The Secret Power of Moments for Full Engagement

I believe one of the biggest barriers to full engagement in work is fear. Fear arrives in many forms. One form I am familiar with is procrastination. We put off. We delay. We think we lack good time management or tenacious willpower.

What we lack is a way to tackle the fear that surrounds being engaged and the answer resides in moments. The fear can range from the idea that even if we do our best it won’t be good enough to not even knowing how to do a task and afraid to ask for help.

We can often do in moments what we can’t do in grand plans, big strategies, and “smart” goals because moments shrink fear to something so small that we are no longer afraid.

Here is a simple equation to explain this:

Engagement = Moments > Fear

The next time you encounter personal disengagement and you believe fear is lurking behind the scenes I encourage you to remember this statement:

Moments shatter fear into tiny fragments that can easily be managed and overcome.

Take your next moment, separate it from the herd of endless time, and focus your work in that moment. When you start to string or stack together many moments you may even surprise yourself about what you can accomplish. The poet, William Blake, encourages us to see the world in a grain on sand…

Engage along with me, our best is yet to be.

Just OK is not OK When it Comes to Being Trustworthy

When it comes to trustworthiness, being just OK is not OK.

You may have seen any number of AT&T’s “just OK is not OK” series of commercials touting their wireless network. Well, I’m a fan of creative and funny TV commercials, and the first time I saw one of these I immediately saw the connection to trust. 

People form perceptions of our trustworthiness based on our behavior. Acting in trustworthy ways creates the condition of trust in our relationships. When you look at what makes people trustworthy, you find they are:

Able: Being able is about demonstrating competence. Able people have the expertise, training, and qualifications to perform well in their roles. They also have a track record of success as they demonstrate the ability to consistently achieve goals. Able people are skilled at facilitating work getting done in the organization. They develop credible project plans, systems, and processes that help team members accomplish their goals.

Believable: A believable person acts with integrity by dealing with others in an honest fashion; e.g., keeping promises, not lying or stretching the truth, not gossiping, etc. Believable people have a clear set of values. They communicate these values to others and use them consistently as a model for their behavior: they walk the talk. Finally, treating people fairly and equitably is a key characteristic of a believable person.

Connected: Connected people show care and concern for people, which builds trust and helps create an engaging work environment. People can create a sense of connection by openly sharing information about themselves and the organization and by trusting others to use that information responsibly. Connected people also build trust by having a people-first mentality and building rapport with others. Taking an interest in people as individuals, not nameless workers, shows that these people value and respect their colleagues.

Dependable: Being dependable and maintaining reliability is the fourth element of trustworthiness. One of the quickest ways people erode trust is by not following through on commitments. Conversely, those who do what they say they are going to do earn a reputation of being consistent and trustworthy. Maintaining reliability requires people to be organized so that they can follow through on commitments, be on time for appointments and meetings, and get back to people in a timely fashion. Dependable people also hold themselves and others accountable for following through on commitments and taking responsibility for their work.

Growing in trustworthiness is a journey, not a destination. You never reach the point where you can say you are fully trustworthy. Trust in relationships is a living organism, constantly interacting with and adjusting to the dynamics of the situation and individuals involved. In order for trust to flourish, it’s important to behave in ways that demonstrate you are able, believable, connected, and dependable.

When it comes to trustworthiness, being just OK is not OK.

Conflate for Employee Engagement

Think “conflate” for employee engagement in 2019. To conflate is to mix together. We must strive to ensure our behaviors for engagement conflate results, relationships, wellbeing, and career.

As you offer performance feedback connect that to achieving results, building a relationship, to developing the other person’s career, and to increasing the wellbeing of both of you.

One input – many outputs.

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Rising Above the Mob: 5 Leadership Lessons from 1 Hawk and 3 Crows

A few days ago I was tidying up the back yard when the noise of several crows caught my attention. That’s not out of the ordinary for my neighborhood. Although I haven’t done an official tally, I’m pretty sure the ratio of crows to humans is 1:1 in my neck of the woods. Anyway, there was a real commotion going on.

