Monthly Archives: May 2014

References for Establishing Purpose

This is for my friends over at the LinkedIn Employee Engagement discussion group. Hope the links all work, will try to come back with more time and repair if needed

Strategic Narrative: A Roadmap to Credibility and Influence by LTC Charlene Weingarten June 21, 2011. Source / host for the Information is Power blog:
“A National Strategic Narrative” Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Ap 2011.

12: The Elements of Great Managing Gallup’s eighth element is highlighted in The Calling: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”

Engage for Success (“the MacLeod Report”). Download full report here:

Hints & Tips: Creating and Communicating your Strategic Narrative from the Engage for Success web site. There is a whole lot more here!

Increasing the “Meaning Quotient” of Work by Susie Cranston and Scott Keller. January 2013 McKinsey Quarterly (may require registration-well worth it!)
Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 1997. BasicBooks, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Want to be happier at work? Learn how from these ‘Job Crafters’. David Zax, Fast Company.

Amy Wrzesniewski’s Work-Life assessment is at the AuthenticHappiness website (University of Pennsylvania)

Soar With Your Strengths, 1992 Dell Publishing. Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson.
ISBN: 0-440-50564-X

The closing passage is from Man’s Search for Meaning, Part One, “Experiences in a Concentration Camp”, Viktor Frankl, Pocket Books, ISBN 978-0-671-02337-9 pp. 56–57.

(excerpted from One Pond, One Pebble ch5 The Calling)


What’s the Purpose?

A sense of purpose is essential at the organizational, individual and cultural levels. Studies repeatedly show that organizations with clear purpose produce better bottom line results, and have better retention and recruiting capability than those with anemic or no purpose. Individuals are healthier, more satisfied, more productive, less stressed, live longer when they have purpose.

People want to take pride in doing what they do, no matter how seemingly unimportant or menial. What is it that makes a person feel good about doing a good job? Something bigger drives everyone beyond their paycheck whether or not they openly admit it. Leaders need to find and understand those drivers, and leverage the knowledge.

Whether or not we are aware of it, we all crave having a sense of profound meaning in our lives. It’s a deep-down part of the human condition. Some of us actively search for meaning, some don’t know what we’re missing. If the latter, chances are we feel that something big is missing. We just don’t know what it could possibly be.

I’ve been lucky. My career has been with top tier organizations in purposeful industries. Or, is it my intrinsic need to look for the greater meaning in what I do that leads me to recognize the sizzle in what I do, even if it’s producing washing machines or farm tires?

I don’t just build washing machines. I’m part of the greatest dependability heritage in the industry and we make life incredibly easier for homemakers worldwide.
I don’t just build farm tires. I help feed the world more efficiently.
I’m not just a teacher. I help shape young minds and lives, and the course of the future.
I’m not just a street sweeper. I make our community a more pleasant place for families to live.
I don’t just build wind turbine blades. I reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels. I ensure that humanity has a more promising future, especially my grandchildren.

Those are all from my experience, except I’ve never been a street sweeper. It made the list as it is a classic example of an alleged “low meaning” job. There is a bigger purpose behind everything. My current career, the last one on the list, has all kinds of built-in sizzle. I really do feel like a crusader saving the world for my grandchildren. And I especially connected to the higher purpose of teaching, as most teachers do. I’ve never heard a calling more clearly than that one. If society placed a higher value on the teachers’ role and rewarded it accordingly I’d still be teaching.

So to me, purpose is wildly important. Once you establish meaningful purpose, the rest is mechanics and execution. Get purpose right, and you’ve got it made.


John Everyman’s Take On This Engagement Stuff

I’ve been hearing so much about how I need to be more engaged in my work. The company has been surveying us and holding focus groups and more meetings after meetings. You’ve been going on and on so much about all this that I thought I should look into things since you’re being about as clear as this cup of coffee.

All I can say is “what’s all the fuss about?” If you’re really concerned about my well-being and you really want the most out of me and you really want to know what it takes, I’ll tell you what if you’ll listen.

I Need Vision. I need to be part of something bigger than me. We all do. If the big picture you’re painting for me doesn’t grab me, am I in the right job with the right company? Or, are you just not telling the story well enough for me to buy in? I really do crave something more meaningful than just doing the same old stuff day in day out with little apparent purpose.

I Need Direction. I feel a lot better about my work when I know the company is doing the right stuff and I’m doing the right things too. I’m not alone in feeling more than a little nervous following a leader who seems to be lost or is continuously out blazing new trails. What the heck is the plan and are we doing OK?

Just What Is It You Expect? Sometimes it seems that you’re so worried about my satisfaction that you forget you’re my boss. Why are you so worried about how I’ll react if you lay out my expectations and accountabilities? I could stand the clarity, seriously–it beats the heck out of guessing what you expect me to do then being told later I guessed wrong.

