SHRM Book Blog: Six Engaging Questions to Ask Yourself


There are many good employee engagement surveys out there (SHRM has one, for example). Most of them ask about pay, benefits, workplace culture and other external conditions that help people become engaged in their work.

In my new book, Triggers: Becoming the Person You Want to BeTriggers: Becoming the Person You Want to Be, (with Mark Reiter, Crown, 2015), I suggest that we also ask another kind of question—about what employees can do to engage themselves.

“Active questions,” as I call them, are meant to get employees thinking about how to take control of their own engagement—without waiting for external conditions to change. Workers who take this kind of personal responsibility obviously serve companies better. They also make themselves happier.

The six questions below are part of my ongoing research into employee engagement. They have been shown to make a measurable, positive difference. I hope you will find them helpful.

1. Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
Goals are key to engagement. Without them, we have nothing to engage in.

2. Did I do my best to make progress towards my goals today?

Dr. Teresa Amabile, @teresaamabile on Twitter, in her scrupulous research and in The Progress Principle (with Steven Kramer, Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), has shown that employees who have a sense of “making progress” are more engaged than those who don’t.

3. Did I do my best to find meaning today? 
This question challenges us to be creative in finding meaning in whatever we are doing.

4. Did I do my best to be happy today?
Happiness goes hand in hand with meaning. When employees report that they are happy but their work is not meaningful, they feel empty. But when employees regard their work as meaningful, but are not happy, they feel like martyrs. 

5. Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
A Gallup poll asked employees, “Do you have a best friend at work?” and found the answers directly related to engagement. By flipping the question from passive to active, we’re reminded that the responsibility lies with us. One of the best ways to “have a best friend” is to “be a best friend.”

6. Did I do my best to be engaged today? 
It goes without saying that an employee will be more engaged at work if she consciously tries to be more engaged—and rigorously measures her effort.

Building self-awareness is a deliberate process that can help anyone overcome the triggers that are holding them back.


Marshall Goldsmith, @coachgoldsmith on Twitter, is a best-selling author and leadership coach.

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