About Susan Jamison

During her high-tech career at IBM and Sun Microsystems, Susan Jamison became expert at taking on challenging initiatives and bringing out the best in people to deliver great results.

As founder and CEO of CLUE Institute, Susan shows individuals how to develop greater personal power and fulfillment so they become more effective in their work, and ultimately build lasting competencies for personal and organizational excellence.

The Solution to the $450+ Billion Engagement Problem

According to Gallup, the percentage of employees who are Engaged, Not Engaged, or Actively Disengaged has hardly changed over the past 16 years. Less than one-third of Americans were Engaged in their jobs from 2000 to 2015.

Gallup says that employee engagement is important because it is strongly related to business outcomes and a company’s financial success. Their latest report says that 70% of U. S. employees are Not Engaged (and noted that 70% of payroll is going to them!). Engaged employees have 22% more profitability and 25% less turnover than less engaged ones. Engaged employees also have significantly better business results in the areas of productivity, customers ratings, new products and services, new customers, growth, revenue, absenteeism, safety, theft, quality defects, and healthcare costs. Gallup estimated that Active Disengagement costs the U.S. an estimated $450-550 billion a year.

          Actively Disengaged     Not Engaged     Engaged

2016                          16                              51                        33

2015                          17                              51                        32

2014                          17                              52                        31

2013                          19                              51                        30

2012                          18                              52                        30

2011                          19                              52                        29

2010                          19                              53                        28

2009                          18                              54                        28

2008                          20                              51                        29

2007                          20                              50                        30

2006                          15                              55                        30

2005                          15                              59                        26

2004                          17                              54                        29

2003                          17                              55                        28

2002                          17                              53                        30

2001                          16                              54                        30

2000                         18                              56                        26

Average                  18                              53                        29

Why is it that, despite all the interventions recommended and tried over the past 16 years, the engagement numbers have not changed?

The engagement problem persists because engagement is not really the problem, but is the problem symptom. Symptomatic solutions tried over the past 15 years or so may have created an illusion of success and offered some temporary relief, but the problem lives on.

Three actions will increase engagement over the long-term:

1. Reframe the engagement question

2. Approach engagement from the outside-in and the inside-out

3. Don’t try to micromanage engagement

1. Reframe the engagement question.

The question usually posed is: How can people in leadership or management positions motivate subordinates to be engaged? (This question is addressing a symptom.)

Instead, ask: How can people in leadership or management positions create the conditions within which others will motivate themselves and be inspired to engage? This question gets at the problem of why people are not self-motivated or inspired.

2. Approach engagement from the outside-in and the inside out.

Organizations cannot “engage” people. Engagement happens when there is both outside-in and inside-out ownership of responsibility. Outside-in engagement is about organization responsibilities; inside-out engagement is about individual responsibilities. Leaders and managers must understand and do the organization part and every individual (leaders, managers, and individual contributors) must understand and do their (inside-out) part.

The leaders and managers of the organization must codify, communicate, and model their organizations’ capabilities and what their organizations are committed to contributing (outside-in) so that people have something with which to engage, should they be self-motivated or inspired to do so. Individuals also need to know what their capabilities are and what they are committed to contributing. That is, they need to have the self-awareness (inside-out) about what motivates and inspires them so they have a basis on which to choose to engage with what is offered by the organization.

For high engagement to occur, both states together are essential. Focus on just one side (organizational or individual) will not work over the long-term.

3. Don’t try to micromanage engagement.

Gallup defines Engaged Employees this way:

  • Involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their work
  • Contribute to their organization in a positive manner
  • They look for new and better ways to achieve outcomes
  • 100% psychologically committed to their work
  • The only people in their organization who create new customers
  • The best colleagues
  • Work with passion
  • Feel a profound connection to their company
  • Cooperate to build an organization, institution, or agency; behind every good thing that happens there
  • Drive innovation and move the organization forward

Individuals are idiosyncratic, so these attributes will take different forms in different people. Because every individual is unique in terms of their experiences and ways of stimulating their creativity and bringing it to the world, micromanagement of individual engagement is not practical nor consistent with motivation research.