When I looked up, I noticed there was a red-tailed hawk circling overhead and the crows weren’t too happy about it; hence all the racket. The hawk seemed to be minding his own business. He was majestically gliding through the air in circles, occasionally flapping his wings once or twice, but mostly being powered along by the air currents pushing him gently higher and higher into the sky.

The neighborhood flock of crows (or murder if you prefer the old-school term for a group of crows) had nominated three of their brethren to express their displeasure to the hawk about him invading their turf. The three delegates flew about the hawk in a menacing manner, dive bombing him from different directions and trying to knock him off course, all the while hurling bird epithets at him with their squawking and cawing.

Despite the crows’ ruckus, the hawk seemed to take it all in stride. Occasionally the hawk slightly deviated his course when he was closely buzzed by a crow, but for the most part he kept circling in a consistent pattern. The crows had to expend a lot more energy than the hawk to maintain their efforts. They furiously flapped their wings to match the speed of the hawk, forcing them to take turns in harassing the larger bird. Upward and upward the hawk climbed, and the more altitude he gained, the more difficult it was for the crows to keep pace. Eventually, the crows tired of their of their pursuit as the hawk soared out of reach.

I thought to myself, “Why were those crows harassing that hawk?” As with all of life’s existential questions, I turned to Google for help. It turns out those crows were engaging in what’s known in the animal world as mobbing behavior. The hawk represented a threat to the crows, so they cooperatively worked together to mob the hawk in an attempt to drive him away.

Mobbing behavior isn’t limited to birds; people engage in it, too. And sometimes being a leader can feel like being a hawk getting pestered by an angry mob of crows. I don’t think any hawks read my blog, but I know some leaders do, so here’s five lessons I think we can learn from our avian advisers:

  1. Expect to be crapped on—It turns out that one of the primary behaviors of mobbing birds is to defecate on the intruder. Nice, huh? Talk about dropping a bomb…anyway, leaders get crapped on, too. We should expect it because it comes with the territory. Gossip, backbiting, passive-aggressiveness, or outright resistance are all forms of crap leaders occasionally have to endure. Expect to occasionally encounter your fair share of crap so you aren’t caught by surprise when it happens. No matter how pure or noble your intentions, there will be people who don’t like what you’re doing and will let you know about it.
  2. Understand defensiveness—The crows didn’t mob the hawk for no reason; they mobbed him because they were afraid. It’s hard to get inside the brain of a crow (although I have been called a bird-brain before), but I imagine they were concerned the hawk might be looking for some delicious crow eggs for lunch, or maybe even a small baby crow if he was feeling extra hungry. In this way, people are similar to birds. When they perceive a threat in their environment, it creates fear and causes them to react defensively. If your people are starting to show signs of developing a mob mentality, figure out the root of their fear and address that issue. Too often we make the mistake of addressing the symptoms of a problem rather than the cause. Defensiveness can kill our relationships without us even realizing it.
  3. Check your motives—The hawk isn’t completely innocent in this situation. Why was flying in this particular area? Was he truly minding his own business or did he have ulterior motives? I don’t know. I asked but he didn’t respond. As leaders, we need to be clear on our motives. Are we behaving in self-serving ways, or do our actions reflect a desire to serve our people and organizations for the greater good?
  4. Don’t get distracted—Assuming your leadership behavior is driven by the right reasons, don’t get distracted by the critics in the mob and stay focused on your goals. The hawk wasn’t surprised by the mob of crows nor did he let them knock him off course. He stayed focused on doing his thing, knowing the crows would eventually get tired or bored and leave him alone. When you chose to be a leader, you chose to step apart from the crowd. You will be second-guessed and criticized, and with that will come lots of distractions. Stay focused on being a hawk and don’t worry about the crows.
  5. Rise above the mob—Ultimately the hawk flew high above and out of reach of the annoying crows. Leaders have to do the same when mobbed by their critics. I like the philosophy articulated by former First Lady Michelle Obama in response to how they tried to teach their young children to deal with the harsh criticism of her husband’s presidency: “…when they go low, we go high.” Leaders need to take the high road when responding to criticism—consider the source, learn from it what you can, and respond with integrity and decency. Keep soaring to greater heights and don’t get dragged down with the crows.

