Employee Engagement Stories: Altering Our Personal GPS

What is your employee engagement story?

The Key Idea: When we master our stories through increased mindful vigilance and intervention of our incredibly rapid and mindless story creation we  navigate more effectively through work and other situations. Pay attention to your own stories and mindfully notice where they are taking you.

One cent. A penny for your thoughts. Let me give you my two cents worth. Most of our thoughts and opinions are stories we have created about our world.  Yet we take these stories for granted and pay about as much attention to them as we do to a penny. There is value in a penny just as their is value in attending to our stories.

The universe is made of stories not atoms. ~ Muriel Rukeyser  (1913 – 1980)

Stories are the building blocks of understanding. We understand the world through story. Story is not just something we read in a book or see in a movie. Story is how we make sense of ourselves, situations, and others. Stories function as fundamental building blocks of understanding and also as a social GPS. Stories are the conclusions, judgments, hypothesis and assumptions about what we see and hear. Stories are the way we communicate with ourselves.

Notice story on your path. In Crucial Conversation we learn about the path to action moving from facts to emotions and actions. But before we move to emotions or actions we pass through stories. The disconcerting thing is that many of us fail to notice story or we confuse our story with facts. When we do this we also fail to realize that story re-creation is a phenomenal lever to change our life.

And the story is… For example your boss turns down your request to join a new project team. How long can you stay neutral before you create a story to explain this:

  • My boss is an idiot
  • I get no breaks or respect around here
  • This is so unfair I will start looking for another job
  • I will show him
  • Nobody really cares how much I do around here

Fast Flow. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the author of Flow stated that we make sense of the world in about an 1/18th of a second. The way we make sense is through story.  I have also heard that the shelf life of many feelings or emotions is about 90 seconds. If we don’t do anything the emotion subsides. Yet many of us can stay angry for hour, days, or even much longer. How do we do this? I believe we keep generating stories in fractions of seconds that keep fueling the fire. If the math is correct, ninety seconds gives us the potential to generate 1620 stories to keep an emotion alive.

Quick test. How long can you stay story free? Try this quick test that will take under 3 minutes and maybe under a second. Close your eyes and see how long you can leave your mind open without a thought or story coming in. Watch out for a plethora of stories entering through your revolving door of consciousness.  Remember, even the thought that this is a stupid test is a story about what you are doing! Most people who begin a mindfulness meditation are shocked at how much “stuff” or story their brain continually generates.

For starters. So what can you do?

  1. See stories for what they are — just stories.
  2. Don’t confuse stories with facts
  3. Act like a scientist and work at dis-confirming your unhealthy or unhelpful stories.
  4. Work at being more mindful and watch the stories your brain continually creates to help you navigate through your day.
  5. Start authoring more constructive stories for better emotions and more effective actions

So, what’s your story?

(An earlier version of post was on the Shared Visions website)

David Zinger is an employee engagement network who founded and hosts the Employee Engagement Network.  To access his services visit his website at www.davidzinger.com or email him at: zingerdj@gmail.com.

Employee Engagement: Get on the Change Grid

Are you on the grid?

Making change? Are you looking for a set of tools that can help you make change? Perhaps you want to improve specific elements of employee engagement. Can you differentiate what is needed to change behavior one time versus from now on? How well do you distinguish what is required to perform a new behavior versus decrease the intensity of an existing behavior?

Out of the fog and into the grid. BJ Fogg, from Standford University, has developed a practical tool to enhance your change ability. He offers a wizard and a grid (see below)  to help you change behavior. The grid columns are based on behavior represented as:

  • Dot: One time
  • Span: Period of time
  • Path: From now on

The rows are based on color and behavioral intention:

  • Green: Do new behavior
  • Blue: Do familiar behavior
  • Purpose: Increase behavior intensity
  • Gray: Decrease behavior intensity
  • Black: Stop existing behavior

Don’t be color blind. The Fogg Behavior Grid describes 15 ways behavior can change. The purpose is to help people think more clearly about behavior change. Each of the 15 behaviors types uses different psychological strategies and persuasive techniques. For example, the methods for persuading people to buy a book online (Blue Dot Behavior) are different than getting people to quit smoking forever (Black Path Behavior).

Grid and Wizard. You may click any behavior type in the Behavior Grid to see an overview. However, you may wish to begin with The Behavior Wizard a short diagnostic tool to asses the type of behavior you are interested in. For example to achieve a Blue Path Behavior, three elements must come together at once.

Trigger, Motivation, and Ability. As the Fogg Behavior Model describes, you must trigger the behavior when the person is both motivated and able to perform it. This combination must happen over and over, as the habit gets created or strengthened.

Trigger: A prompt must tell a person to “do this behavior now.” Triggers can take many forms, ranging from links in email (click here) to internal signals from our body, like a grumbling stomach (eat now).

Motivation: A person must have sufficient motivation when the trigger occurs. Three core motivators exist:


Anticipation (hope/fear), and

Belonging (acceptance/rejection)

Ability:  The person must have the ability to perform the behavior when the Trigger occurs.

An earlier version of this post is on the  Shared Visions Website.


David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert who founded the 3800 member employee engagement network. Contact David at www.davidzinger.com to request his workshop, presentations, or consulting.