Every employer wants to have engaged employees. However, no one can make you engaged in your work without your consent. Most employers mean well when they ask for employee engagement, but how they go about it can make or break employee engagement. In this article, I want to share the most important key to employee engagement, and spark employee self-empowerment and improve engagement.  

That Key is Knowing Your Why

Each one of us wants work where we feel we are contributing to a higher purpose. And knowing your why will help you avoid work where you feel trapped, uninspired, and plainly bored. It will allow you to do work that puts a spring in your step each morning you wake up, and give you a daily boost no caffeine can.

So, Why do you do the work you do? What gives you joy for work? What quality of life do you want your work to provide? All these are great questions to ask yourself, as you reflect on your personal and professional growth.

It wasn’t until I took a good look at my personal and professional life that I realized, I had been working in jobs I had no business doing. And Why was the six million dollars question I had to ask myself. And this is what I’m asking you as well. Why was I doing work that wasn’t meant to be mine? Don’t get me wrong, the paycheck was one of my whys! But, it wasn’t enough to sustain my energy and joy for work. In the long run, I ran out of steam, and the springs in my steps were running out of energy. Literally!

I can still remember a few years ago, when I was in one of the jobs I had no business doing. Mind you, I had all the required skills, and… I was making good money compared to jobs I had had before. But, I wasn’t engaged in my work as I should. The job just drained me! I was worn out and miserable. I considered quitting so many times, but I needed the job to pay bills. I had been in that job for almost two years, and every day, I was feeling unmotivated, unchallenged and plainly bored. One day, I was torn between quitting and staying. I prayed to God to pleease tell me what to do. I said, “God, give me a sign.” And you know, God has a big sense of humor! One evening after work, as I was getting off the bus, going down the stairs on a double-decker, and the bus slightly moved. I missed a step and landed down the stairs, falling on my butt (fortunately, I have some cushion there). When I fell, I twisted my left ankle, and as I looked around, the bus driver was at my feet. With big worried eyes, he asked me, “Ma-am, are you okay? Do you want me to call an ambulance?”

I was so embarrassed! You know when you fall, and you feel guilty because people saw you? Yeah, that’s how I felt. I ignored that my foot was hurting, and was more hurt by the embarrassment. So, I tried to be brave, and I said, “Oh no. No need to call an ambulance, I’m perfectly fine.” But, I wasn’t. When I got off the bus in the park and ride, to get to my car and drive home was so painful. I could barely walk. But I forced myself, so I could get home before the swelling got worse. The next day, my ankle was so swollen and painful, but I wrapped it in a pretty white bandage, and off, I went to work, on a bus, again!

That day, at lunch time, I did some soul searching. I had prayed that God would give me a sign whether to quit my job or not, and now, if this wasn’t a sign strong enough, I don’t know what is. The same week, I gave my two weeks’ notice and resigned from my job.

From that day forward, I’ve been blessed in so many ways, doing work that is meaningful to me, and contributing to making the world a little better, one book, one speech, and one community at a time─ sharing stories to encourage and uplift others. Everyone of us has unique gifts to share with the world. But, sometimes, we ignore our gifts to do work that is not meant to be ours. This story goes to show that because I wasn’t engaged in my work, I felt like I was wasting time and energy. And no employer wants an employee who’s not engaged in their work, no matter how skilled you are. Doing work in which you’re engaged is a blessing, not only for you, but for your organization and those around you.

It is important to know your Why. This is where you define your personal and professional mission (or your purpose). What’s your driving force? What sparks your mind and boosts your energy? (besides coffee of course). After identifying your personal mission, tie it with how it’s related to your professional and your organizational mission. Be more self- empowered and align your personal mission with the work you do to serve your organization and its mission. Focus on meaningful work, and reduce self-sabotaging behaviors. And always approach work and life in a win-win situation.

Last, but not least, be careful on those double-decker bus stairs.😊