Hugging Trees Triggers High Engagement. Seriously!

I’m a “green” guy. I spent the last five years with a wind turbine blade manufacturing plant and learned quite a bit about environmental and energy issues. This started as a green piece then it took a hard right turn into what many feel is the most powerful driver of engagement, self included…having a higher Purpose, hearing “the calling” of your work.
Climate change. What a topic to be polarized and politicized. Is it or isn’t it man-made? Answer: yes, no, maybe, who cares?

Let’s look at a just few basic indisputables without getting all scientific, quantitative and other know-it-all tactics…first, we do know that fossil fuels produce greenhouse gas emissions, and we are fairly certain the stuff is not a good thing to spew into the atmosphere. We do know that greenhouse gases do something bad to the ecosystem. How much bad is irrelevant, bad is bad.

Indisputable two: fossil fuels are not limitless, they will run out. How soon is irrelevant. Is it OK to continue our addiction because there’s enough to last us through our lifetime? I’m at a point in life where I worry about my kids and grandkids. I can’t accept my generation staying selfishly addicted, passing the addiction on to them and letting them figure out how to go cold turkey.

One more indisputable, just because three is a good number…it’s not dwelled on much but traditional production of energy guzzles millions of gallons of water. Water is a finite resource, we’re seeing localized shortages already. And humans kind of need the stuff.

There’s another energy indisputable or two surrounding nuclear plants, but I won’t go there for now. We’ve seen disasters with long-term impacts, and fairly recently. Oh, and what about this “fracking” business for extracting natural gas from shale beds?

What it comes down to: if something is bad, if you have a choice you should consider doing less of it. If it’s good, do more of it.

It scares me more than a little that we feel entitled to take and do whatever gives us immediate pleasure and is most convenient. Native Americans and other early people got it-they understood that we are Earth Mother’s guests, and as stewards we have huge responsibilities.

As Forrest Gump said “and that’s all I have to say about that.” On to engagement and triggering higher levels of productivity, profit, retention and other highly coveted bottom line items.

Every study I’ve read (correct me if you’ve found a relevant exception!) reports that sense of purpose is a huge contributor to higher levels of engagement. If people feel they are making an impact on the greater good, that they are involved in something way more important than doing mindless stuff that earns a paycheck they are more committed, more tuned in, more emotionally attached, more satisfied. More productive. Give people good reason to care and to stick around, and they just may do both. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Gallup references “The Calling” and the UK’s Engage for Success movement highlights “Strategic Narrative”. If you’re interested, I pulled together links to these and more for another project, in References for Establishing Purpose. There are several valuable sources here—I hope you’ll indulge yourself. Also, here’s an earlier post of relevance: What’s the Purpose?

In my tenure with the wind turbine blade builder, one of my regular assignments was to spend two hours with new hires. We had a huge attrition problem, so the orientation sessions were very frequent. My slot was inherited from the plant GM—an introduction to the company, the plant, and most importantly the industry. I knew from studying engagement theory that “purpose” was an essential so I really dug into the pros and cons of alternative energy vs the fossils. Goal: help new hires understand the significance of what they were embarking on which I proposed was nothing less than a mission to make the world a better place for our and especially for future generations—MY grand kids and theirs. I was shameless, didn’t pull any punches…used pictures of my grand kids to make the point more real and it choked me up every time.

There were several instances of people on the floor even a year or two after they started, telling me that segment made a lasting impression on them. My gut says that 2-hour investment helped good people decide to stick around and maybe to put a little more effort into their work. Unfortunately, that two hour segment ended up being dropped by the powers that be.

Moral of the story: an opportunity to communicate one of the most powerful Purpose narratives around—making the world a better place—was squandered rather than emphasized.

Two take-aways I hope you’ll have:

  1. Understand the issues behind the environmental debate. There’s a lot at stake.
  2. Find your Purpose, personal and professional. Leaders, help others hear their calling. There’s a lot at stake.

What do you think?


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