Hold Me and the Others Equally Accountable. Why should it surprise you that I get really tired of people getting away with not doing the kind of job they are capable of and are expected to do! And just because I’m cursed with caring about my work I end up picking up their slack. And they get away with it. The people you should really care about feel the same way I do.

Show Me, Don’t Just Tell Me. Like it or not, because you’re so high up there it’s easy for me to watch you. Because it’s the safe thing to do, I mirror your behavior and your attitude. It’s what I think you probably expect out of me but I’d feel a lot better if I really knew. “Do as I do” carries a lot of weight, can you handle it?

Give Me What I Need. It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand this. If you send me off to hunt grizzly bears I know I’m going to get mauled if all you give me is some worn out old slingshot. Don’t set me up to fail, if for no other reason because it makes you look bad too.

Follow Up, Follow Through. Maybe you should check in now and then to make sure things are going according to plan and I don’t need anything to get my work done. If you’ve made my expectations clear and made sure I have what I need to deliver, and if I’m still not willing or able to deliver the goods then we both have a problem.

And I’ve earned your solution.

Explorer Treasure Map ONE-Engage for Success

In Much Ado About Nothing,I proposed that we need to think less and do more in the way of engagement. Maybe it would help if there was an “Engagement Fieldbook” much like Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. The engagement fieldbook, like Senge’s, would offer real-world validated ways to actually implement engagement theories and concepts.

Enter the UK all-volunteer effort Engage for Success following on the heels of The MacLeod Report (full report link),
a study commissioned in 2008 by the British government. The report identified four enablers of engagement: Leadership, Voice, Engaging Managers and Integrity. Upon further consideration, Leadership was changed to Strategic Narrative.

Engage for Success has an Ideas and Tools page that has, in essence, an engagement fieldbook in the making. I used the Advanced Search feature and in a few minutes downloaded the following four practitioner toolboxes. There are more resources under each of the four enablers. If I had a spare week I’d spend more time poking around, but this is a good start.

Highly recommended: go exploring at Engage for Success.  From that starting point, look for your own treasures. And, just to muddy up the puddle a bit, here’s another treasure map, for the Employee Engagement Network and David Zinger’s work on engagement.

Four Enablers, Four Resources

Hints & Tips: Creating and Communicating your Strategic Narrative

Hints & Tips: Becoming a more Engaging Manager

Hints & tips: Establishing Employee Voice in your Business

Create and Communicate Business Values with Integrity


Explorer Treasure Map TWO-EEN and More Zingers

In Much Ado About Nothing, I proposed that we need to think less and do more in the way of engagement. Maybe it would help if there was an “Engagement Fieldbook” much like Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. The engagement fieldbook, like Senge’s, would offer real-world validated ways to actually implement engagement theories and concepts.

I’ve been an off-and-on regular at the Employee Engagement Network for several years now, and have gotten fairly familiar with host David Zinger’s work on engagement, especially his pyramid model.

Opinion: the resource capacity of the EEN and its community is highly under-leveraged by the over 6000 practitioners who have been loosely brought together. I’ve often challenged why community members don’t engage more in the numerous discussions and groups there.

The pyramid link above connects to a series of blogs by David exploring the pyramid. Major personal “aha”… right here is the closest thing to a “fieldbook” that David seems to be even remotely interested in putting out there for us. And it’s really good stuff! So along comes a second opinion that contradicts the first: while host David has committed himself to giving us an amazing resource, he simply wants us to waggle. If you’ve taken a deep dive into beekeeper David’s world of bees you understand what I’m referencing. Have you checked out Waggle While You Work or the original Waggle?

Some time ago, when the EEN community was kicking around the notion of rallying around a shared goal of 20% increase in global engagement by 2020, I proposed to David that maybe we needed a structure with focused sub-groups and a shared vision / values etc much like Engage for Success ended up doing a few years later. David resisted that notion, and I think I’m finally getting it. I was proposing a very non-waggly action.

The UK’s Engage for Success is by comparison highly structured around the MacLeod Report’s four enablers, with several sub groups and official white papers et al.(Here’s another treasure map, this one for the UK’s Engage for Success) David is just providing a very large playground with no fence around it. Or to stay consistent with David’s work, he is content to let the bees do what bees do.

So…what think you, David? Am I on to you? And what think you, engagement explorers? Which approach is “best”?

My opinion for the record, if we’re keeping one…”yes”.




Much Ado About Nothing

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in on this engagement thing before it got so “hip”. Back in the mid-90’s I had the opportunity to be highly involved in Gallup’s Q-12 and Blessing White’s Managing Personal Growth. They hit a nerve and I was hooked.

I’m a practitioner and an avid student who devours all things engagement-related. And that’s turned into a lot of “things”…what I thought was a voracious appetite is being stretched to limits I didn’t know I had.

What I’m beginning to wonder: are we working way too hard at all of this?

We’re tied ourselves up in a long succession of Gordian knots of analysis and details and definition and measurement. Much Ado About Nothing! We know what’s right, we know what people need, we know the organizational and social impacts.

You want data? We’ve got data! (proposed: develop a compendium of the endless studies and findings)

Need specific to-do’s? (proposed: develop an Engagement Field Book: different ways high engagement levers have been deployed much like Senge did with The Fifth Discipline).

Need cost justification? Of all the things we’ve found that lead to higher levels of engagement therefore enhanced results, how much of it is rock-the-boat radical? More importantly, how much of it cost-prohibitive? Isn’t it pretty much straight-up good leadership tempered by common sense?

Studies and research have validated the points, and further studies and research have re-validated the validations …this is the right thing to do. How much data, cost justification and “proof” do we need? What part don’t we get?

What’s in our way? (proposed: identify specific barriers and objections encountered by practitioners, and identify real-world resolutions).

Here’s Alexander the Great’s mighty sword: do more, think less. Knots in shards at our feet.

Just Do It!

Newtown-Searching for Perspective

Newtown-Searching for Perspective
December 17, 2012 (this is a little dated, over a year and a half old. But this is one of the really big drivers behind this personal crusade–influence, impact, community, connecting. And we cannot forget)

Newtown, added to the one-is-too-many growing list of incredibly tragic events….Can’t solve it here, can’t find a root cause for why. Can only reflect and grieve and let it out a little bit. This is a feeble personal attempt at coping with the senselessness.

Things happen that very rudely point out the need for perspective. Furthering the cause of values-based leadership and engagement pales in the glaring light of something like Newtown. But there is actually a connection in all of this. That connection is what prompted me down the path of “the Greater Good” to which I simply can’t devote time to as much as I’d like to.

What does “social engagement” look like? What does it mean to be a “fully engaged” community member, citizen, a deep-pockets high contributor to society?

Employee engagement hinges on up-close-and-personal work relationships; by most definitions. it’s not possible to be fully engaged without a high level of emotional connection to your work environment and those who share it with you.

Social engagement especially hinges on up-close-and-personal relationships, doesn’t it? But the environment and our lifestyles impair nurturing those relationships in the communities and neighborhoods where we live, even at home with our families.

What is the first thing the Newtown community did? They rushed together at the school, at the fire house, at the various churches. They needed to be close to each other. People need people.

What really strikes me about Newtown and other similar senseless tragedies is that someone did not see some kind of warning sign and act. But then it seems that our new social norms include staying isolated, keeping people at arms’ length, not allowing yourself to care where you don’t “need to”… not getting involved where it’s none of your business because it could be emotionally, or physically, dangerous to do so! But the result of all that…we’re a society of total strangers.

Did someone not seeing and not doing something just cost us another 26 innocent, beautiful lives?

I know the relevance to values-based leadership and engagement is being stretched here. Or is it? Engagement is built on a foundation of relationships. Relationships require an emotional connection with others, which requires a high level of open disclosure. So maybe there is a very deep connection to all of this.

How can it happen? What’s wrong with society? Was this due to a breakdown of values and norms? How could someone do this? “Normal people” cannot fathom the whys. Newtown is so overwhelming that I simply need a little gonzo, disjointed let-it-out time. I know I have a lot of good company in that one.

I saw the victims’ pictures online the next morning and read the short tribute to each-only some of them. While I wanted to remember and pray for each, I couldn’t force myself to continue. I have a picture of my four very young grand kids on my desktop, the oldest is the same age as many of the victims. I can’t put myself in that dark place, it’s beyond comprehension. I can’t imagine. How could someone…but someone did, and it’s not the first time. And probably not the last.

While norms can be reinforced through laws, policy and peers you cannot legislate values. Further, it sounds like there are mental issues involved in Newtown, which diminishes the impact of values and norms as factors. “Well normalized” people cannot do these things.

There is a good deal of grieving and there are a lot of questions being asked today. There will not be many Sunday sermons that do not address the Newtown tragedy. I’m reasonably sure that some of those sermons will put the spotlight on eroding family and social values.

I can only hope the message from the pulpit and from the politicians and activists doesn’t get cheapened into yet another platform for general politicizing about which side is more right or less wrong…senseless slayings, same-sex marriage, right-to-life, legalized pot do not belong on the same page. They need to be addressed alone.
“I’d love to change the world…but I don’t know what to do”. One tiny little pebble I can drop into this big pond is simply to connect with other people. Caring enough to invest some of my precious personal time in others…is it possible that something that simple could somehow keep someone from going over the edge?

Maybe, just maybe.

I wish this made me feel better. Not yet. Or, maybe it is better that we don’t get to the point of “feeling better” about this?