Engagement in Persective

August 26, 2022

Engagement is certainly one of the drivers behind high-performance teams. The latent question that now emerges concerns teams’ drivers in the face of new times, new bonds.

No-one disputes the relevance of the emotional bond with peers, the affective identity with the social group, the pride in the scope of the operation, the satisfaction achieved from significant experiences, the room for expression, the connection with an inspiring purpose.

We can see being engaged is magnificent... yet seldom and hard.

As such, a reflection beyond the cosmetic pulses captured by surveys is in order...

Free labor basically exists in two formats: working for oneself and working for others.

As simple as that.

Yet intricate in its ramifications. I explain.

Entrepreneurship is found both in the opportunistic model and in the model driven by a need. While the former inspires, the latter summons. Not always is undertaking an enterprise a conscious choice about the risk-return allocation in the face of decoded asymmetries and differentiated capabilities. It might also be the possible alternative given the unavailability of job offers truly capable of properly remunerating certain trades – as happens, for instance, in the case of millions of self-employed professionals who might optimize their time, effort and capital if they had more appealing job opportunities.

The formal employment relationship also has several variants. We see more operational bonds in low-complexity everyday activities, where remuneration is almost directly related to the number of hours put in, with reduced value of the employed labor. In addition to those, knowledge and management professionals stand out, who are remunerated for their managerial skill to achieve goals in complex environments. Finally, there are the experts with high-intensity human capital, remunerated for their high added-value ideas and deliverables.

Engagement means different things for the different audiences above.

There is total integration between engagement and other bonding dimensions. Notably, alignment, cohesion, and commitment.

• Unquestionably, feeling engaged with something and with someone also requires alignment, in terms of clarity understanding the context, the roles and responsibilities, and expected deliverables.

• It also requires cohesion, underscoring the importance of an environment of trust, collaboration and learning, capable of fostering transparency, assertiveness, appreciation, and comfort.

• Lastly, it requires commitment, in terms of the actual availability of energy and time to truly prioritize the agreed-upon agendas in different situations and moments.

We are not permanently engaged. We are engaged for the moment. It is important to understand such subtlety.

Mercenaries, for instance, are extremely engaged with an agreed-upon mission for a set compensation. And their demerit to the eyes of strangers is nothing but a bias in the value judgement for the application of inadequate rules to the context of the temporary contract arranged between the parties. It is the same until today, with many self-employed professionals hired for specific services.

Unconditional and unrestricted engagement is already falling out of fashion in the universe of employment bonds, exactly for the impossibility by the companies themselves to assure to their associates something predictable, steady and appealing in the long run. As such, engagement may even seem strong, but with renewal terms from time to time.

The atavistic relationship between object and subject is more frequent, naturally, in the case of innate entrepreneurs (that including craftsmen and artists) relating to their original works. Even intricate partnership models may not be capable of emulating such advanced degree of engagement without the support of sophisticated remuneration tools.

Being engaged is tough... but extremely rewarding for oneself and for all who surround them. No-one offers others what they do not really possess within themselves.

Our challenge in ephemeral times has been just this: how to experience engagement with flimsy bonds, ambiguous goals, complex realities, chance encounters, virtual environments? Here lies one of the greatest challenges to leadership these days.


Daniel Augusto Motta é Managing Partner e CEO da BMI Blue Management Institute. Doutor em Economia pela USP, Mestre em Economia pela FGV-EAESP e Bacharel em Economia pela USP. É Alumni OPM Harvard Business School. Atua também como Managing Partner da corporate venture capital WhiteFox sediada em San Francisco (EUA), como Senior Tupinambá Maverick na content tech Bossa.etc e com Membro do Conselho de Administração da Afferolab. Também atua como Diretor de Planejamento Estratégico da UNIBES e Membro do Conselho Deliberativo do MASP. Foi Membro-Fundador da Sociedade Brasileira de Finanças. Foi Professor nos MBAs da Fundação Dom Cabral, Insper, FGV, ESPM e PUC-SP. É autor de diversos artigos publicados por Valor Econômico, EXAME, VocêSA e Folha de São Paulo, e também tem três artigos publicados pela Harvard Business Review Brasil. É autor dos livros best-sellers A Liderança Essencial, Anthesis e Data Insights.