I love to study the differences between motivation and engagement. These hot concepts lead to many and divisive discussions. Some arguments get as out of hand as if a thousand “Probama” and “Nobama” extremists were locked in the dark hold of a cargo ship.

With paint-ball guns.

You’re probably expecting me to come up with my own definitions. Well, I have. And I’m publishing them here because they are so simple:

Motivation: What’s in it for me.
Engagement: What’s in it for us.

That’s it. No big deal.



Learn more with the Ultimate Guide to Engaging Millennial Employees


Here’s a common management frustration: “What must I do to get this person to do my bidding?” A raise, threat of job loss, flex time, a better job title, time off, a promotion? But we all know that these tactics provide temporary benefits, at best. The fleeting jolt created is like a Fairy Godmother’s Tazer. It’s an exhilarating kick in the pants when the employee gets their wish, but the motivation disappears by midnight.

Now consider a differently-worded question as posed by an “engager”: “Where can I find common purpose between the employee and the organization?”

Good employees meet requisite requirements. The best employees, those who are the most engaged and engaging, productive, driven, and happy, are those who know themselves inside and out. They know their skills and their weaknesses. They appreciate their abilities and what others see in them. They have a greater sense about the purpose of their lives than retirement. Their introspection leads to clarity, which leads to confidence, and when management opens the door, real engagement is created.

Help employees to discover themselves. Give them confidence. Go beyond their job descriptions to find opportunities for them to apply those interests and strengths to suit the purpose of the organization. The results are magical.

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The onus is on the shoulders of management to help employees discover themselves, but management needs instruction about how to implement this new thinking. It’s not enough to help people write down their goals; it goes much deeper than that. The individual must be led to own a crystal clear definition of what it is that he or she wants to have done with his or her life. It’s very deep, and very personal.

It is then the responsibility of management to help the employee find places in which the purposes of the employee might match well with the purposes of the organization. The greater the match, the greater the engagement.

Managers: if you wish to engage employees,

  1. help them to discover – and own – their strengths and passions (ask me for resources)
  2. look past the job description to find areas in which their drivers can serve the purposes of your organization
  3. look for ways in which the organization can satisfy the interests of the employee
  4. let ’em have at it


What’s the difference between motivation and engagement? Profits. Retention. Productivity. Goal achievement. Organizational sanity. So now, are you motivated?

Or engaged?


Jeffrey Tobin

Jeffrey Tobin

Jeffrey Tobin is an authority in transforming people and organizations. His presentations are humorous and content-rich, focusing on the greatest motivator of all, the power of purpose in our lives and organizations.

This article is by Jeffrey Tobin from jeffreytobin.com.