Engaged Employees are in a Marriage, not a J-O-B

Engaged Employees are in a Marriage, not a J-O-B

Just like our little snail above, every organization has the potential to be legendary.  You can go far, and fast and achieve incredible results, but not with a heavy shell holding you back.  Excuse me, I am sorry, ‘protecting’ you.

Legendary is extreme, unreasonable, unrealistic, ludicrous and for many ‘impossible’. That is certainly ‘truth’ from one perspective and if that is yours, let me save you some time and stop reading right now. I am not writing this to change your mind.

By ‘legendary’, I mean having the courage to take action based upon core values and beliefs to make a positive difference in the world. Much like our snail mascot below, you cannot get very far until you ‘step outside your shell’ and let go what what you have been trained to believe is ‘impossible’.

Legendary is:

NOT perfection, as every legendary person and organization in history has flaws.
NOT about being better than anyone else or reaching the Fortune 500.
NOT about glory, fame or becoming a ‘Great Place to Work’, although that is an awesome recognition.
NOT a goal to achieve, because you will never reach an end point.

Legendary is an evolution. It is the discovery and rediscovery of the very best of who we are, who we can be and how we can bring that into our companies.

People are one of the ‘products’ in every organization. ‘People’ may not be what you sell, but if you have employees, you are in the people business.  If you want a legendary organization, focus on the people that make up your organization and help them discover their individual version of legendary.

Employee engagement has become the focus for many executives and this is a shift in the right direction. However, the focus is still upon what is good for the company, getting employees to be emotionally connected to the organization so they will give their discretionary effort.  Many times, this ends up being very one-sided and inauthentic.

Josh Bersin recently wrote an article in Forbes called, It’s Time To Rethink The ‘Employee Engagement’ Issue , in which he outlines the direction employee engagement should be going,

I would suggest that using the word “engagement” often limits our thinking. It assumes that our job is to reach out and “engage” people, rather than to build an organization that is exciting, fulfilling, meaningful, and fun.

Plus we aren’t just looking to get people “engaged”, we want them to be “married.” That is, fully committed.

I agree with Mr. Bersin wholeheartedly in sentiment, but using the word ‘marriage’ is equally limiting and is a scary idea for both employer and employee. It is extremely unlikely this will be the last job a person has, so a ‘divorce’ is most likely the outcome.   I will pass, thank you, but I like where he is going because the nugget of truth is there.

We help companies connect a person’s deep desire to be part of something bigger, the shared values and beliefs of person and organization and tie it directly to daily tasks.

We call this ‘Life Engagement’.

Life Engagement
Life Engagement is the full participation of body, heart, mind and spirit. When you are 100% engaged, you are living your ‘legendary’ life. When an organization is 100% engaged, they are delivering ‘legendary’.

Life engagement is:

  • Growth mindset
  • Connected to deep purpose
  • Plentiful energy and effective recovery techniques
  • High trust relationships
  • Habits and rituals that support full engagement

We ALL want to be engaged in life, to feel greater meaning and importance in what we do every day.

We spend over 30% of our lives at work, so in order for someone to be 100% engaged in life, that person MUST be fully engaged at work. Also, if we can help people learn the principles of engagement, each person can take that knowledge home and use it to more fully engage at home and teach that to their family.

Does this take time? Yes.
Does this take effort? Yes.
Is this scalable? Yes.
Can it be systematic? Yes.
Do you have to be EVERYTHING to your people? No.
Does it make financial sense? Yes.
Is it worth it? That is up to you. You can probably guess my answer.

In The Dream Manager, by Matthew Kelly, a janitorial company finds their path to legendary by attempting to solve a dramatically high and costly turnover problem. The individual who was responsible for reducing turnover gradually helped create an organization that was legendary. The company created a position called ‘Dream Manager’ whose responsibility was to help each person who wanted to accomplish their dreams. This is a great example of creating Life Engagement for people inside a company. This is a fictional story, but the principles remain the same. Turnover DID go down, the employees helped obtain new business and keep existing business, helping the company grow dramatically. How lucky is that?

The Dream Manager is fictional, but there are hundreds of awesome examples of companies on their legendary road. Check out over 1,000 B corporations who have committed to a fundamental change and provide a benefit to society as part of their charter.

Also, check out the Gamechangers 500. These are all great companies in every industry and size and giving the world their version of ‘legendary’.  Are they metric-based organizations with their eye on revenue, profitability and other important metrics?  Absolutely.

Are you an entrepreneur? We went out and found 40 absolutely amazing, completely unrealistic, legendary and 100% ‘normal’ entrepreneurs who are impacting the world. Check out the post and be prepared to be inspired and humbled. Through their efforts, they are helping others be more fully engaged in life as well.

Taking the Next Step
Creating a legendary organization begins with a single step.

Many of our clients have the knowledge and experience to take the next, and most important step, of beginning the road to legendary. This is more frightening than you can imagine.  Using our snail mascot as the metaphor, lots of people peek outside the shell, few people stick their necks out and even few will choose to leave the shell behind, stand up and walk forward with courage.

Our role is mostly to continually remind them and YOU, “It IS possible!” and to help provide them you the courage to stand in the face of the naysayers who use the words “unrealistic, unreasonable, ludicrous” when you suggest that legendary is possible.

Some Tactical Help to Get You Started
For some step-by-step guidance, here is the tactical process we use with our clients to help focus the lens of ‘legendary’ down to something you can actually wrap your hands around.  Here is where to start:

  1. Begin!  Make the decision to be legendary.  Communicate it to everyone.  An unwritten goal is simply a wish, right?  They may be skeptical at first but when your people realize through your actions that you are sincere, they will JUMP at the chance to be a part.  And those that don’t, should not stay.
  2. Measure your engagement levels, if you have not already, and get feedback.
  3. Look at your values, your mission and vision and find where it is reflected in the cycle below. Build upon your areas of success and improve any gaps, using ‘Is this (process, training, procedure) helping or hurting us to be legendary?’ as your litmus.
  4. Look at the Engagement Cycle below and find the ‘low-hanging fruit’.  It is 10,000x easier to change a policy or procedure than it is to change someone’s mind. This also creates easy, fast success and shows you are sincere.
  5. Train your management on how to authentically engage their people, get and receive feedback deepen trust, build relationships and dive deep into what is most important to each person for the short and long-term.  Ensure this is happening.  If management is not directly engaging people, find out why.  If they cannot or will not, they should not stay.
  6. Keep coming back to the cycle to find areas for improvement.
  7. Measure again!

Overview - Details


WARNING!  Each arrow in the cycle is also an exit point.

You can fully engage a person but if you do not enable them with the right training, tools, etc., they will leave.  That same fully engaged person, completely enabled but not empowered to make the right decisions will leave.  You can be incredibly amazing but if you don’t sustain it through business metric and communicate it well, the party is over and you have just lost your best people.  Again.  After you spent ALL that time getting the recruiting and onboarding perfect…  Your Recruiting and Onboarding IS perfect, right?

Being legendary is the accumulation of doing many small yet important things right. Make sure you do not let the urgent keep the important from being accomplished.

Legendary is like beauty, in the ‘eye of the beholder’. What has worked for Zappos or TOMS or the other ‘Top 6 Best Practices’ may not work for you, but it is a great place to start.

Examine your core values and beliefs as an organization. What are you truly delivering (Zappos sells shoes yet delivers happiness) and how are you helping your people experience it every single day.  Now THAT is an extreme idea!

More than ever, the world needs your version of legendary, whatever that may be and we need it as soon as possible.

Now get going and Be Legendary!


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