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When you are in combat the rules of engagement save lives while still accomplishing a legitimate military objective. Back in the early 90s when I was serving my national service the rules of engagement were simple; shoot first, ask questions later. However, you will be surprised to know that the armed forces are also subject to international law and their combat actions should be according to the tenets of military necessity, distinction, and proportionality.

Given the complexity of our working environment today we need to develop similar rules for employee engagement and build a simple pathway to achieve our corporate objectives while ensuring everyone is fully engaged. Therefore a leader should be able to address the tenets of necessity, distinction and proportionality when it comes to leading teams.

Necessity is about why you should care if your teams are engaged and whether it justifies the time, money and resources to invest.You need to clearly communicate the needs of your company strategic objectives and how your team specific efforts help the company achieve those objectives. Efficient communication keeps the employees in the loop with what is going on both inside the company and outside.

Distinction is about separating the three different types of employees in your organization; engaged (paddlers), disengaged (passengers) and actively disengaged (sinking the boat). The main objective is to focus your resources on people you should train and develop. In addition, you need to decide on your exit plan with the actively disengaged employees who are sinking the boat.

Proportionality is the ‘fire power’ and defines the amount of investment necessary to accomplish the level of engagement for each group. Obviously more training and development is required for disengaged employees as they are among the biggest threats to their businesses.

There are several factors to consider before deciding on your ‘attack’ plan which include communication, organization culture, reward system and leadership development. Using certain tools such as NLP can help improving the communication skills in your organization. In addition, a company culture that’s authentic and promotes compassion and integrity will create a stronger bond between the employees. A clear recognition and reward framework motivates employees, thereby creating a positive morale in the organization.

Employee engagement is at the heart of every successful organization. It communicates your brand and values to your prospects and customers.


Thank you for reading my post. Please feel free to drop me a note if you would like to connect or have any suggestions.

Reference: How The Rules Of Engagement Save Lives In Combat by Adam J. Tiffen