this morning about “I just work here” that captures the zeitgeist perfectly.

If we really want to make a difference with the work we do and the things we create, we have to get back to the first principles of engagement.

We have to commit ourselves fully to whatever relationships we are promising ourselves to.

Fifty Seven Channels – and Nothin’ On

Fifty Seven Channels – and Nothin’ On

The Bruce Springsteen song, 57 Channels and Nothin’ On, captures a growing trend in Social Media.

And really, business in general, too.

Seemingly every other day we get a new way to communicate, collaborate, berate, and cajole our “friends”, prospects, and business associates.

All we seem to be really accomplishing is adding to the list of ways that we can be ignored.

Maybe the economy has finally driven everyone to the point of lock-up.  We are so busy keeping our jobs, that we don’t have time to do the polite things.  Like responding to phone calls.  Or voice mails.  Or texts.  Or DMs.  Or Emails.  Or pings.  Or tweets.

I’m finding more and more that people simply have forgotten the art of “getting back to you.”  Getting back to you the same business day.  Or even within the current 24 hour period in which you need to communicate.

I’m not even talking about prospects – I’m talking about people that are working together with you on projects where people are already writing you checks.

I used to think perhaps it was generational.  I am, after all, settling into my old farthood quite comfortably these days.

But its not simply a matter of young folks not calling back, and old fogies being on the ball.  Across the board, we all seem to be broadcasting into the void, and waiting for a call back.

For projects that need approvals.  For requests for changes.  For clarifications.  For instructions.

The sad fact is, that regardless of how many great channels of communication we have, they aren’t worth a damn if all we’re doing is further splitting our attention and losing sight of the fact that these “new media” are intended to be two-way channels.

At this point, I think I’d be happy with smoke signals.

Just as long as someone is getting back to me in a timely fashion.



“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass….it’s about learning to dance in the rain”

My friend Donnie Hall died today.  All of us that knew and loved Donnie are in stunned disbelief this evening.

The quote above is from Donnie’s Facebook page.  I wish I were poet enough to write something profound and comforting tonight.  But all I can think about is that the storm must have become a flood – and swept my friend away.

The following quote from Theodore Roosevelt is also from Donnie’s Facebook page:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Rest in peace, friend.