From the BlogSubscribe Now

Employee Engagement Network Buzz – Our Eighth Anniversary Today!

What a buzz…

I started the Employee Engagement Network 8 years ago to gather 20 or 30 people to talk about employee engagement. We are now at 6941 members.

It was a very cold Saturday in Winnipeg, Canada and I did not want “to go outside and play!” It has been a joy, honor and pleasure to play with ideas and perspective on work, management, leadership and employee engagement with the network for the past 8 years.

I look forward to our next 8 years. Visit us now at:


A Step Towards Infusing Employee Engagement Into Performance Management

I have been advocating for the infusion of the many silos of understanding work, from employee engagement and performance management to wellbeing and making progress. This week the US government advocated for putting employee engagement into performance management with the Plus. I think this is a step in the right direction when far too many of us have far too much to do and so little time to do it.  I have a concern with using the term plus as it makes it seem you are adding more but if it moves to infusion and synergy of work, I am all for it.

Below is a tweet connecting to the post I wrote about this on LinkedIn

David Zinger from Winnipeg, Canada, is a global employee engagement speaker and expert.

Employee Engagement: Gathering is Our Work

3 Men in a Boat

3 Men in a Boat

Do you gather before you start your work? Do you see gathering as part of work.

In Turkey, I watched these three men gather before they began to get their boat ready to cast off. They seemed so connected and joined being with each other.

I encourage you to gather before you work by taking time to check-in with each other or to huddle or to chat a bit over the phone or text a bit on the computer. We do not get work done through relationships, we get work done with relationships so remember that relationships, not just tasks, are your work.

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert and speaker who believes engagement can help us to make both relationships and results more robust.

A New Lesson in Employee Engagement with Gratitude to Cappadocia Turkey

Turkey has taught me much about employee engagement. I will be writing more about this over the next few months. I wrote a short post on LinkedIn today on what we can learn about employee engagement by ballooning over Cappadocia. Go there now to learn about the power of wind and lift in our work.

David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert and speaker who teaches individuals and organizations the powerful behavioral elements they can apply immediately to make a difference with engagement. He spoke to 2000 people in Istanbul at a People Management conference. The audience was both beautiful and amazing.

Turn People Artistry into Your Healthy Routine

Do you have a recognition routine to draw out the best from the people you lead and manage?

People Artists

People Artistry is anything but routine yet paradoxically a routine is what can get you into People Artistry and sustain your work at bringing out the best in others for many years. In our time of energy depletion of having far too much to do and too little time to do it, intentional structure and routine operate as strong guides of behavior.

Watch for People Artists: Drawing Out the Best in Others at Work coming in October 2015.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who joined forces with Peter W. Hart, an expert on recognition, to create People Artistry – an approach to making workplaces better for all.

Is 15 Minutes of Employee Engagement Sufficient?

What is your engagement time zone?

Reading time = 2 minutes and 15 seconds


Why should you read this post? We often ask too much of engagement and find that there are many times we postpone, procrastinate, and struggle to get going with a specific element of work or well-being (right now, I am writing this rather than completing some tax work). The solution is to find and dwell in your unique engagement time zone.

Our work occurs in moments and our well being is also to be found in moments. Yet how well do you show up to, and use your moments? How long can you stay engaged with your work or a given task? I think it is vital to know our engagement time zone. The way to do this is to start working with a timer and to set a specific time period for work. This work can be project work, writing, exercise, cleaning, or another task. Perhaps start with 15 minutes and see if you can both engage and sustain work in that zone. If you can’t stay engaged – lessen the time. If it is simple to lengthen your time zone if you find the current duration too easy.

You may also find your time zone varies for different tasks or because of external events in your life. I often catch myself drifting away from my 15-minute time zone into a flurry of non-productive activity. Rather than looking for some underlying psychological reason or trying to sort out the neurology of work, I simply set my timer for the next 15-minute period and begin. Starting my watch timer for 15 minutes triggers engagement.

Last year, I conducted personal experimentation with the gamification of work and well-being. I worked in 24-minute time zones. Two of the most significant lessons from that year long experiment was to make my engagement periods briefer and simpler. It is easier for me to start and maintain engagement for 15 minutes versus 24 minutes and I had an elaborate game mechanism that I reduced to using a notebook and simply recording each 15 minute period I completed. My 15-minute periods focus on both work and well-being. In addition, each 15-minute period completed results in a 15 cent social donation. The amount is deliberately small yet adds up as frequent engaged time zones are completed.  My last donation was for $600 based on 15 cents for each 15 minute period of engagement. This went to the Red Cross for the victims of the Nepal earthquake.

I encourage you to enter and keep re-entering your engagement time zone and I believe you will find 15 minutes, repeated many times in any given day, is more than sufficient for achieving engaged results.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who uses the pyramid of engagement to increase engagement for organizations, departments, teams, and individuals. This post was based on the sixth block of the pyramid of engagement: mastering moments.

Employee Engagement Speaker - David Zinger

Employee Engagement: 10 Ways You Can Flourish with Nourishing Work

Work can make you well – Really!

10 Ways to Flourish with Nourishing Work

(The reading time for this post is 5 minutes and 30 seconds)

Here are 3 reasons why you should read this post :

  1. You will build your wellbeing toolkit by developing familiarity with 10 ways to flourish at work.
  2. You will be given helpful links and resources to go further into learning about wellbeing.
  3. You are one of the first people to gain access to the free illustrated e-book on 22 Tools to Overcome Grumpiness.

Introduction. Here are 10 ways you can flourish by creating nourishing work. Embrace these ways as invitations to flourish. They are not rules or tips you must follow. You are the expert on your own wellbeing. I trust these ways will give you a nudge in the right direction. The 10 ways offer a pathway to wellbeing through well-doing because specific actions are strong triggers to install and sustain wellbeing at work. This post was created in conjunction with a one hour session I facilitated for Nurses Week at Winnipeg’s Heath Sciences Centre on May 11th.

Start your day off right. Establish a solid morning routine that gets you out of bed on the right foot. Perhaps you go for a jog first thing in the morning. Or you sit by the fireplace and hug a cup of coffee. Maybe you write for 20 minutes. Or you help your children pack their lunches for school. The specifics of your routine matter less than having a routine that effectively and efficiently triggers engaged wellbeing for you. I encourage you to read a post on my morning routine and follow this up by reading a new morning routine from someone each week at My Morning Routine.  Other people’s routines give clues and cues on how to construct a morning routine that works for us.

Begin each day at work with the double endings in mind. Stephen Covey said, “begin with the end in mind” while William Bridges said that all transitions begin with an end. Know the results you want from your work and also determine what must end for those results to be achieved. Take one or two minutes every day to determine the results you are working towards that week while also attending to what must end for wellbeing at work to begin. Perhaps you want to finish a project this week and you must stop focusing on a nonproductive task. Perhaps you want to improve patient safety and what must end is a strained relationship with your manager. Know your end (result) and your endings (what must stop).

Install PERMAnent wellbeing. I don’t care for the term positive psychology, it sounds too much like saccharine and pop psychology. I know that is not the case but I know many people are dismissive of positive psychology because of this. I appreciate the research behind this discipline, especially the work of Martin Seligman. Work offers opportunities for both happiness and wellbeing right inside the very work itself. Focus your work on building and sustaining PERMAnent flourishng with:  Positive emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment.

Create meaning and purpose for your work. Know why you work. Perhaps you work because you love your hospital. Perhaps you work because you care about patients. Perhaps you work to give your family the best life possible. Perhaps you work because work enriches you with relationships and achievement. We do not necessarily share the same why of working. I encourage you to determine your meaning. Here is my response to the meaning of life and here is the response of so many others. Use these sources to create a strong scaffold of meaning to support you and your work. As the Dalai Lama declared, “The question is not to know what is the meaning of life, but what meaning I can give to my life.”

Don’t forget to wear your SCARF at work. David Rock knows about your brain at work. When we align our work with SCARF (Status, Consistency, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness) our work – works better. Here is a brief article outlining the SCARF model at work. Rock’s book on Your Brain at Work is an insightful book on how to improve your day with your brain in mind by following one couple as they proceed through their day and how they could improve their day if they made better use of their brains.

Pair Mindfulness-East with Mindfulness-West. Mindfulness has been sweeping through workplaces around the globe. Did you know there are two types of mindfulness? Mindfulness-East is the perspective of being aware in each moment of what you are doing without judgement. Mindfulness-West, developed by Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer teaches how to engage by actively noticing novelty and distinctions. Noticing novelty and distinction engages you and brings new life to your day.

Eliminate the negative. Baumeister and others have shown that bad is stronger than good. Before you get busy trying to add additional things in your day as the pathway to wellbeing ensure you address your challenges and bad events. Some researchers suggest that bad is 2 or 3 times stronger than good. When something bad happens do not be surprised at how it can knock you off kilter and how it begins to feel so permanent, pervasive, and personal. Remember to eliminate the negative before accentuating the positive.

Take the 90 second pause. Jill Bolte Taylor a neuroscience researcher, who also suffered a stroke, suggested that the shelf life of an emotion is 90-seconds. This would mean that upset or negative emotions last only about 90 seconds, yet for many of us they seem to last a lifetime. Give yourself 90 seconds from the moment you feel a negative emotion before you act on that emotion. Also know that you must feed negative emotions every 90 seconds to keep them alive. We feed it with fragments of tragic stories, feelings of being wronged, and a multitude of tiny, almost unconscious mechanisms, to keep being upset. If you remain upset ninety seconds after the initial emotion it is essential to ask yourself: “How am I feeding my upset to keep it alive?”

Sharpen progress while making setbacks dull. Most of us fail to maximize the benefits of progress and minimize the impact of setbacks. Progress and setbacks are so pervasive at work and daily life that we often fail to fully notice their impact. End each day by taking a minute to notice what stood out for you that day. When progress stands out ensure you let it soak in, celebrate it, and determine ways to extend it. When setbacks stand out ensure you determine what you can do next, how you might learn from it, or what you can do to let it go. Know that work and life often resemble a real-life game of snakes and ladders and our job is to climb ladders and squish snakes.

Use 22 tools to exit from grumpiness. Does work make you grumpy or do you find yourself surrounded by grumpy people?. I just completed an e-book, illustrated by John Junson, on 22 Tools to Overcome Grumpiness. Click on the cover below to enjoy this short, yet engaging, book.

22 Tools to Overcome Grumpiness Cover

A Short Reading List. Here are 9 books that can improve your motivation and skills to flourish with nourishing work:

  • Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, The Progress Principle.
  • Ellen Langer, Mindfulness.
  • David Rock, Your Brain at Work.
  • Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  • Tom Rath, Are You Fully Charged?
  • William Bridges, Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes.
  • Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
  • Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being
  • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation is Everyday Life.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada who works around the globe helping organizations and individuals improve work engagement and engaged wellbeing.

Employee Engagement Speaker - David Zinger

Employee Engagement in Doha: Geometry and Sun Light

I am currently in Doha, Qatar to work on employee engagement. I strive to be influenced by the sights, feel, geography and architecture of wherever I am working. Flying to Qatar from Montreal I watched a brilliant video about I. M Pei and his architectural design and work on the magnificent Museum of Islamic Art by the Doha Corniche.

Creative commons Image by Jan Smith (Flickr)

Creative commons Image by Jan Smith (Flickr)


I was very impressed with the spirit, enthusiasm, smiles, discipline, and demands I. M. Pei had for this project. Two themes really stood out for me with some metaphoric parallels for employee engagement.

Pei was influenced by sand and water and Islamic architecture. He wanted the building to change based on the movement of the sun. He stated: “the movement of the sun makes the building come alive.” It made me think of engagement in our organizations never being static and the movement of energy offers vibrancy to help the organization come alive.

Pei also made use of water in the building. He talked about the power of water for sound, movement, ripple, stillness, trickling, and reflection. I believe in the same way we need to see the properties of water within our organizations. We need reflection at times and stillness. We need sound and movement. And we should see engagement as continually flowing, not merely an annual snapshot from a static survey.

I appreciated how Pei came from New York and used his insatiable curiosity to understand what needed to be built. There are many people in Doha from other parts of the world that play a role in employee engagement in Qatar. Pei gave massive credit to his team on the project and like employee engagement in an organization no one does it alone. Pei will be 98 in April — his smile, his way of working, and his engagement is an inspiration to me as I work on employee engagement in Doha, Qatar.

Employee Engagement Speaker - David Zinger

15 Great Employee Engagement and Work Cartoons You Can Use

15 Work Cartoons to Make Your Day

EEN Junson Cartoon E-book

My friend and resident Employee Engagement Network cartoonist, John Junson has created an e-book with 15 free cartoons that you can use for work. Pass it along to a colleague. Use it in a presentation. Pin one cartoon to your wall or cubicle. Choose one a month and put it in your newsletter. Stress is a staff infection and humour is contagious so use the humor here to fight stress at work.

If you would like to download a PDF of this book click on the image above or, click here.

Here is a slide presentation of the cartoons for quick viewing:

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who appreciates the lighter side of work.

Employee Engagement and Engaged Well-Being: Does Work Make You Well?

Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying. ― Studs Terkel.

Pyramid of Employee Engagement and Engaged Well-Being

I believe engaged work and well-being is the pathway of life-work infusion. Ensure that life infuses your work and that your work infuses your life so that you are able to thrive and sustain both your work and well-being. We need to see work and life more holistically and abandon the antiquated thinking of separation and balance.

I believe the pathway to this is less than 10 blocks away. Use the pyramid of engagement for both work and well-being so that you achieve results, master performance, experience progress, build relationships, recognize others and self-recognize, make the most of moments, use your strengths in the service of others and yourself everyday, create meaning in your life and work, work so that work makes you well, and that at the end of the day you experience your overall life and working life more as an energy gain than an energy drain.

If work is not making you well than start building your personal and work pyramid of engagement today.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert focused on both employee engagement and engaged well-being to achieve full and authentic life-work infusion.

Employee Engagement Gamification For Work and Well-being Made Simple

Are you game for a simple approach to improve engagement with work and well-being? 10 Lessons for Gamification.

Based on David Zinger’s personal experience this post offers you a simple and lean approach to using gamification for engagement. Although it is an experiment with just one person it offers some tangible evidence of how gamification can improve both work and well-being and how an experiment can help us improve the process of gamification. The post also offers you a glimpse into gamification based on a real experience and offers you a pathway to gamification that can be conducted at almost zero cost and does not require a training course to implement.

Reading Time: 4 minutes and 55 seconds

Year of Points button

At times, I have struggled to start major projects. At times, I find that either my work or well-being begins to wane. At times, I wonder what I have accomplished. At times, I wonder if drudgery (as I define it) can be used to enhance well-being. At times, I wonder if my childhood love of pinball has any relevance for my work and well-being. This lead me to the conclusion that the time was right to personally experiment with the gamification of work and well-being. I believe we should never ask anyone to do what we are not prepared to do ourselves and I know I had advocated for the place of gamification in work and well-being.

It is interesting to me that although I am self-employed I can be disengaged. We often fail to see the disengagement of the self-employed when we believe organizations are responsible for engagement. There were also times that I let my efforts towards personal well-being languish. I needed some structural help with my work and well-being and decided that the gamification of these two key elements of my life could be helpful. I have been amazed at just how helpful this has been.

  • I am more productive.
  • I have eliminated most procrastination around big projects.
  • I enjoy my work more.
  • I found well-being in doing housework and Costco shopping, two activities I previously loathed.
  • I have triggered additional social contribution/donations.

Overall, I learned that games are so much more than just a trivial pursuit.

During 2014, I have been conducting a one year experiment on the gamification of work and well-being. In fact, some of the work goes back to 2012 with an elaborate approach to planning, monitoring, and measuring my work and well-being. Although many people play games as diversions from work I was more interested in applying the principle of games to be help me immerse more fully into both my work and well-being.

I continue to use a gamified approach to my work and well-being but I have greatly simplified the process and procedures.

Two factors were at play in the evolutionary simplicity. The first was my overall approach to employee engagement and work being based on the principles of: small, simple, significant, sustainable, and strategic. I must practice what I teach. I realized that my game was too elaborate and time consuming and needed to be simpler and smaller to be sustainable.

I believe that in our “crazybusy” lives that small is the new significantJane McGonigal, one of the world’s leading experts on gamification, states that, overall, games have four traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation. Everything else is extra.

The second influence was the publication of my May cover story for ASTD’s Training and Development Magazine: Game On: A Primer on Gamification for Managers. In that article I shared a gamification approach used by Charles M Schwab from over 100 years ago (gamification is a lot older and simpler than many people think!)

Charles M. Schwab, the American steel magnate, in the early 1900s wrote about the practice of gamification in Succeeding With What You Have. He recounted the following story.

Schwab was concerned about production in one of his steel mills and asked the day foreman for the production number, or “heats” produced, by the day shift. It was six, so Schwab grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote a large number six on the floor. The night shift saw the number and asked about the meaning of it. Upon hearing that Schwab had put down six for the productivity of the day shift, the night shift competed hard and, based on their productivity, they erased the number before morning and put down seven.

The day shift, getting into the “game,” completed 10 heats and very quickly this mill, formerly the poorest producer, was turning out more than any other mill in the plant. With minimal application of a goal, rules, feedback system, and voluntary participation, the “game” greatly enhanced the productivity of this workforce more than a century ago. Who would have thought that Schwab was an early work-gamification designer even if he never used the word?

I realized how lean and simple gamification could really be. Just because there are lots of bells and whistles or huge epic massive multi-player online quests does not mean you need these things to have a good game. Gamification for work and well-being must be designed with the purpose you have in mind. Here were my 6 purposes:

  1. to bring a concrete daily focus to work and well-being
  2. to improve and get better with both my work and well-being
  3. to approach my work and well-being from a playful perspective and blur the lines between work and play
  4. to apply gamification to monitor and heighten the experience of progress while diminishing the disengagement of setbacks
  5. to ensure engaged work and well-being was triggered multiple times every day
  6. to have my results be bigger than myself by triggering a social contribution based on points accumulated through play

It was time for me to remove and reduce the extraneous bells and whistles in my game and thereby strengthen its focus, power, and purpose. The next two images show the evolution of the game from what it was to what it is. A short description about the game is above each image.

Version 1: This is the initial version of the game. The game board was a fresh PowerPoint slide created each day.  It had lots of colors and moving parts. There were goals, points, bonus points, and a hive like structure. I filled in the hive cells with every 24 minutes of work or wellbeing once achieved (yellow for work and green for well-being).  I thought it might make a nice mobile app but I began to wonder if it could not be a lot simpler. In addition, the Pomodoro technique that I discovered the third year into my experiment has already built apps that can be used for this purpose. Sometimes I seemed to be spending more time on the game dynamics than time on meaningful work and well-being.

Version 2: Below is  a scanned page from my current gamification of work and well-being. In some ways, it hardly looks like a game at all yet it elegantly fulfills my 6 purposes. The game board is a physical notebook, completed by hand and and I experienced a power and trigger in having a very tangible game book that I can carry around. I reduced the time periods of work and well-being from 24 minutes to 15 minute increments – this makes it easier to start each period, knowing I only have to go for 15 minutes (I have learned how much can be done with just 15 minutes — it still amazes me). I also experienced how refreshing a nap of just 15 minutes could be. Each 15 minute period awards 15 points which translates to a social donation of one cent a point. Yes, this is not a large amount of money but I found if the amount was 10 cents a point it did not work as well as one cent a point. For example, on Thursday October 30 I donated $100.40 to the Red Cross to support Ebola work based on work and well-being points accumulated over the past two months.

Sample Page from Work and Well-being Gamification Experiment

Sample Page from Work and Well-being Gamification Experiment

Here are 10 lessons learned from a year a gamification. I trust these could be helpful to you if you are thinking of gamifying your work or well-being:

  1. Just start, because in the starting the learning begins
  2. Games don’t have to be complex to be powerful
  3. Games can be more than escape, they can immerse you into your own work and well-being
  4. Experience is still one of the greatest teachers and don’t be afraid to change or modify things as you go along
  5. Always think about the purpose or the intent of the game and don’t let the game divert you from your purpose
  6. Never overlook the power of elegant simplicity
  7. Take ownership of your game design because you will then get exactly what you want and need
  8. Games can be a terrific mechanism to help us navigate through setbacks and progress or our real life game of snakes and ladders
  9. Gamification can contribute to social responsibility and contribution
  10. My gamification was used to create this post. It took seven 15-minute periods and it will contribute $1.05 towards a social contribution.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who believes we must practice what we teach. His love of pinball at sixteen is paying dividends in his gamification of work and well-being at 60.

Zinger’s 8 Word Behavioral Definition of Employee Engagement

A shorter more simple definition of employee engagement

Employee Engagement Definition

It has taken me about 8 years and 10,000 hours to get to a definition of employee engagement that is both simple and elegant. I am discouraged with emotional and attitudinal surveys as I have become increasingly behavioral in my views of work and engagement. My definition puts engagement in the hands of each employee — I can choose to do this everyday while also being enabled and encouraged by my leaders, managers, and organization.

We are each responsible for our own engagement as we are accountable to each other for the impact we have on making engagement easy or difficult for others.

I define employee engagement in 8 words as:

Good work done well with others every day.

Good work means consistent quality and good is also a pathway to great while great is a by product of good. Good can be good enough. Good is sustainable while also being fused with gumption and grit rather than the hype and hyperbole of the continual and debilitating pursuit of great. Putting work in the definition means the focus of engagement is less about liking an organization or having a good attitude and more about our tasks, project, and specific work. Without work in the definition employee engagement is practically meaningless. Of course, sometimes our work extends beyond task and requires us to work on building robust relationships focused on achieving results.

Done well means we perform well and that good work can make us well.

With others acknowledges our connections and even a solo performer has inputs and interactions with other. We need to stop thinking that we work for someone or an organization, rather we work with someone or with an organization. We are joined and not subservient. We are all “social workers” these days.

Every day refers to enduring and sustainable work Engagement is not a biannual survey it is something we focus on every day, and we can change engagement for the better any and every day.

So let’s keep it simple and ensure employee engagement is good work done well with others every day.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and global expert who does his best to engage fully with work every day while helping others ensure employee engagement is not so much mumbo jumbo but an enriching experience of the time we spend working.

Employee Engagement Invitation: Work Can Make You Well

Get to Work and Find Well Being


I think for far too many of us work is hell not well.

  • We disengage.
  • We experience drudgery.
  • We burnout.
  • We feel drained.
  • We encounter toxic relationships.
  • We lack the resources for the job.
  • We live for the weekend but lack enthusiasm for much beyond napping when the weekend arrives.

The last thing we need is someone being motivational and inspiration and saying that we just need a little attitude adjustment and work will be great.

Now here is the tricky part. I believe work can make us well. Really? Really!

And much of it is simple even if it is not easy. I think it begins with experiencing work as an invitation to well-being. Like any invitation, we are free to decline it, we don’t have to go there.  Yet, we need to realize the consequences to us, our co-workers, our customers, and our families when we fail to accept this invitation.  Of course, here is the tricky part, no one sends you the invitation in a fancy card with gold embossed script saying you are invited to be well at work.

So if you have read this far, please accept this bland blog invitation to merely entertain the idea that work can make you well and join me over the next month or two and explore how we can find well-being right inside the work we do.


David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who is saddened by disengagement and the impact it has on individuals and families. David taught counselling psychology at the University of Manitoba for 25 years and was the employee assistance counsellor for Seagram Ltd. for 15 years. He founded and host the 6400 member Employee Engagement Network. He knows work from the inside out.


How to Live Fully at Work: The New Employee Recognition

We need more authentic and robust employee engagement and recognition.

Klinic World Suicide Prevention Day

I am honored to be invited by Klinic Community Health Centre in Winnipeg to speak during lunch hour at Vimy Ridge Park in Winnipeg during “Connecting Canada” for World Suicide Prevention Day.  If you are in Winnipeg on September the 10th., I encourage you to come by for the short presentation and the free community barbecue.

Yes, I believe that a strong organization or company will help all employees live fully at work – with a full life and a life full of meaning and mattering. We need to recognize when employees are struggling and what we can do to help. This adds a lot of oomph to how we work and relate with each other. Because our focus on September 10th. is on suicide prevention I plan to to offer a brief focus on what I consider the opposite of suicide — living fully.

To live fully is to have a full life in years while putting fullness into each day. It embraces and acknowledges life’s joys and suffering,  both our own and others, letting in compassion and support.  Living fully is about living for both us and for others. Living fully at work is more about work/life integration than trying to find an ideal state of balance. Living fully at work is the new meaningful employee recognition when we are attuned to others in our work community and we recognize and connect with them during progress, celebration, setback, struggle, and loss.

Consider accepting even one of the following 10 invitations that life offers us at work:

  1. Accept each day as an invitation to live fully.
  2. Be mindful of moments and in touch with all your fluctuating emotions.
  3. Engage with both your work and the people you work with.
  4. Acknowledge impermanence – know that even negative experiences will change over time.
  5. Move beyond isolation from others by making connection and contribution.
  6. Flourish at work with positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, accomplishment, and strengths.
  7. Open your head, heart, and hands to your coworkers.
  8. Transform the ritual question of “how are you today?” into an authentic curiosity and really listen and respond to what the other person says.
  9. Face fears and create safety at work by caring for others and caring about what they are trying to achieve in their life.
  10. Know that small is big, by taking small steps day after day you will make a huge difference in your life or the life of someone else.

Bonus: Entertain a playful serenity with this modified serenity prayer: God grant me the laughter to see the past with perspective, face the future with hope, and celebrate today without taking myself too seriously.

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert and speaker who resides in Winnipeg Canada and works around the world. David was also a volunteer counsellor at Klinic over 30 years ago.

Employee Engagement Through People Artistry

A People Artistry Tidbit

(Reading time: 50 seconds )

Peoplt Artistry at Work Book Cover

I had a wonderful conversation with the latest reader of People Artistry at Work. He just retired this year as the Assistant Superintendent of a very large school division. He believed the book was a fine leadership book and that it summed up his approach to successful leadership.

He stated, “it is amazing what we can accomplish and achieve together when we recognize and value people even if they initially lack skills.” Through our people artistry we empower, we build capacity and as leaders we never lose sight of the fact that we are only as good as the people we lead. We need to recognize all employees so they recognize their own strengths, gifts, challenges, and contributions.

To learn more about this $10 book or to order people artistry for all you leaders visit:

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert.

Employee Engagement: How to use gamification to climb Mount Everest (almost).

Being game for work and wellbeing

(Reading time 4 minutes and 30 seconds)

Year of Points button

I have themed 2014 as a year of points. I am further extending my work on using the principles and practices of gamification for work and wellbeing. In a future post, I will provide an update of the daily game board I use to plan and track my time and performance to enhance  work and wellbeing.

For this post I want to outline a three week gamification of fitness. The Winnipeg Winter Club where I workout has a mean looking machine called Jacob’s Ladder. It is like a 40 degree angled treadmill with the tread being replaced by ladder rungs. It is exhausting and you feel a bit like Sisyphus as you climb a ladder and get nowhere, but it is a great workout. The first time I tried the ladder back in January I could only do a couple of minutes before being fatigued.

For the month of February my fitness club challenged members to climb 29, 029 feet, or the equivalent of the elevation of Mount Everest on Jacob’s Ladder. I decided this was a game, even at fifty-nine years of age, I wanted to play. I knew to be successful I needed to gamify the process and was ultimately successful in taking just twenty days from the time I started to making it to the summit.

Here was how I approached the task based on gamification ideas and practices:

Compelling narrative. I was not climbing a ladder I was participating in an adventure to get to the top of Everest. A strong compelling narrative often keeps people glued to a movie or a game. In this case, I kept imaging I was getting to the top of Everest. I wasn’t delusional but it made climbing the steps more fun.

Mount Everest

Being social. I didn’t climb with someone else but my daughter, Katharine, was my fitness buddy in another challenge at the club. Her support and knowing I was scoring points for us as a team was very helpful. I used almost daily updates on social media to report on my progress to make myself accountable to people who follow me and to gather energy and encouragement from their support. And of course, I kept broadcasting my success to my wife and sons.

Making progress. Progress is engaging while setback are disengaging. I did not wait until I arrived at the “summit” to celebrate. I printed out a Wikipedia list of all the mountain peaks around the world so I had the progress of reaching the elevation of over 1000 peaks along the way. Also I scored 10 points for a bigger fitness competition each day I completed ten or more minutes on the ladder.

Meaningful. This game was meaningful to me. For gamification to work and be sustainable the game must be meaningful to the player. Virtually climbing Mount Everest would not be either compelling or meaningful to many people but as someone who lived their whole life on the prairies it had always been a whimsical desire to climb the world’s tallest peak. Given everything else in my life this was about as close as I was going to get to achieving that desire.

Novelty. From one perspective I was just climbing a ladder to nowhere and that can be very fatiguing and boring. I enhanced novelty in the game by working at different paces and with different lengths of climbing. One day I climbed for 28 minutes and covered 1816 feet — this climb was the equivalent of climbing the CN Tower in Toronto (it must have been a foggy day as the view on Jacob’s Ladder never seemed to actually change).

Keeping track. I used a notebook to keep track of time, steps, and speed. Monitoring the climb with the different numbers derived was motivating while keeping me on track and preventing a fitness goal derailment.

Celebrate. I did celebrate success of the goal achieved by opening a small bottle of bubbly champagne and toasting the feat with Jeff, the fitness director, in a couple of small paper cone cups. We should always make time to celebrate progress as this helps to mentally install all the benefits of our accomplishments.

Benefits beyond the game. I like games that are immersions rather than diversions. By this I mean the game has real world benefits and is not merely a distraction from work and life. This game increased my fitness, helped me shed about 10 pounds, and feel more energized each day.

The game as a booster rather than an end in itself. Sometimes the trouble with gamification is that it begins to lose its impact over time. Now that I was successful will this mean I stop using the ladder and let my fitness entropy to previous levels. To overcome this I am now planning to climb the equivalent of the 7 summits of the world over the next year. It won’t be as intensive as the last month but it will make the progress and fitness sustainable over a long period of time. As we begin to approach the end of a helpful and positive gamification of work or wellbeing it is quite helpful to ask ourselves: what come’s next? Just because the game ended doesn’t mean the practice and benefits should also end.

Are you game? How can you integrate the practices outline above into your own work and wellbeing to foster greater engagement in achieving a result that matters to you or your work group?

Many small steps are one giant step. In summary it was 29,029 small steps for David and one giant step for the application of gamification to better work and wellbeing.

David Zinger Employee Engagement Speaker

David Zinger is a Canadian employee engagement speaker and expert who believes in the benefits of gamification as a powerful tool for greater engagement.

Employee Engagement Waggle on Slideshare

Waggle while you work

Honeybee Yellow

Here is the latest eBook by David Zinger on 39 ways to improve organizations, employee engagement, and work. The book is based on 3 years of experience convening honeybees and humans. Catch the buzz by learning to think differently inside and outside your human hive!

David Zinger is an expert  global employee engagement speaker and consultant who brings the engagement  down to earth while striving to enliven the pyramid of employee engagement to help leaders, managers, and organizations increase engagement and results while also building relationships. David has worked on employee engagement from Winnipeg to Warsaw, Saskatoon to South Africa, and Boston to Barcelona. In 2013, David has spoken in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Berlin, New York, Chicago, and Toronto. Contact him today at:


Watch for Waggle – May 29

This background page for the new eBook Waggle makes me think of the old bat symbol in Batman. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed Batman on TV from 1966 to 1968! Watch for Waggle this Wednesday.


The Bee Symbol

David Zinger’s New eBook Waggle Coming May 29 (Table of Contents Page)

My new eBook Waggle: 39 Ways to Improve Organizations, Work and Engagement will be released on May 29th. I hope you will return to this site on Wednesday to read or download this free eBook with ways to improve organizations, work, and engagement based on my work with honeybees, office objects, and computers for 3 summers. My favorite waggle is: One bee matters.

Here is the table of contents page from the book:

Waggle Table of Contents Promotion Page

David Zinger conducted a 3 summer experiment attempting to convene honeybees and humans into a shared space. David’s is devoted to improving engagement for organizations and individuals.

Waggle: 39 Ways to Improve Organizations, Work, and Engagement (Coming May 29th)

Waggle is coming May 29th

Waggle Book New Cover Promotion

My newest free eBook Waggle is coming on May 29th. This book looks fantastic on a tablet or smart phone. It is based on 3 years attempting to convene honeybees and humans. It is not really about bees, don’t worry you won’t get stung. It is about what we can learn from bees to improve our own work, engagement, and organizations.

It will be released on May 29th. because that is Manitoba’s: Day of the Honeybee.

I will post it on this site and other places on that day. It is 68 pages long and has lots of pictures so it is an easy read, perfect while you are waiting at the gate for your flight to Timbuktu or waiting in your doctor’s office.

I no longer have the patience for most business books that drone on for 350 pages and generally I can find most of what I am looking for from an author in a good blog post. I just had so many great images that I wanted something that was easier to look at and pass around.

The book is free, you will just click on the image and read it or download it. There is no email or registration required. What I hope you will do is pass it on to others who may benefit by being able to think differently inside their hive.

Come back on May 29, catch the buzz, and start your waggle.

Waggle Promotion Image

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert and speaker who went to the honeybee hives for three summers to learn lesson for engagement from this enthralling species.

Employee Engagement Friday Factoid #23: 93% of us work with a Slacker

Are you slacking or picking up the slack?

Slacking co-workers cause a quarter of their hard-working colleagues to put in four to six more hours of work each week…four out of five say the quality of their work declines when they have to pick up their co-workers’ slack — a huge potential blow to the bottom line when you consider that 93 percent have a co-worker who doesn’t do his or her fair share.  Stuck With a Slacking Co-Worker?


This survey was conducted by Vital Smarts and offered support for the importance of holding Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations when working with others who have disengaged.

David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert. He teaches both Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations for Shared Visions/Vital Smarts and believes in the power of conversation to foster engagement and to correct for disengagement.


Employee Engagement and Work Criteria

Do you have work criteria?

Viv McWaters is one of my favorite bloggers as she posts on Beyond the Edge. I like her sense of connection, community, improvisation, facilitation, and work. I appreciated the criteria she created to determine projects she would work on:

  • Can I make a real contribution? Is there a need for my skills? Will I make a difference?
  • Will it stretch me? Is it edgy? Will it contribute to my continued learning?
  • Is there an opportunity to build capacity, and transfer my skills, knowledge and enthusiasm to others?
  • Will it enable me to make money and provide for the future?
  • Is there an opportunity to travel to new or interesting places?
  • Will I be with cool people, especially friends? Will I potentially make new friends, and build existing relationships?
  • Will I have fun?
  • Am I excited by the prospect?

These criteria are specific for the type of work that Viv does. Do you have criteria for your work? What are your criteria? Do you use them to make your work decisions? I encourage you to get more from work and ensure you work on the right work, for you, by establishing a set of personal criteria for work. By the way, you don’t have to have each piece of work fulfill all the criteria but certainly the more criteria the work is aligned with the better for you and others.

David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert at work on his criteria for work in 2013.

Employee Engagement: Achieve Strong Results

Results: Strengthen the Pyramid of Employee Engagement One Block at a Time

I developed the 10 block pyramid of employee engagement model to demonstrate the keys to employee engagement. Here is a link to a 50 page booklet on the pyramid.

After taking the strengths inventory Strengthscope from Strengths Partnership in the UK,  I was determined to make a systematic application of my 7 significant strengths applied to each of the blocks of the pyramid. This will make the engagement work more robust while also enhancing my wellbeing through the application of strengths in the service of others. There will be 10 posts in this series. Not all will have the same bullet point format but all will involve  a structured application of strengths to engagement.

1. Achieve Results

At the apex of the pyramid of employee engagement is achieve results. We need to know and communicate the results we are trying to achieve. Our results should be engaging and we need to engage in the creation of results. To turbo charge results I am applying my significant 7 strengths from the Strength Partnership’s Strengthscope. The diagram at the top of the page shows “achieve results” embedded within my strengths of leading, enthusiasm, empathy, self-improvement, flexibility, creativity, and developing others.

Here are ways that my strengths can be, or have been, used to support and strengthen the “achieve results” block in the pyramid of employee engagement:


  • Create compelling and inspiring results that lead others towards a specific destination.
  • Ensure the people I lead are given opportunities to co-create results. I love the line, if you want to get everyone on the same page you must give them the opportunity to write on that page and the similar line from the field of positive deviance, never do anything about me without me. Leading does not mean telling people what to do and how to do it, leading means working together to determine destinations that benefit everyone.


  • My result statements need to generate an inherent enthusiasm and I must bring my enthusiasm to those results.
  • I want my results to have a sense of pulling me towards something of great value.
  • I will ensure the crafting of meaningful results and celebrate the achievement of all  steps and progress towards results. These are not gala celebrations but moments taken after a chunk of work to feel the enthusiasm of accomplishment.


  • I will listen fully to others to learn from them and to learn their approach to results. I will embrace the Spice Girls’ line: “so tell me what you want, what you really really want?”
  • I will check to see if the results stated and generated create passion and purpose for others.
  • I will apply empathetic  imagination to determine the impact of results on all major stakeholders. As I develop results I can apply my empathy to thinking though the impact of each result on all major stakeholders.


  • I will fuse  work results with wellbeing results to develop both personally and professionally.
  • I will learn more about results by going back and re-reading Peter Drucker’s work on results and also reviewing JD Meier’s insightful approach to Getting Results the Agile Way.


  • I will embrace strategic improvisation by determining results but having the heart of improvisation to enhance or improve results based on feedback.
  • I shall craft the results less as statements carved in granite and more as intentions that have specificity and clarity yet flexibility based on feedback.
  • Failure and successes with results will be opportunities to learn and change.


  • I love creativity and even took each of my 7 significant strengths and made my own symbol for each of them with the help of my graphic designer, John Junson.
  • Spend more time thinking about results and applying a variety of tools to create fresh or new thinking.
  • Use the full power of daily results to create larger results.
  • Start each day by crafting three result statement for that day phrased as mini heroic stories.
  • Work at communicating results as stories to capitalize on the power of narrative results for both meaning and memory.
Develop Others

  • Start conversations with others about results they are trying to achieve.
  • Help others install and achieve results as a focus for their work and engagement.
  • Enter meetings and courses with a clear focus on the results I would like others to achieve from our time together.

Exciting London Workshop – An Invitation to all UK and European Readers

Plan to attend the London UK Strength and Engagement Workshop Wednesday November 28 from 13:00 to 18:00.  I invite you to attend an afternoon workshop sponsored by Strengths Partnership on The Leaders Role in Optimising Strengths and Engagement to Achieve Innovation and Excellence. I will be presenting/facilitating on the Pyramid of Employee Engagement and Michael Farry, HR Director for PhotoBox, will also be presenting on how to build a culture of positive leadership, collaboration and innovation through a systematic, practical and integrated change and development programme.

For a modest fee of £75 plus VAT, you will receive:

  •  Entrance to the conference and networking over drinks after the event
  •  An opportunity to take the Strengthscope360™ profiler and receive feedback
  •  A free leadership book entitled “Stretch – Leading Beyond Boundaries”
  •  Delegate pack containing proven and practical tools to help optimise workforce strengths and engagement at the individual, team and organisational levels
  •  An invitation to join the Strengths HR Forum (over 1,300 members) and the Employee Engagement Network (over 5,000 members)

To register click here.

Next Post in the Series: Employee Engagement: Mastering Strong Performance.

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert. He will be in the UK in late November to support the Go Live event for the UK Employee Engagement Task Force and to co-lead an afternoon on the fusion of employee engagement and strengths for innovation and excellence.



10 Stops for Employee Engagement

Please come to a complete stop before proceeding…

  1. Stop waiting for a magic moment to engage.
  2. Stop mistaking engagement as someone else’s job or responsibility.
  3. Stop conceptualizing engagement as a problem to be solved.
  4. Stop searching for a stronger business case for engagement.
  5. Stop thinking of employee engagement as an extra.
  6. Stop believing you need more data to begin.
  7. Stop seeing the CEO or President as someone other than an employee.
  8. Stop wasting time formulating big programs and splashy launches.
  9. Stop extensive consulting with experts so that you have time to consult with employees.
  10. Stop trying and start doing.
David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert. Email him today at for speaking, education, or consulting services.


Employee Engagement: Should We Ban Disengaged Employees?

An Olympic Action – An Organizational Consideration

The Olympics banned a number of female badminton players. One article stated:

The evening session of the tournament descended into chaos on Tuesday, with fans jeering two separate matches as players deliberately missed shots and dumped serves into the net in a race to the bottom, forcing the BWF to mount an investigation. A BWF panel charged the players with “not using one’s best efforts to win a match” and “conducting oneself in a manner that is clearly abusive or detrimental to the sport” were brought against the players.

Ban disengaged employees? I am not suggesting that we ban all disengaged employees from workplaces as there are many causes for disengagement but it makes me think that we should take decisive action and “ban” employees who deliberately don’t give their best to their work because of self-interest as they fail to consider the impact their poor performance has on their customers, peers, and organization. Even if we work in a disengaging workplace we should be engaging our best efforts to advocate and create change for the better.

What are your thoughts? Is this a crazy idea or something we have neglected in our workplaces? I encourage you to write a comment. To ban or not to ban?

Saturation: An Employee Engagement Meditation

Dissipating saturation

This “too” shall pass. I am saturated. Too much information. Too many meetings. Too many tips. Too many infographics. Too many experts. Too many communities. Too many white papers. Too many updates. Too many tasks. Too many things to remember. I can’t engage because there is no capacity for absorption.

Saturation defined. The formal definition of saturation is: The state or process that occurs when no more of something can be absorbed, combined with, or added. But let’s not rest or rely on formalities. Saturation numbs, scatters the mind, and leaves a dull headache that throbs a hint of something missed or forgotten.

Dissipation through awareness. It is time to dissipate this saturation not by reading a time management book, writing a to-do list, or slumbering into an afternoon escapist nap that stretches until the next morning. I dissipate saturation not by using expectation and demand to squeeze myself like a dripping sponge but by taking one breath and accepting saturation by writing a short meditation on the experience.

Nudge. I feel less drippy and ready to re-engage with the vital work before me. I recognize the power of reflective writing to nudge myself through saturation and I celebrate impermanence for informing me that even the weight and numbness of saturation evaporates.

Engage A Live Hive Today (Wednesday June 27- from 9 to 10 CDT)

Think Different Inside the Hive

Engage the connection between social media and a living social beehive.

Today between 9 and 10 CDT, I will be putting a computer live inside a beehive. The hive is located near Starbuck Manitoba and belongs to an extraordinary beekeeper, Phil Veldhuis. The computer screen will be turned on to a Twitter page set for #orgbee. I would appreciate if you would send a tweet between 9 and 10 with the hashtag #orgbee. Your tweet will show up live in the hive, not sure the bees will read it but each tweet will result in a donation to honey bee health.

I believe we can learn much about engagement, work, and community from honeybees and it would be good to also give back to them for what they can teach us. During the next 12 months this blog will have a series of articles exploring the connections and learning between employee engagement, work, organizations, community, and social media.

Please take one small action. If you use twitter, tweet the bees between 9 and 10 CDT with the hashtag: #orgbee

If you don’t have a twitter account you can also leave a comment here.

To get a taste of what is going on watch this short one minute video from last year. If the video does not open in your window, click here.

Engage the Hive with David Zinger from David Zinger on Vimeo.

10 Story Tidbits for Employee Engagement

10 Tidbits – Kevin Bishop –  Anecdote – Employee Engagement –  Boston Story Course

David Zinger picture of swans at Boston Commons (June 2012)

Stories are engaging. Stories create a fabric and  foundation for our organization. Stories powerfully communicate what is going on in employee engagement in our organization.

Kevin Bishop from Anecdote in Australia conducted a one day workshop on story and leadership in Boston this June. I believe Anecdote does terrific work with story and organizations. It was an honor to attend Kevin’s session in Boston. The focus was not directly on employee engagement but I always relate my learning to the world of work and engagement. Here is a list of 10 tidbits I derived from the day. These are my thoughts and not necessarily exact representations of Kevin’s statements or Anecdote’s specific perspective:

  1. Stories paint images in people’s minds. They are facts wrapped in context and delivered with emotion.
  2. Be careful about using the word story in many organizations as many people will default on the “once upon a time” limited view of story.
  3. Jerome Bruner, one of the world’s leading cognitive psychologists, stated that we are 22 times more likely to remember a story than a set of disconnected facts.
  4. Stories are concrete – they move us away from abstractions.Words like disengagement take on new meaning and a high level of specificity when we talk about the time our boss created a needless and massive setback on the Miller project that lead to two members of our team leaving.
  5. We need a greater focus on the little stories rather than thinking we need an epic heroic story for our organization.
  6. Follow 3 pathways to stories: tell, trigger, listen.
  7. Your behavioral story is stronger than your told story. As a leader even if you don’t tell stories you trigger many stories in your organization. What stories do your actions trigger in employees? How well are you listening to the stories already embedded in your organization?
  8. We can all benefit from more deliberate practice with our story skills.
  9. Think of narrative strategy: 1. In the past.  2. Then something happened.  3. What we are going to do.  4. What will we have achieved when we succeed.
  10. We must go beyond story telling in organizations to a greater focus on how we elicit stories from within our organizations. It may be less about telling a great engagement story and more about asking: “tell me a time you were very engaged in your work, who were you with, what were you doing, what happened?”

What engagement stories are you triggering, telling, and eliciting?  For a more direct understanding of story and leadership visit the Anecdote site.



David Zinger is an employee engagement expert who is keenly interested in story and uses story extensively in his engagement work. Contact David today to speak and work on the story of engagement at your organization or conference.


Employee Engagement Program Guidelines

This is the most popular blog post on this site. It is read 10 to 20 times every day since it was posted well over two years ago. The post originally appeared on December 1, 2009.  At that time, the Employee Engagement Network had 1750 members as opposed to the 4800 members who currently belong to the network. I have re-posted it because of the popularity for the content and the helpful guidance it offers for employee engagement program developers.

Strong guidelines not rules. Here are some of the things I believe will contribute to a good start to implementing an employee engagement program. I want these to be strong statements that are not rules to be followed but guidelines voiced and offered that encourage you to consider them carefully and either adopt them, modify them, or reject them as you develop your own approach. There is no cookie cutter approach to employee engagement and we certainly can’t leave employee engagement in the hands of others.

13 key considerations in starting an employee engagement program:

Engage employees early and often. Ensure employees have a voice in the program. Ask employees what question could be asked for a survey, have them participate in looking at the results, and give them an opportunity to generate strategies and interventions. We won’t get everyone on the same page unless we give everyone a hand in authoring that page.

Read good research. Read the free and informative research on employee engagement. There is lots of good free material out there. One source I highly recommend everyone read is the MacLeod report from the UK.  Click here to read 21 highlights from this report and you will also find a  link at the end of the article to the full PDF report.

Under-measure and over-deliver. Data can be very helpful to determine success and get baseline engagement but keep it as simple as possible and strive for the fewest questions possible. I recommend more frequent surveys with less questions than lengthy surveys that can be disengaging because they are so long and it takes so long to get feedback to the employees.

Use this as your last question in any survey. Ensure you ask survey recipients what they can do right now to foster their own engagement and enhance the engagement of others. The survey you use should be engaging and ensure that engagement starts right after the survey is completed by asking: What can I do right now to improve engagement for myself or others?

Focus on employee engagement for all. We all must benefit. The employees should benefit from their engagement, the organization should see results, and customers should also experience the benefits of engaged employees. As you plan any program ensure you have declarative clarity on how everyone will benefit.

Say No to something else. Do not make employee engagement another item on an over bulging to do list. What can you say no to so that you ensure you can yes to employee engagement? Employee engagement is not about adding more on  – it is about being more connected to the work, others, and organization you are already a part of. These connections need to contribute to meaningful and significant results for both organizations and individuals.

Eliminate consultants, hire coaches. Don’t leave engagement in the hands of external consultants who will always know less about your organization than you do. We too readily put our important work in the hands of experts who may consume dollars that could be better spend on programs rather than advice. Use external sources as coaches to guide you not to take over what will be done and how it will be done.

Employee engagement is not a soft skill. I hate the term soft skills for people skills. It makes it seem mushy and fluffy rather than vital and pivotal. Soft also sounds easy while hard sounds solid and difficult. Rather than soft skills and hard skills I think we need to refer to these two types of skills as fluid skills and fixed skills. We need fixed skills and we need the fluid skills to ensure the fixed skills don’t seize up because people are not engaged.

Put a name and face to engagement. Minimize the amount of anonymous data you collect. How can we expect people to engage when they are anonymous. Put a face and name to engagement and make it safe to engage in authentic and real dialogue. If you think people won’t give you an honest answer about their level of engagement in your organization if they are identified than you have a much bigger problem than engagement. You have very troublesome trust, honesty, authenticity, and safety issues to address.

Spread engagement around. Make everyone responsible for their own engagement and accountable to everyone else in the organization. We don’t need people checking up on us, we need people checking in with us to talk about our fluctuating levels of engagement. Avoid putting engagement in the hands of just HR or Internal Communications. This is a line issue, this is everyone’s issue. Don’t forget, CEO’s and Presidents are employees too.

Community mobilization. Create a community rather than a simple organization. Community needs co-created conversations. I would like to see HR take on a bigger internal community mobilization role by fostering and convening conversations to create and mobilize the latent community potential embedded in every organization. Start by reading Peter Block’s, Community: The Structure of Belonging, and bring people into dialogue.

A pluralism of voices. Perhaps you have different keys or believe some of the keys were wrong or missed. I  encourage you to voice your perspective in the comments to the post. We need fewer answers and more dialogue.

Get connected. Join the Employee Engagement Network. We have over 4800 members interested in employee engagement. Join us to ask questions, find information, offer support, and stay current on the latest information in employee engagement. The glue of engagement is contribution and we welcome your contribution.

David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert using the Pyramid of Employee Engagement to increase employee engagement for organizations and individuals. He can be reached at

Employee Engagement Dialogues: Happiness and Engagement

Employee Engagement Dialogues: Alex Kjeulf and David Zinger

Recording and transcript. Here is the recording and transcript for a 20 minute dialogue with Alex Kjeulf on happiness and engagement. Alexander is the founder of Woohoo inc. and one of the world’s leading experts on happiness at work. He has a masters degree in computer science from The University of Southern Denmark and is the author of 3 books including the international bestseller Happy Hour is 9 to 5 – How to Love Your Job, Love Your Life and Kick Butt at Work. In his spare time Alexander reads. A lot. He also does Crossfit and watches tons of movies.

Employee Engagement and Happiness from David Zinger on Vimeo.

David Zinger: Hi, my name is David Zinger, and I want to really welcome you today to a focused dialogue on engagement and happiness. I’m so thrilled to have Alex Kjerulf from Denmark here with us today to talk about happiness. He’s The Chief Happiness Officer and has done tremendous work on happiness for, I would say before it was popular; Alex, welcome. [00:27]

Alexander Kjerulf: Thank you so much, David. [00:29]

David Zinger: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself – I know we have a slide up on your background – but what steered you in the direction of happiness and work? [00:37]

Alexander Kjerulf: Oh yeah, well I used to be in the IT business; I had my own IT company that I co-founded with two other people in Copenhagen way back in 1997, and when we started this IT company sort of our #1 goal was to make it a happy workplace. I mean sure we wanted to have a profit and have great clients and so on, but more than anything else we wanted a happy workplace where people could have fun. We ran that company for five years, it became quite successful, and then we sold it in 2002, and I sort of stopped at that point and asked myself what is my vision, what is my passion, you know, what do I want to contribute to the world, and I realized that what I was really passionate about was not IT solutions anymore; it was this idea of happiness at work, how do you create really happy workplaces where people just love to work, and so I founded my current company which is called Woo Hoo inc., and not woohoo, the company’s called WOOHOO! Yeah and just picking up the phone is a hoot. I founded the company in 2003. In fact, May 1st, 2003, we had our first paying client, so as of yesterday we’ve been doing this for nine years now making people happy at work. We do speeches, workshops, consulting work for workplaces all around the world. [01:55]

David Zinger: Well, congratulations, and so the primary focus in the audience is around the world of employee engagement, and the way I see engagement, it’s a little bit of a buzz word. I just define it as connection; connection to our work, connection to each other, connection to results, connections to customers. Before we launch into happiness and the connection between happiness, and engagement, and work, what engages you currently most with your work, Alex? [02:21]

Alexander Kjerulf: You know what really gives me a major kick is seeing that the work we do has an impact. In fact, we sat down last year to sort of formalize our company values and vision, and our vision is it’s a world where happiness at work is the rule and not the exception, and we defined certain values, and sort of our most important value is we optimize for impact, you know, we want to make a difference in everything we do. So, when I hear back from a client that we had a workshop with you three years ago, we’re still using the principles, it still helps us make the company more effective, or when I hear from people who have read our books or read the website I just love that kind of thing. I got an email from a lady saying she had been considering quitting her really crappy job for ages, and finally she got up the courage to do it, and that was because one of our articles, and that’s the kind of thing that really engages me. [03:27]

David Zinger: So, really seeing the results and the elements of what you’re doing. So, the big question in the short period of time we have is what is the relationship between work, happiness, and engagement, and if I can, you know, in doing some research to interview, and looking at your material, again I’ve been looking at it for years; I was really struck by your talk about the connection between happiness, results, and relationship, because I think so often people think of happiness as something extra, and outside, and oh my god I’m too busy for happiness, but you really seem to have weaved it right with results and relationships. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that. [04:03]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah, I think the two major sources of happiness in the workplace are results and relationships, you know when you do good work that you can be proud of, that work that is meaningful to you, that makes us happy, and also good relationships, you know when you like your co-workers, you like your boss, you like your employers, you like your clients for that matter. Those are the two major sources of happiness, positive emotion in the workplace, and what we know now from decades of research in psychology, sociology, and neurology is that happiness has a major impact on our performance at work, and when we are happy we are more productive, we are more creative, we are more helpful towards other people, we deliver better customer service. Happy people are better managers and so on, so very simply put, we are more effective and more successful when we like what we do, which of course goes completely against the old idea that work, you know, it’s all about hard work, it’s all about effort. Right, it’s all about suffering, and the more you suffer, the more effective you will be, and of course this is completely wrong. [05:10]

David Zinger: Yeah, and I mean Tony Hsieh from Zappos did a whole bunch of work on happiness and you’ve predated him by many years in what you’re doing and how you’re looking at that, and you would say the Scandinavians are one of the few to have a language that has a word for happiness at work; I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about that. [05:28]

Alexander Kjerulf: Sure, the word in Danish, it’s arbejdsglæde, and this is going to sound really weird of course to the rest of the world, but arbejde in Danish means work, and glaede is gladness, happiness, so arbejdsglæde is literally just work-happiness, and the cool thing about this is that this word exists only in the Scandinavian languages. We’ve checked and there is no word for this in any other language in the world except Danish, Finnish, Swedish, and Norwegian, and this is not a coincidence; there is a long standing, you know, decades old tradition inScandinavia for focusing on happy workplaces. This is something we’ve been doing for 40-50 years now and this is something they do not have in the rest of the world, this focus on creating great workplaces. [06:14]

David Zinger: I was watching your TED Talk recently. You made a nice distinction between satisfaction and happiness, because I think some people would just equate those two things together. [06:24]

Alexander Kjerulf: Oh yeah. Yes, that’s actually one of the misguided preconceptions we’re fighting is that it’s employee satisfaction, and of course you know the sources of satisfaction – are you satisfied with your work – the sources of that are there’s stuff like, you know, salary bonuses, perks, your job title, promotions, raises, that kind of thing, those are the things that make us satisfied, but those are not the things that make us happy, and the research confirms this again, and the thing is that those benefits I talk about, you know, being more productive, and more creative, and so on, you don’t get those benefits from being satisfied. You know, overall I’m very satisfied with my job. You get those benefits when you’re happy right here and right now; when you’re sitting at your desk today going oh my god, I love my job, it’s awesome! That’s when you’re more productive, and more creative, and so on. So, and there’s nothing wrong with job satisfaction in and of itself, it’s just that it shouldn’t be the major focus of our careers, and work lives, and workplaces. We should really focus on happiness, because that is where we get all those performance benefits and that’s when the company makes more money. [07:35]

David Zinger: Yeah, and it seems to me that satisfaction is a fairly anemic measure of how we are at work, and when it’s reduced to a bi-annual or an annual survey that we call engagement, it’s got very little to do with happiness and engagement, because those seem to be things of the day-to-day and the moment-to-moment. [07:52]

Alexander Kjerulf: Exactly. [07:54]

David Zinger: Right now I have one of your websites up – The Chief Happiness Officer, and you have a ton of excellent blog posts, and articles, and resources on there. How long have you been at that and if people go there what should they be looking for? [08:10]

Alexander Kjerulf: Well, I started blogging in 2002, believe it or not, I mean everybody and their dog was getting a blog at the time, so I thought what the hell, I’ll get one too, and been blogging every since, and the blog has been getting really, really popular; I think we have about a million visitors a year, which is just awesome, and on there are we have different categories. We focus a lot on… I think our main focus is still what can I do, and you know what can I do tomorrow to make tomorrow a great work day, because happiness at work is something you do, it’s something we do together every single day. I mean we create a happy workday today or we don’t and then we do it again tomorrow or we don’t. It’s not like you can sit around and just wait for somebody else to come and make you happy, so that’s really the main thing we have on there is, you know, tons of tips, and videos, and articles on what can I do tomorrow to be happier and more engaged with work? Actually, I’d like to ask you, David, because you, you know, I really wanted to ask you this: how do you see the connection between happiness at work and engagement, because I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I’m not sure I have a clear answer. [09:16]

David Zinger: Well, you know I think there’s a very, very strong connection, I mean engagement tends to contribute to happiness or wellbeing and wellbeing or happiness contributes to engagement. I, originally when I created a pyramid of engagement that had 10 sources, happiness was one of them. I’ve since changed the label to wellbeing with happiness embedded in that, and yet I think sometimes the danger of that is that then people don’t look closely and see the key component of happiness in there, and you know I think we’re beyond that for most people in the field thinking of happiness as something fluffy, or something extra, or a soft skill or something, but I still think, and many people in the workplace they’re still equating happiness as something extra, or frilly, or whatever, and I think that’s doing a disservice to an experience that we spend so much of our time at. [10:12]

Alexander Kjerulf: Exactly. It sounds like we agree that happiness and engagement, it’s not like it’s the same thing, but they’re very closely tied together. Would that be fair to say? [10:23]

David Zinger: Yeah, I think, you know and we need to engage with our sense of wellbeing and happiness, and its bidirectional; I see all engagement as bidirectional. [10:33]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah. [10:33]

David Zinger: We engage with our work as our work engages us. We bring a happiness to work and our work can make us happy, and so that bidirectional element is important. I liked your term that we’re responsible for our own happiness, but our managers and organizations are also responsible for setting up the conditions. [10:53]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yes, exactly, I mean as a manager you can create conditions where it’s almost impossible to be happy at work, and let’s face it, a lot of managers do, but also again as a manager, as a workplace you can create conditions where it’s very, very easy to be happy, however no matter how good those conditions are, you can never make people, you know, you can never force people to be happy; that’s just not the way it works. People have to want to be happy within those conditions, and I think they…  [11:23]

David Zinger: And so you’re… Sorry about that, but usually happy hour is after 5:00PM, and your popular book is Happy Hour is 9-5. [11:32]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah. [11:32]

David Zinger: And it’s happy hours; it’s hour after hour with that, and that’s… [11:38]

Alexander Kjerulf: There’s a famous episode of the Drew Carey Show where they say, you know, where they talk about these people who needed the bar, and they complain about their jobs, and they complain about their spouses, and they complain about everything, and that’s called happy hour, and so I thought, you know, what if happy hour wasn’t from 5:00PM – 6:00PM at the local bar, what if happy hour was, you know, 9-5; what if we could actually wake up in the morning and be excited about going to work, and I think that’s where most people should be, not necessarily every single day, but most days. [12:10]

David Zinger: And that’s a book that’s in a number of languages and accessible from a number of resources from your website and other sources and even some of it’s freely available; if people are starving for money they can always read the book online with that. [12:24]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah, the English translation is available completely free on the blog on if anyone wants to read there. [12:31]

David Zinger: And if we go back even further, not only do you have a book, you have a manifesto on happiness, and I’ve always liked the people at the Change This site, and it’s a delightful manifesto because it’s short, it’s got I think what, about 25 points in the manifesto if I remember correct? [12:48]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah, very good, exactly. [12:49]

David Zinger: What stands out in your mind right now out of those items in the manifesto that seems to be either what’s really challenging workplaces or what seems to be improving for workplaces? [13:01]

Alexander Kjerulf: I think it really, really comes… For me it always comes back to the same thing, which is that my happiness at work is my responsibility, and you know if I want to be happy at work I have to start with myself. Not that I have to go it alone, OK, it’s just that I have to be responsible for my own work life, and for my own life in general, and one area I see right now that’s really challenging for people is if you have this horrible job, can you still quit, you know, in these uncertain economic times with the financial crisis and so on, can you quit your job, and right now I see a lot of people staying on in jobs they absolutely hate, and I think that’s horrible. I think this is something, you know, we know from the research that hating your job can make you sick, it can ruin your career, it can even ruin your relationship with your partner; it can in the end kill you, so I always encourage people to, you know, if you really hate your job, quit, move on, sometimes it is the only way even in these times. [14:13]

David Zinger: Yeah and you’re not minimizing the economic currency, but there’s a currency of happiness and wellbeing. If we don’t attend to that currency, as you say at the end of that first page in the manifesto – because the future belongs to the happy – and you would also say the present does too. [14:29]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah, exactly. I think it does, and the thing is when people are considering should I quit, what they really focus on is, you know, if I quit, what will I lose, and you may lose, you know, you will lose your salary, and you may lose your healthcare benefits, and you may lose your pension, and your co-workers, and so on, but the question people never ask themselves is if I stay at this job that I absolutely hate, what might that cost me, and I think you’re not having a balanced look at it unless you also consider that question, and in the end staying at that horrible job that you absolutely hate, it can kill you, yeah. [15:09]

David Zinger: Yeah and you have a number of rules of productivity, and particularly in the field of engagement. I get so frustrated with our field when we do these biannual or annual measures and somehow believe that we kept our engagement. There are shifts wildly from day-to-day, and I love your point #1 – your productivity will vary wildly from day-to-day and this is normal. [15:30]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yes. [15:31]

David Zinger: And what role does happiness have in that wild productivity? [15:35]

Alexander Kjerulf: I think… Well, one way I apply is that when I come into work in the morning I don’t necessarily go by my to-do list, you know, it’s not like I start working on the top of the list and then go to the next item, the next item. There’s all this stuff and I ask myself, you know, what do I feel like doing today; do I feel like, you know, tackling emails, do I feel like calling some clients, do I feel like writing a new blog post, and then I do that, and some days I will come into work and I will feel like doing absolutely nothing, and on those days I will go home or go do something else, because why hang out at work if you’re not getting anything done anyway, and my point is this is normal. I mean this is… For knowledge workers your productivity depends on your creativity, you know, on your ability to think of new things, on your ability to write, or whatever. There are some days you will do great work and there are some days you will do no work, and this is completely normal. [16:36]

David Zinger: OK. Well, we don’t have too much time left, and I’m pulling this question out of left field, it just kind of occurs to me. The statistics suggest that we are now… You talked about knowledge workers, that we’re the billion mobile workers. What’s the potential or the challenge for happiness for people who are mobile workers, any thoughts about that? [16:59]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yes, one challenge for mobile workers is relationships. I mean if you work out of this one office in this department, then you’ll have co-workers, you have a boss, and you have strong relationships; people who know what you’re doing, who can give you encouragement, criticism, praise, advice, companionship, and as a mobile worker that becomes a lot harder, so that’s a challenge, and as a mobile worker you may have to find your relationships somewhere else, maybe in networks, or knowledge groups, or whatever. However, the cool thing about mobile workers is that they often get to choose. They have more ambivalence over what they do, so they have more of a chance of picking, you know, interesting tasks, challenging tasks, meaningful tasks, however only if they remember to do so. [17:50]

David Zinger: So, in some ways there’s a little bit of a bigger challenge on the relationship, and yet the upside is you’ve got a little bit more direct control of how you move through the results and what you’re trying to achieve along the way with that. [18:02]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yes, and you have more freedom over how you work, and where you work, and when you work, which is fantastic. I mean a lot of mornings I work out of a café instead of going to our office, which is you know, which I like doing. [18:14]

David Zinger: I guess one final thought. You know sometimes I think we equate happiness with everybody wearing clown noses, and jumping up in joy, and you know wild on airlines or whatever. Any thoughts about, for lack of a better term, and this is my term – quiet happiness – you know that happiness that just kind of resonates inside, and yes it can be shared, but sometimes just that happiness we feel as we’re working, and no one else may almost notice it, any thoughts about that? [18:41]

Alexander Kjerulf: I think yes, and we’ve got to remember that happiness looks different on different people, right, I mean some people when they’re happy you can instantly tell, and they’ll be jumping, and shouting, and singing, and laughing, and that’s fantastic, and other people, you know, when they’re really happy, and engaged, and fulfilled they’ll just be sitting quietly at their desk doing their work feeling fantastic, and this is exactly the way it should be, and you can not equate happiness at work with sort of all of that, you know, let’s say the wild stuff that you mentioned; the clown noses, and the partying, and the dancing, and so on. That’s only one element and some people will derive a lot of happiness from that, whereas other people will derive most of their happiness from just sitting at their desk doing their jobs knowing that they do it really, really well, and we’ve got to remember… I think this is the main point here: everybody’s different, everybody’s different, and if you try to treat everybody the same we’ll make a lot of people unhappy. [19:37]

David Zinger: Yeah, and so one of the last screenshots I have here is your Woohoo site, and I was watching your TEDx Talk, and actually showing you at work; I got a screenshot of you at work and you’re happy as you’re presenting it and you’re even showing some pictures of people coming to the conference who may not be quite so happy with that, and so people… [20:00]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah, I just want to correct you here that it’s not woohoo, it’s WOOHOO! [20:02]

David Zinger: Oh, I don’t give enough emphasis. It’s all in the emphasis, right? [20:06]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yeah, exactly. [20:08]

David Zinger: WOOHOO! Did I get it? [20:09]

Alexander Kjerulf: There you go. [20:11]

David Zinger: Got to get that voice lifted up, and you got the audience engaged, so if anybody’s unfamiliar with Alex, I highly recommend going to and looking at the blog, and coming to this site and watching the video or if you type his name into YouTube, there’s a number of videos of you presenting or whatever, and probably a much richer experience would be to get Alex or one of the members of his team to come out and spend some time with you. [20:38]

Alexander Kjerulf: I think that’s a fantastic idea. [20:40]

David Zinger: Just as we’re closing, any last thought, say if someone’s listening to this early in the morning of something they should consider, or think about, or do to increase their happiness for the day? [20:52]

Alexander Kjerulf: Yes, absolutely, and I think well, we keep coming back to this one tip, and it’s probably one of the most basic findings of positive psychology, which we use as the foundation of all of our work, is that the best way to become happy yourself is to make somebody else happy. There’s quite consistent finding in these studies is that whenever you do something for yourself, that makes you a little happier, but when you do something for somebody else, it makes you a lot happier. So, my challenge to people listening to this is what could you do today to make somebody else happy at work; a co-worker, a client, a vendor, your boss, an employee, some completely random person at work. Could you do something to make somebody else happy at work, you know, praise people, do a random act of workplace kindness, whatever, but could you do one thing today to make somebody else happy at work, and I can promise you it’ll come right back to you. [21:48]

David Zinger: Oh, well said, and really some people started to say that stress is a Staph infection, and certainly laughter can be contagious, and humor certainly is a pathway out of it. [22:00]

Alexander Kjerulf: Absolutely. [22:02]

David Zinger: Well, thank you very much for taking time with us and joining us today; it’s really been a privilege… [22:07] END

David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert. He developed the Pyramid of Employee Engagement and David is the founder and host of the 4800 member Employee Engagement Network.

Employee Engagement and Anthropology: A Dialogue with Jasmine Gartner

An Engaging Dialogue on Anthropology and Employee Engagement

It was my pleasure to share a dialogue with Jasmine Gartner on employee engagement. Here are a few of the snippets that stand out in my mind:

dozens of drivers, which can be really confusing because if every employer has to start thinking about dozens of drivers they’ll never get their work done, let alone engage people. So, I think what anthropology does is say all right, OK, well what are the core values, what are the things that unite this culture?

You have to have a really good structure in place to uphold a big company

We’re sort of like the mediator, or you know I’ll come in and look at the different kinds of cultures and try and figure out first of all, why people aren’t getting along, you know, and then be able to point that out and help them see it from a different side.

Objectively, what could we say that will apply in every situation, and one of the things we said was culture. So, in other words, if what you say are your values, in other words in your mission statement or your vision statement, and what you do are consistent, then people will plug in to it.

What you’re looking for, again, is patterns of behavior that you can systematize, so even though engagement might look slightly different in every workplace – it will look different in many workplaces, there are some patterns that are the same everywhere.

My apologies for the low volume on Jasmine’s voice. I encourage you to read the transcript as you listen.

If the video does not open in this window, click here.

Employee Engagement Conversation Jasmine Gartner from David Zinger on Vimeo.

David Zinger: Hello, this is David Zinger, and we’re about to embark on a brief dialogue on engagement with Jasmine Gartner who’s a cultural anthropologist, or corporate anthropologist I should say. We’re going to spend about 15 minutes looking at her background. I became fascinated about her work as I came across a blog post she wrote on the topic. Jasmine, welcome to the dialogue. [00:32]

Jasmine Gartner: Thank you, hi. [00:33]

David Zinger: Could you tell us a little bit about your background, and anthropology and engagement, how do those two things fit together? [00:42]

Jasmine Gartner: OK, good question. My background is like you said, it’s in cultural anthropology. The way it started to come about was that I was in academia for a long time, but I was really interested in getting out there and actually taking ideas and making them practical, and so a lot of the ideas that I looked at in anthropology I then used when I started teaching at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where I taught cross-cultural studies for international business majors, and that meant that you really had to make ideas practical, because these were people in business who are going out there and trying to do well in the world and you couldn’t let them down. So, that was sort of where the seed started, and then through teaching as well I was always really interested in getting my students onboard, having them engage with the material, and really be interested in it, and that’s sort of where it stemmed from, because then in the workplace I know it was the same thing; it was really a question of how do you get people to fully engage with the work, with the people around them, and so on? So, that’s kind of where it came from. [01:52]

David Zinger: OK, so that’s the million dollar question or billion dollar question depending on who you talk to – how to get people engaged. Just, you know, before we launch on employees and corporations, what engages you most in your work? [02:07]

Jasmine Gartner: Two things; I would say it’s the subject matter, you know, absolutely if there’s really good meaty ideas and a lot to work through, that will engage me, but I’d say more importantly than that it’s people. You know at this point in my life all the people that I work with, because I have various partners, the relationships are the most important thing, it really is. I think it comes back to, I think it was Marcus Buckingham in First Break All the Rules stated people don’t leave their workplaces, they leave their bosses or the managers, and I would say that’s absolutely true with me; if I’m not working with somebody where not only do we get along, but we can make the work go further than either of us could by ourselves, then that’s what will make me stay. [02:53]

David Zinger: So, then the relationship, and as we’ll get to it in a few minutes, the culture; kind of background of your study is really also what engages you in your own work? [03:04]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely, yeah, that’s definitely true; it’s got to have a good culture. [03:09]

David Zinger: And I came across your work with this first blog post, maybe I saw it off a Twitter or somewhere – Employee Engagement – What’s Anthropology Got to do With It? And you got my attention with the question because you know psychologist race into this field, HR races into this field, organizational theorist’s race into this field, and then all of the sudden anthropology. [03:33]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, because a lot of people, I think it’s true, will say oh, like I said in my post, do you pick up dinosaurs? You know, but that’s not really what we do; we study culture, and I think if you look at the definition of culture, you know, which I think is the shared and learned values that groups have that then define their roles and the rules that they have, and their behaviors, it makes perfect sense in the workplace that that’s exactly what you’re looking for is that culture, and that if you’ve got a consistent, cohesive culture, people will be able to plug-in to it. If it’s not consistent, if it’s not cohesive, if they can sense hypocrisy in it, then they won’t plug in to it and people will disengage. [04:14]

David Zinger: OK. There was a theorist Count Korzybski in 1933 once said the map is not the territory, and so there’s many maps we can bring over, organizations, and engagement, and what are the things that anthropology offers on a map to look at the workplace; what things start to show up and what kind of things do we see, Jasmine? [04:36]

Jasmine Gartner: I think what you start to see is systems of behavior so that you can… You know a lot of the times if you look at what people say employee engagement is they will throw out, you know, dozens of drivers, which can be really confusing because if every employer has to start thinking about dozens of drivers they’ll never get their work done, let alone engage people. So, I think what anthropology does is say all right, OK, well what are the core values, what are the things that unite this culture? You know, in other words if you were to go into a workplace and they say, you know, openness is really important to us, and then you walk around and the data you’re gathering is oh, there’s lots of closed doors, people are kind of huddling, and acting secretive, then you say OK, you know what, the culture that you’re saying you have is completely different to what the real culture is, because that’s what we’re picking up by reading behaviors, and we’re looking for a consistency. So, it’s not just one person who’s doing it, but how the whole group behaves is what we’re looking for. [05:37]

David Zinger: So, you’re looking at that, and then in the blog post you have a little discussion – when two cultures come together in a banking industry and one group has a pool table in the room and the other signs her emails with her full names…[05:53]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah. [05:53]

David Zinger: Can you just talk about that example, because it really stood out in my mind. [05:57]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, that’s a really interesting example. When I wrote my thesis for my PhD I looked at a sociologist called Ferdinand Tonnies who’s writing in the early 20th century, and he was looking at how groups change, and the smaller the group, or when you have a small group there’s completely different rules to when you have a big group; small groups are absolutely based on relationships, big groups are based on structure. You have to have a really good structure in place to uphold a big company, and so what happened there was you had this big American bank which had taken over this small British company, and the small British company was all about relationships, it really was, and in order to cement those relationships and keep them going there were things like a pool table, or you know, in their recreational room they had plants all over the place, they didn’t have cubicles, it was really easy for people to move around and engage each other. Whereas at the big American bank it was very much, you know, cubicles, and people didn’t talk to each other, and there was no entertainment, you know, you took your 20 minute lunch and that was it, or your lunch at your table, and so each group coming from their different cultures looked at the other one and judged them through their own lens. You know, so if you’re coming from a big bank which says if we don’t have this hierarchy in place then things won’t get done, then when you look at something that looks really ambiguous, you know, when are people doing their work if they’re playing pool, that sort of thing, then to them that just looks like chaos, and so they judge it and they think you’re not doing any work and you’re just, you know, playing around, and the small group as well; they looked at this big culture and thought when do you get a chance to talk to other people, and if you don’t know other people how do you know who you can rely on, how do you know who’s going to back you up? So, they just thought you’re too, you know, you’re arrogant, you’re informal, you’re not paying attention to what’s really happening, and so it was sort of when they were able to look at each other through a different lens that they had that aha moment where they said oh, actually what you’re doing makes perfect sense in your culture. [07:58]

David Zinger: So, that’s part of what you do with corporate anthropology; you’re not just looking at it and analyzing it, but you’re helping people make connections, or come together, engage, or create some understanding of how that culture may be different? [08:12]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely. We’re sort of like the mediator, or you know I’ll come in and look at the different kinds of cultures and try and figure out first of all, why people aren’t getting along, you know, and then be able to point that out and help them see it from a different side. But yeah, absolutely, it’s not just about analyzing it; it’s definitely about going and talking to people, again building the relationships and helping them build relationships. [08:36]

David Zinger: So, in the MacLeod Report, culture was really one of the drivers of engagement, and in this slide we have up on the screen right now we have cultural building blocks, and there’s three elements that come forward. First, if you’re looking at the slide, robust and clear. Can you just briefly talk about that? [08:55]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, so basically what happened with the MacLeod Report is that all the research that we did, you know, previous to that report coming out showed that, again, if you look at here in the UK; I’ll use that as an example because that’s what I’m familiar with. If you look at the Sunday Times it has a list, it’s the best companies to work for, it comes out once a year, and if you look at various things on the internet, articles and so on, like I said earlier, you’ll see all these drivers, you know, so that people will say oh, well you have to have time for your family, maybe it’s maternity leave, maybe it’s about parking, maybe it’s about, you know, just all of these things that are very individual. And what we thought instead was, you know, actually you have to take a step back and think it’s not all of those drivers – those are too individual, too subjective, too open to interpretation. Objectively, what could we say that will apply in every situation, and one of the things we said was culture. So, in other words, if what you say are your values, in other words in your mission statement or your vision statement, and what you do are consistent, then people will plug in to it. If they see a mismatch, like the example I gave before where you’re saying oh yeah, we’re absolutely open, or we put our people first, but your behaviors say something different, you’ll lose them. So, having a robust culture, in other words where there’s a 1:1 correlation between what you say and what you do has to be the first building block. [10:25]

David Zinger: One of the people, I know Mike Morrison, who used to be the dean of Toyota University, wrote a book called The Other Side of the Business Card, and one element of the book that’s always stuck with me is he said we need to rethink of our values as promises. You know, it seems to me like values are something you put on a wall, promises are something we keep, and it’s always stuck with me that unless we turn those values into promises, they’re just kind of statements on the wall. [10:49]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely. I think that’s a good way of putting it, definitely. [10:53]

David Zinger: So, the second building block, Jasmine? [10:56]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, so the second one is leadership, and what we thought there was OK, well what follows on from culture, you know, and in terms of leadership it can’t… Again, I think if you were to look around you could find hundreds of articles about what leadership is, and the truth is that it’s got to come out of your culture. So, again you have to build on what you have, and leadership has to come from that, and it has to be, again, consistent with your culture. So, even the example I gave before where you have a small group and a large group, leadership will be different in those two organizations because one is much more hierarchical, so you expect a lot more from leaders. The other one which is smaller, there’s not as much of a hierarchy; leadership becomes a much different kind of term. [11:44]

David Zinger: And as you were talking, I dropped in the final building block. Can you bring the package together? [11:52]

Jasmine Gartner: Yeah, so this is the how-to, if you will, you know it’s one thing to say there should be a 1:1 correlation between what you say and what you do. The million dollar question I think is well how do you do that, and it comes down to effective communication, in other words it’s got to be two-way, and if you want your employees to be onboard with what you’re doing, you also have to involve them in it, and so you have to ask them for, and I know this actually happens probably more here and in Canada than it does in places like the US to some degree, but where you really consult with your staff, you really bring them in on big decisions and little decisions, and listen to what they have to say. You might not necessarily end up taking it onboard, you know, if it doesn’t make sense with your strategy, but you absolutely want to have their voice in there, and so if the other side, you know, on one side you have leadership, and on the other side you’re going to have what the employees are saying, how they’re responding to that, and you have to pay attention to that as well to see if the promises that you’re making, if they’re perceived as being kept. [12:57]

David Zinger: So, engagement really is that connection. It kind of reminds me of a line from the field of positive deviancy that goes never do anything about me without me. [13:06]

Jasmine Gartner: Exactly, yeah, absolutely. I mean the other thing I would say as well is that I think there’s a perception sometimes that employee engagement is something that you do to your employees, you know, and in fact it should be something that you do with them. [13:20]

David Zinger: And with makes all the difference. [13:22]

Jasmine Gartner: It makes all the difference, it really does. [13:24]

David Zinger: So, we have a slightly different diagram of organizational culture. Anything you want to elaborate with this one? [13:32]

Jasmine Gartner: The reason I have this image is usually when we talk about culture in terms of anthropology, it’s unspoken, it’s below that waterline that you see there, and you know when you talk about culture like a national culture, we would say that it’s almost like language; you don’t remember learning your culture, it’s unspoken, it’s passive, and you almost do it without thinking. Whereas in an organization that is turned upside down and the values are on the top, and so it can be a quite precarious situation, because like I said, again if your values don’t match up with your behaviors and the rules that you put out there, people will see it straight away. [14:12]

David Zinger: Yeah. [14:13]

Jasmine Gartner: That’s why I (inaudible). [14:15]

David Zinger: And so anthropology plus engagement equals question mark. People seem to be into making equations out of things. So, if that’s the equation, what’s the answer? [14:28]

Jasmine Gartner: I’d say that it’s anthropology plus engagement is it brings a science to it; it’s going to become more systematic. So, maybe anthropology plus engagement leads to a, you know, a formula that everybody can follow that simplifies it. Maybe you’re looking for a one word answer, I’m not sure I can come up with one, but you’re looking to simplify engagement, or at least that’s what I’m trying to do is make it more accessible to people, as many people as possible. [14:54]

David Zinger: Simplify it, but also with data and a more scientific orientation as opposed to the biases and the things that we might be so prone to? [15:04]

Jasmine Gartner: Exactly. What you’re looking for, again, is patterns of behavior that you can systematize, so even though engagement might look slightly different in every workplace – it will look different in many workplaces, there are some patterns that are the same everywhere. [15:16]

David Zinger: So, I’m not sure we can do this but let’s give it a shot. So, you’re going to teach a manager to be an anthropologist in 30 seconds or so. If I walk into my organization and I had an anthropological viewpoint of what’s going on, what would I be looking for? [15:35]

Jasmine Gartner: I think what you would be looking for is behaviors, because you know you can’t see values. I think that’s what it comes down to; you really cannot see values, it’s there in people’s heads, they’re ideas, they’re, you know, and so you would be reading behaviors. I was just reading an article this morning about, it was a guy saying well, you know as a boss, as a manager you decide well I’m going go into a room and stay the day and go and make contact with people, I’m going to go and chat with them, and you all of the sudden walk through and realize people are laughing as you walk through, often they’re silent. So, it’s behaviors like that that you would want to be watching out for, and then reflects on your leadership, it reflects on the culture that you have there. If they’re still open with you, if they include you, I think that would be one thing that you would look for. So, you analyze behaviors to get at values, and that means in terms of your employees as well, you know, you want to know what they perceive the culture to be. [16:27]

David Zinger: OK, and where you make a difference in corporate anthropology is looking at not just analyzing, not just looking at it, but helping people get onboard and looking at the drivers of robust culture? [16:40]

Jasmine Gartner: Absolutely, I mean that’s the meat of what I do basically. I do a lot of training, I do a lot of work in teaching people how to communicate well, and a lot of that is about looking for those systems of behaviors, those patterns, and then trying to change your own behavior within that to communicate well or to help other people to do so. [17:02]

David Zinger: Well, Jasmine, it’s been just a very short period of time, but what a wonderful, quick snapshot on engagement, and offering us a different lens to look at the workplace. So, if anybody’s watching this, listening to this, I really do encourage them to go to your website and to look at your blog and the areas that you work in. What’s your current work right now; what are you focused on right now these days? [17:27]

Jasmine Gartner: Right now I do a lot of training around information and consultation, which I think you have in Canada as well don’t you? Where you basically go into the workplace and work with staff forums to build up a culture that’s open, that’s robust, where there’s open communication between staff and management about change. [17:47]

David Zinger: Yeah, that seems so vital and so important. I want to really thank you for joining us for the 15-20 minutes that we’ve been together. This is running in conjunction with the Employee Engagement Network, and the recording will be posted up on the network, it will probably be also at my site. Jasmine, you may decide to post the recording at your site, but a number of ways people can have access to the information, and to offer us another lens to look at this vital field of employee engagement and look at how we can make a difference by focusing on the culture. Thank you so much for joining us today. [18:23]

Jasmine Gartner: Thank you for having me. [18:25]

David Zinger: Oh, it’s just been wonderful. Thanks so much. 


Jasmine Gartner. To learn more about Jasmine’s work I encourage you to visit her site:

David Zinger is devoted to helping organizations and individuals fully engage in work to build and sustain successful and meaningful results and relationships. Request his speeches, workshop, or consulting today on the pyramid of employee engagement to engage all of your employees. Mr. Zinger founded and hosts the 4700+ member Employee Engagement Network. Contact David today at


Toppled: 21 Signs Employee Engagement is Broken

Questioning Engagement. A participant at a mining conference I presented at in South Africa asked what happens when the Pyramid of Engagement is broken. It was an excellent question that created a small epiphany for me about an inverted pyramid. Here is an upside down picture of the pyramid of engagement. It represents employee engagement falling away or draining out of an organization.  Following the inverted pyramid image is a list of 21 signs that employee engagement is broken for an organization or an invididual.

21 Signs. Here is a list of 21 signs that work is broken and disengagement rules the day:

  • There is a  lack of clarity of results or even a lack of results
  • Too many results are attempted without enough capacity
  • Results are clear but lack any meaning or significance for employees
  • Performance is reduced to a management system rather than the daily lifeblood of work
  • There is a failure to hold engaging conversations when performance fails to meet expectations
  • The connections between performance and results are weak or nonexistent
  • There are too many people and structural barriers to progress
  • Setbacks trump progress by a factor greater than 2 to 1
  • Collaboration tends to result in many setbacks and disengaging interactions
  • Relationships are sacrificed in the name of achieving results
  • Relationships are viewed as mushy unimportant stuff or depersonalized as human capital
  • Individuals and organizations suffer people-myopia, barely noticing each other, and failing to voice recognition for each other
  • Moments for engagement are frittered away as small and insignificant rather than small and significant opportunities for engagement
  • The state of flow is squeezed out by anxiety and boredom
  • Employees are unaware or fail to leverage the power of small, smart, and significant steps
  • Strengths are dismissed as a short assessment tool completed at a half day workshop that gives you your top 5 strengths
  • 80% of attention is focused on weakness, problems, gaps, failures, and inadequacies
  • There is no compelling why to work
  • The return to individuals for work contribution is reduced to an hourly rate or salary
  • The organization and individuals fail to create and find well being within work
  • Mental, emotional, and organizational energy is frittered away and work is experienced as an energy drain not an energy gain.

Flip. Let’s turn the pyramid of employee engagement around to it original position so that we can: achieve results, maximize performance, path progress, build relationships, foster recognition, master moments, leverage strengths, make meaning, enhance well being, and enliven energy.

David Zinger is devoted to helping organizations and individuals fully engage in work to build and sustain successful and meaningful results and relationships. Request his speeches, workshop, or consulting today on the pyramid of employee engagement to engage all of your employees. Mr. Zinger founded and hosts the 4700+ member Employee Engagement Network. Contact David today at


Leaves: A Story of Employee Disengagement

This recording was prepared for Ken Blanchard’s 5000 person live webcast, Quit and Stay. In under 3 minutes, I outline an experience with an individual in a manufacturing facility who was disengaged at work and ended up disengaged in retirement!

If the video does not open in this window, click here.

David Zinger is devoted to helping organizations and individuals fully engage in work to build and sustain successful and meaningful results and relationships. Request his speeches, workshop, or consulting today on the pyramid of employee engagement to engage all of your employees. Mr. Zinger founded and hosts the 4700+ member Employee Engagement Network. Contact David today at

Boosting Employee Engagement: 9 Lessons from the Winnipeg Jets

9 lessons from the Winnipeg Jets for Employee Engagement

Are you game? Last week I attended my first Winnipeg Jets hockey game. It is a challenge to get tickets as the 15,000 seats are always sold and the season tickets sold out in a couple of minutes for the first 3 or 4 years. Thanks to my neighbour Andy, who knew someone, my wife and I finally got to a game with the Winnipeg Jets playing the Boston Bruins. We (notice the sense of identification) beat the Bruins, the Stanley Cup champions, 4 to 2. But the real story for this employee engagement site is the lessons we can learn from the Jets for employee engagement. To have a positive impact on engagement you don’t need to read another business or leadership book, you may just need to look at thing right in front of you and look for the lessons that apply to employee engagement. Engagement is the strength of connection to work, results, the organizations, and each other.

Lesson 1: An engaging story. Winnipeg lost their NHL franchise to Phoenix about 15 years ago. This season we got an NHL team back in Winnipeg. This has become an engaging and classic story of pride, loss, challenge, and victory through return of the team to Winnipeg. This is not quite the Odyssey but it certainly has elements of a very powerful story that fully engages the city of Winnipeg. Even my massage therapist wears a Jets jersey on game day because her young son will not let her leave the house without putting it on. Our logo, of the fighter jet, hints of the battle to win a team back. The feverish passion of Jets fans may be just as much about the narrative story as the players on the ice. What story does your organization tell that engages employees? Are your employees part of the story?

Lesson 2: An engaged brand. The Winnipeg Jets have a wonderful logo and a strong brand. In today’s age though your brand is less what you say it is and more what your customers and employees say it is. The company responsible for bringing the Jets to Winnipeg is True North Sports & Entertainment Ltd. It must thrill their ears before every game during the singing of O Canada to hear 15,000 fans shout out the words TRUE NORTH embedded in the lyrics of O Canada. What would it take for your employees and customers to” shout out” your brand?

Lesson 3: Results. There is general excitement about the team but don’t ever kid yourself, results matter. Results matter for hockey teams and organizations. It made a difference that the final score was 4 to 2 for us (see the identification again, as I wasn’t actually on the ice, I was sitting in the stands). Results must be something not only important to CEO’s and shareholders, results must matter to everyone. Do your employees live or die with your results?

Lesson 4: Performance. