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Title: Connecting People – creating engaging environments
Author: Kate Davies
Reviewer: David Evans, Burn Bridge Associates
Reviewer’s rating: 4 out of 5
From the outset, Kate Davies makes it clear that this book is for people “who want to know how they can create environments that encourage people to participate to the full extent of their abilities.” It is primarily for people new to line management.
Early on, she summarises the basis of her views on engagement: it is about capability, control and purpose. In this context, capability focusses particularly on having skills that can be enhanced through a desire for learning; control is about have the choice about how much to give oneself to one’s work; and purpose – having focus, making a difference and being able genuinely to enjoy what one is doing. The author uses a number of sources to describe what she means by engagement and does this simply and descriptively.
More of the examples used to illustrate engagement in action would have benefitted from being in the organisational / business world – many of the stories used are from the sports and personal-endeavour environment.
She also stresses the importance of the links between individual, team and organisation, making the useful link with Patrick Lencioni’s team model. Individual, team and organisation have to be in some sort of equilibrium otherwise personal engagement does not happen.
Her title, including the words ‘connecting people’, is apposite because we do not ‘get engaged’ in a vacuum: although engagement is a personal thing – incorporating our sense of flow, emotional investment and desire for psychological safety – others play an important role in establishing the conditions for personal engagement.
Davies also emphasises the important part that the basic ‘hygiene factors’ play in establishing the basis for employee engagement: if the fundamental conditions for working are absent, it is unlikely that individuals will fully commit to the psychological engagement that creates extraordinary commitment.
Using simple tasks to enable the reader to absorb the learning in the book, Davies has produced a readable, concise and informed book about a topic that seems to command the highest possible attention amongst business people. Appropriately referenced, this is a simple and well-targeted book that deals with the subject of engagement well, using new models and memorable acronyms (I particularly like the HIC tool and the PREF model).
There are some parts that offer information and advice on basic elements of management – running meetings for examples.
I would not recommend it to those with more than a passing understanding of employee engagement, but as an introduction it is a fine book.