Now, being a hawk doesn’t necessarily make one a leader, just as being a crow doesn’t automatically condemn one to be an annoying pest. It just so happens I observed one hawk being mobbed by three crows, and out of that interaction drew five leadership principles. I’ll leave it up to you to determine if you’re a hawk, crow, or some other creature that represents your inner leadership spirit animal. Whatever you decide, follow these leadership lessons to rise above the inevitable mobs that will criticize and undermine your leadership and soar to the success you deserve.

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Engage 2019: Get More Into Your Work to Get More Out of Your Work

Do you know how to fully engage with your work so that both you and others fully experience all the benefits of your labor?

In 2019, I am devoted to helping educate others to get more into their work to get more out of their work. If you or your organization would like to learn more to fully engage please take the next moment to contact me: We can discuss possibilities around coaching, keynotes, workshops, or internal consulting.

Engage along with me, our best is yet to be.

Good work requires more than sheer effort, it requires knowledge and skills. It require an acuity to the moment and recognizing each moment invites us to engage with the work in front of us. It means embedding our moments within a bigger story as we string or stack moments for a momentous career.

I decided to make a video to sum up my 25,000 hours devoted to work engagement, personal engagement, leadership engagement, and employee engagement.

Below is my 23 minute 56 second video that was done in just one-take to share with you the future of engagement in 2019 and what I believe about the power of moments in igniting, enhancing, and build work engagement.

Below you will find the key points from the video.

If you prefer a wonderful and colorful PDF document containing these key points, click here.

The Portara

Here are the key points from Engage the Moment:

  • The
    secret: We are looking in the wrong place to improve employee engagement.
  • Engagement
    is to be found in the moment and moments are the fundamental building blocks of
  • There
    is no stress in the present moment.
  • When
    we fully engage, we are also enhancing our wellbeing and lowering our stress.
  • Ask
    yourself this great time management question: What is the best use of my time
    right now?
  • Drivers
    and levers are poor fit concepts to explain a personal responsibility for
    engagement approach.
  • Engagement
    is an invitation.
  • Engagement
    can be defined in 8 simple words: good work done well with others every day.
  • Trying
    to achieve and proclaim Great Work often isn’t so great.
  • The
    way to achieve great work is to do good work every day.
  • Good
    work can literally make us well.
  • We
    are responsible for engagement while we influence others’ engagement.
  • Some
    of us are more engaged with our smart phones than the tasks and relationships
    right in front of us.
  • Can
    you treat engagement as well as you treat your smart phone?
  • Do
    you charge both your smart phone and yourself up every night?
  • An
    excellent engagement trigger is after you use your phone to ask yourself: What
    can I do right now to improve engagement for myself of someone else in the
  • Engagement
    is not about PowerPoints and survey results it is about actions and
    interactions. There is no way to engagement, to engage is the way.
  • Four
    focuses for engagement are ABCD: Achieve results | Build relationships | Cultivate
    wellbeing | Develop career
  • Attach
    your moments and small actions to the bigger story or strategy of your
  • Add
    spice to moments so that you focus on results: keep asking yourself and others
    “what you want, what you really, really want.”
  • Engagement
    is not an extra it is the core of work.
  • Prevent
    iatrogenic disengagement – our attempts to engage employees that instead end up
    disengaging employees.
  • Anonymity
    can be a killer of engagement yet we rely on anonymous surveys.
  • Disengagement
    should not be a punishable offence it should trigger dialogue, conversation, and
    connection or re-connection.
  • Engagement
    is the diamond in the heart of work and wellbeing
  • Engagement
    is not something we do to people or for people it is something we do with
  • To
    get everyone on the same page, follow the Positive Deviancy dictum: never do anything about me without me.
  • Determine
    your Engagement Zone or E-zone: How long can you stay engaged.
  • David’s
    fine-tuned E-zone if eleven minutes and eleven seconds.
  • David
    offers 3 suggestions on how to determine the length and efficacy of your
    personal E-zone.
  • We
    have 20,000 possible moments every day.
  • When
    will you turn engagement around? How about the next moment?
  • Recognize
    or support someone else at work right now.
  • Study
    the academic focus on work engagement by Arnold Bakker and others to infuse
    work with vigor, absorption, and dedication.
  • Learn
    why snakes and ladders is such a vital metaphor for engagement at work.
  • A
    powerful leadership question to ask in many situations: What stood out for you?
  • Prevent
    and manage setbacks — can you make a ladder out of snakes?
  • Study
    John Gottman’s relationship moments composed of bids and turns.
  • Bids
    and turns are very predictive of engagement and relationships.
  • Make
    lots of bids and keep turning towards others.
  • Engagement
    thrives on strong relationships, good friends, and effective connections.
  • High
    quality connections occurring in the moments of time between people is a huge
    source of personal and organizational energy.
  • There
    is no secret in engagement. The real requirement is to step up to, and into,
    the moment of engagement.
  • Mindfulness
    is related to personal engagement.
  • Authentic,
    powerful, personal engagement is only a moment away.
  • What
    are you going to do in the next moment?
  • Keep
    on asking: what can I do right now to improve engagement for myself or someone
    else in our organization? Turn your answer into an action or interaction that
    contributes to achieving results, building relationships, cultivating career,
    and developing career.