Decades of motivational research (summarized in Drive, by Daniel Pink) indicates that the three top motivators are inside-out:

  • Autonomy: Freedom to express one’s unique brand of creativity
  • Mastery: Getting better at something that matters
  • Purpose: Doing something that is worthwhile

These motivators are known to work over the long-term, whereas outside-in motivators like luxury (amenities and comfort) act as, what Daniel Coyle calls in The Little Book of Talent, motivational narcotics. They are nice to have, and preferred by many, but will not produce sustainable desired outcomes like high engagement.

Addressing the problems underlying engagement, approaching engagement from both organizational and individual responsibilities, and enabling individuals at all levels of the organization to take on those responsibilities are the actions essential to achieving high and sustainable engagement.


Stick Figure Theater Presents: The Engagement Story

Leaning In and Falling Over Conventional Wisdom


I had just graduated from Stanford with Honors, gotten a MBA in Finance and Accounting with a minor in Organizational Behavior from UCLA, and received job offers from my two dream companies. IBM got to me first, and I was extremely happy to be the first female in my family to graduate from college, and get hired by a major, prestigious corporation.

When I got there, I was a fish out of water. I had had no role models, no mentors, no street smarts, no brothers, and a Dad who had travelled for work most of the time. Even though I had a Mom and a Dad who did everything they could to encourage me to do what is now called leaning in, I didn’t have the confidence to insure I wouldn’t fall over when I got there. The hard work that got me through school had not prepared me for a high tech, primarily male, work environment.

I realized I needed to figure out how to fit into this foreign culture. I was part of a wave of new hires selected for their credentials but the people I worked with didn’t seem to be impressed. In fact, some seemed to resent it. Reading the sports pages and participating in the football pools seemed to be more valuable in meeting my male colleagues and making friends than just “doing my job.” Someone recommended I read Games Mother Never Taught You to understand how males and females operate differently. I needed help on all fronts so I took advantage of internal educational opportunities, too. The convergence of these two strategies – learning about and integrating into the culture plus learning about the business – worked well.

One day I attended an internal class featuring the male Director of Finance. It was the first time I had heard anyone talking about something I could relate to from my finance MBA education. I asked a few questions and thereafter, he recognized me. I made no effort to cultivate the relationship or promote myself to him. A few months later, I was called into my male manager’s office and told that I had been asked to interview for a plum job reporting to the Director of Finance, an opportunity that typically came up only for more experienced people. My manager told me I should feel honored to even be asked to interview for the position and that I probably wouldn’t get it. That ticked me off and I decided I was going to nail the interview and get the job.

Thanks to Games Mother Never Taught You, I learned that women typically look at their qualifications differently than men do. Women tend to think they need to have all the qualifications in the job description (which, if they don’t, reduces confidence in the interview), and men think they need to have some of the qualifications, and assume that this is sufficient at first, and then they’ll figure it out as they go along.

I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember the experience of walking into the interview determined to convey my value, commitment, and confidence that I could do the job, knowing that if I was selected, I would be successful in the position because I would do whatever I needed to do to be productive and effective. I would learn what I needed to learn, and do what I needed to do. I would jump in, get to know people, become part of the team, make mistakes, take responsibility for them, correct them, and move forward. I would lean in, fall down sometimes, pick myself up, and keep at it, even though I may feel fearful at the time.

Fast forward a few decades, to a couple of years ago. I came across an article in Atlantic Monthly titled The Confidence Gap. It said: “Evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. Here’s why and what to do about it.” I was surprised that this article covered the same type of research that I had learned three decades before in Games Mother Never Taught You!

What the heck is going on here? Why has this “confidence” issue persisted for decades? Why haven’t we moved beyond the gender confidence gap despite the research, the articles, the books, and the panels about it at conferences?

I’m convinced that we should have a different conversation, and go beyond gender. The real issue is how we think about confidence and how we act on that at an individual level. There has been too much comparing and too little introspection. It’s time to toss conventional wisdom and look at “confidence” in a more fundamental way, one that is dynamic and very personal.

dictionary.com defines “confidence” as “full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing.” In the Information Age (when I was in corporate), this was based on pedigree (specific degrees from certain colleges and universities); specific job experiences (from certain industries or types of companies); and, as the business environment got more complex due to globalization, specific “competencies,” the general ability to do something successfully or efficiently. If you met the established criteria, you and those hiring you could be “confident” that you could do the job. That was the conventional wisdom. Companies looked for people who could do things predictably, even perfectly.

The Information Age criteria and conventional wisdom are insufficient if not irrelevant in the current environment, sometimes referred to as the Digital Age. The Digital “Age” is characterized by unprecedented complexity in terms of speed, scale, and scope of change. Some use the acronym VUCA to describe it – volatile, uncertain, chaotic, and ambiguous – an acronym used by the military to describe battleground conditions!

In these increasingly complex times, experiences and skills become obsolete quickly, so companies are looking for people who can figure things out, people who are independent thinkers, committed, collaborative, not afraid to take risks, who question the status quo, are self-motivated, curious, and “damn confident.” That is, they are looking for skilled creatives.

The qualities of creative potential are not acquired in the classroom; paying attention to them brings them out. The good news is that everyone has this potential. The bad news is that most people aren’t aware of it.

Confidence is a capability that comes from paying attention to, exploring, and developing your own creative potential, by having a personal purpose and vision, knowing your capabilities and what you are committed to, choosing to persevere in the face of fear and criticism, acquiring the skills to meet the challenges you want to take on in your personal and professional life, and believing in your creative potential and the creative potential of those you want to lead.

Get acquainted with your creative potential and develop it so you believe in your ability to do the job at hand, and develop the confidence that you can “figure things out,” over and over again. It is a potential that you, and only you, can bring out. Gender has nothing to do with this.

To learn more, contact CLUE Institute

www.clueinstitute.com susan.jamison@clueinstitute.com.

408-399-8883 land or 650-291-2706 mobile

Creativity: Outside-in or Inside-out?

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A recent article in the SJ Mercury focused on Facebook’s Artist in Residence Program that is meant “to help foster creative thinking and hacker spirit that keeps the tech firm thriving.” They are bringing in artists to apply their art to the spaces where employees spend time.


This program is an example of fostering creative thinking from the outside-in, doing something in the external environment to encourage a change inside a person.

Typically, when “creativity” is mentioned, “art” is the first association, e. g., painting, music, dancing, writing, or crafts. Some people are more inspired by one of these art forms over another. Many people turn to some form of art to get temporary respite from the discipline of their jobs. But, creativity is not just about art; it applies to every domain in business (people, products/technology, processes, environment, and business results) and the art of everyday living.

When it comes to creativity, everyone is idiosyncratic, meaning that:

– Each of us has our own way of being creative

– Each of us has unique strategies to turn insights into different and valuable ideas

– Each of us has a unique way of bringing our creativity out into the world

– Our creativity gets stimulated by different things

Because everyone is different, the impact of outside-in creativity can be mixed, especially if the approach is one-size-fits-all. Some people may be inspired, some put off, and others have no reaction.

Fostering creativity from the inside-out addresses the idiosyncratic nature of creativity by using a massing principle, i. e., providing lots of different ways and types of resources to explore individual creativity, have new experiences, try new tools, and integrate new practices to address everyday problems and challenges in professional and personal life.

The Adobe State of Create study reported the following from US respondents:

88% Everyone has potential to create

52% Don’t have time to be creative

61% Not living up to their creative potential

50% People are increasingly being expected to think creatively at work

80% There is increasing pressure to be productive rather than creative at work

There are benefits to outside-in approaches like Facebook’s but those benefits will not be experienced equally by everyone. New experiences are temporal in nature so the effect of the art will diminish over time for everyone.

A better and lasting way to foster creative thinking and the hacker spirit, and where the real magic comes from, is to approach creativity from the inside-out.

Happy Birthday to My Uncle George Washington

susanwithgeorge jpegThis painting is proof that we are related!