Empty the Cup: How to Re-engage Disengaged Managers

How to Re-engage Disengaged Managers


Client Challenge: The senior managers of an international financial services firm are feeling fatalistic and demotivated, not only because of the crisis their industry is going through, but also because a recent acquisition by a larger entity has significantly shrunk their involvement and impact in co-creating the future of the organisation. 

"My aspiration is to help our senior management redefine their role within the company, a role whereby commitment and engagement can find new ways of expression, and whereby long term aspiration is reinforced. 

We regularly organise working sessions with external speakers on key topics in order to encourage discussion and instill new perspectives. However, our senior managers continue to feel confined by fatalism and refuse to accept the obvious change in priorities and mission.” 

- Executive HR Director (Financial Services)

Our advice: empty the cup before you can fill it again



In working with clients in similar situations, we have found that two things need to be done before people are ready to engage in any learning and development. 

First, provide them with opportunities to express how they feel stuck, and acknowledge their hurt or frustration. Stop ‘filling’ them with new information (such as the working sessions with external speakers) and let them empty their cup first. 

Second, use these opportunities to tease out what really matters to them. Ask what they need in order to feel esteemed, and find solutions together.   

Practically speaking, this would involve a focus on the individual as well as on the group as a whole: 

  1. Initiate one-to-one, sensitive and inspiring executive coaching to give these managers the opportunity to rediscover their personal drivers, passion and greatness. 
  2. Organise an event with the entire senior management population focused on the future instead of the present. Help them to make the shift from being a victim of their environment to adopting a player mindset where they choose how to respond to their environment. We often use Appreciate Inquiry, World Café, Open Space and Future Search to foster dialogue, reflection and emergence.   

The key is to co-create a process together with the managers and put them in the driver’s seat. 



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