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The 3 Types of People, Projects, or Tasks You Need to Prune in 2019

At this very moment on the cusp of a new year, you have people, projects, or tasks you need to eliminate from your life. Maybe you’ve been dealing with a troubling employee situation for months, or even years, and despite your best efforts you don’t see any hope for improvement. Or maybe it’s a project that got off track months ago, but no one, particularly you, wants to admit it’s a failure and a new strategy is needed. Perhaps it’s a particular task or process you’ve maintained for years because “that’s the way it’s always been done,” but you have an inkling that if you stopped doing it tomorrow, no one would notice or care.

If this resonates with you, then it’s time for some pruning.. The core definition of pruning is to remove anything considered superfluous or undesirable. As Dr. Henry Cloud points out in his book, Necessary Endings, the areas of business and life that require your limited resources—your time, energy, talent, emotions, money—but aren’t achieving the vision you have for them, should be regularly pruned in order to reach their full potential.

Consider the cultivation of a prized rosebush to understand the purpose of pruning. The gardener removes branches or buds that fall into any of three categories:

  1. Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones,
  2. Sick branches that are not going to get well, and
  3. Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive.

These three categories of pruning apply to the types of people, projects, and tasks you are dealing with right now.

Type 1 – The Good Detracting from the Great

The rosebush produces more growth than the plant can optimally sustain. The plant has only so much life and energy to power its development, so the gardener trims what may be healthy, yet average blooms, so the plant can direct its resources to the best producing roses. The good roses, if left alone, will suck life away from the great roses. The result? A rosebush with average blooms performing below its potential.

What people, projects, or tasks are you involved with that, although good in and of themselves, are taking time and resources away from achieving greatness with your team or organization? There is no shortage of things demanding your attention, so the key is to prune your priorities down to the most essential ones that fuel the majority of your success.

Type 2 – The Sick That Can’t be Cured

Some branches in a rosebush become diseased and have to be removed to protect the health of the entire plant. When the caretaker notices a sick branch, he will spend some time trying to nurse it back to health. At some point in time the caretaker will reach a decision to prune the branch because he realizes that no amount of water, fertilizer, or care is going to heal the branch. Sick branches take energy from the rosebush, and pruning these sick branches allows the bush to direct more energy to the healthy ones.

You have people, projects, and tasks that are diseased and need to be removed. You have fertilized them, watered them, nurtured them, and done everything in your power to help cure them. For whatever reason, they aren’t getting better and they’re only taking time and energy away from the healthy things you need to focus on. This can be one of the toughest decisions a leader has to face. It might mean confronting the difficult truth that a key company initiative isn’t working as intended, or a long-term employee isn’t able to improve his performance to meet the needs of the organization. On the plus side, it is liberating to admit things aren’t working and changes need to be made because it frees up time, energy, and resources to focus on areas of new growth.

Type 3 – The Dead Preventing Growth of the Living

The third type of pruning is removing dead branches in order to make more room for the living branches to grow. If the dead branches aren’t removed, the path of the living branches will be obstructed and limited. The living branches need room to spread in order to reach their full potential and the dead branches impede that growth.

You have dead branches in your business and personal life that need to be removed if you want to reach your full potential. It might be misguided organizational strategies that served your company well ten years ago but are no longer relevant. Or maybe it’s processes, systems, or meetings you engage in but don’t add any value to the purpose you’re trying to achieve. If it’s dead and just taking up space, get rid of it. It’s time to cut that branch.

Prune with a Purpose

The gardener doesn’t prune willy-nilly, just clipping branches and blooms here and there without discretion. The gardener has a purpose. He knows what a healthy rosebush should look like and he prunes toward that standard. It illustrates the importance of having clear goals and expectations for your organization, your people, and yourself. Without clear goals and standards, you don’t have an objective measure by which to prune and you handicap yourself from reaching your full potential in 2019.

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Engage: Peace of Mind or Piece of Mind

Here is a little bit of Christmas cheer from my good friend John Junson who has now completed 601 cartoons on work and engagement.

Cartoon 601 from John Junson

If you are looking for cartoons of customized cartoons for your work I highly recommend John. His work just keeps getting better and better.

To see a ton of samples do an image search with this phrase: ‘John Junson today at work’. Here is a screen shot of what you’ll uncover:

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What we can do as organizations to alleviate or prevent Burnout

Resilience should not be a cover up for work that causes burnout.

Understanding burnout can teach us a lot about work.

Are your 7 needs at work being met?

The need for (1) autonomy (2) belonging (3) competence (4) positive emotions (5) psychological safety (6) fairness, and (7) meaning?

For over 36 years, I have appreciated and been influenced by the work and research of Christina Maslach on burnout. I credit her work, specifically her book – Burnout: The Cost of Caring – for keeping my love of work alive and preventing a permanent hardening of my human heart. Her presentation in 2018 on burnout may not be slick or even riveting but it is solid and certainly essential. Not everything we need for good work has to glitter and be under 2 minutes.

The presentation may help you prevent burnout, understand burnout if you have experienced it, or engage in small steps to co-create a better workplace for all.


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One Simple Method for Achieving Your Goals in 2019

Goals 2019

credit: Flickr-Marco Verch (cc)

Let me go out on a limb here. You’re probably reading this article because you’re contemplating resolutions you’re going to set for the New Year, right? You don’t have much confidence in keeping your resolutions because you’ve failed repeatedly in the past (surveys show only 8% of people keep their resolutions), so you’re looking for some game-changing advice.

Or maybe you’re thinking about the goals you’ve set for your team or organization and you’re stressed out about how you’re going to actually achieve them. If your experience is similar to mine, you’ve set goals for the year only to look back twelve months later to realize what you accomplished bears little resemblance to what you set out to do. For most of us the challenge is not in setting goals. I mean, we’ve got a ton of projects and priorities on our plates. We’ve got goals aplenty! The difficulty lies in prioritizing goals and staying on track to get them accomplished.

There’s a better way to work toward achieving your goals and it’s called the Six by Six Plan – the six most important priorities you need to accomplish over the next six weeks. It’s a method of goal prioritization and execution I learned from Bill Hybels.

It starts with asking yourself one critically important and fundamental question: What is the greatest contribution I can make to my team/organization in the next six weeks?

In answering that question, consider the decisions, initiatives, or activities for which only you can provide the energy and direction. You will likely generate dozens of items on your list that will need to be whittled down to the six that require you to take the lead in order to deliver the most impact.

There is nothing magical in having six priorities over six weeks. What’s important is having a manageable number of goals to accomplish over a relatively short time period. It needs to be a few goals that allow you to keep your energy high and a short enough time period that creates a sense of urgency. Setting big, broad goals for the year is like running a marathon. It’s too tempting to get overwhelmed, distracted, or lose energy on goals that seem so distant. It’s much easier to run a series of sprints by focusing on just a few key priorities for a short amount of time.

I think it’s important to emphasize the 6×6 method is a helpful tool for goal prioritization and execution. It’s not a way to set goals, which is an art and science unto itself. Check out this YouTube video of Bill Hybels describing the Six by Six Plan. Hopefully you’ll find it as helpful as I did.


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Want a Culture of Trust and Engagement? Get Back to Human

Technology and social media has allowed us to be more connected than ever before, yet our society is suffering from an epidemic of loneliness. How is that?

Our technological tools have allowed us to be more collaborative, increase efficiencies, powered innovation, and allowed us to tap into information and knowledge at record speeds and levels. At the same time, those devices and technologies have given rise to a collective sense of distraction among its users, provided constant interruption, and replaced strong relational bonds with weak ties. It has also contributed to record levels of disengagement and low trust in the workplace.

In his newest book, Back to Human—How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation, Dan Schawbel details how technology is isolating us at work, and he provides a road map for how we can develop more human-focused workplaces by fostering connected relationships on a personal, team, and organizational level.

In order to develop a connected and engaged workforce, Schawbel recommends leaders focus on four factors: happiness, belonging, purpose, and trust. Research has shown that employees who consider themselves happy at work are more likely to refer new candidates to the company, brag about the organization online, work harder, and are less likely to jump ship. Schawbel cites the research by Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who found that happy employees have an average of 31% higher productivity, 37% higher sales, and are three times more creative. Simple acts of kindness, getting to know employees on a personal level, and helping employees with work-life balance are all ways to increase happiness.

Engaged employees also feel a sense of belonging to the organization. Humans are pack animals, and we like to be affiliated with organizations that appreciate our contributions and share our sense of values. So often we get focused on strategies and goals that we forget to develop a sense of community in our workplace. Studies have shown that when employees feel a lack of belonging, depression is more common, problem-solving skills deteriorate, and effectiveness on the job declines. Schawbel says leaders can foster belonging by scheduling social events, having team lunches, and creating an environment where people feel free to share information about their personal lives.

Purpose is the third element of engagement that Schawbel suggests leaders focus on. When you have a purpose, you feel that you matter and that you are contributing to something larger than yourself. Having a clear purpose provides energy and direction, and it’s the fuel that keeps you going when life is busy and challenging. The tips Schawbel offers for creating purpose include helping people connect their work to the benefit it provides your customers. Bring in a customer who has been personally affected by your team’s work so they can hear and see the difference they are making. Another strategy for creating purpose is help employees understand the why of their work and how it supports your organization, customers, or the world at large.

Finally, the fourth element of an engaged workforce is trust. Many leaders think by virtue of them being the boss they are trusted by their employees. Wrong. It’s not the employee’s job to give trust; it’s the leader’s to earn it. Establishing authentic, caring, and appropriately vulnerable relationships is a primary way leaders build trust with their team. You can be a technical genius at your job, honest as the day is long, and follow-through on your commitments every time, but if you don’t show any sense of personal care or connection with your team, they will always keep you at arm’s length. Trusted leaders behave in ways that demonstrate the four elements of trust, and when employees see their leaders have their best interests in mind, they will not only trust them, but will pledge their loyalty and commitment as well.

Schawbel makes the point that technology isn’t all bad, but we should be more human and less machine. If we want a workplace where people engage their hearts and minds, and trust their peers and leaders, then we need to leverage technology to develop more human relationships of substance rather than connections of convenience.

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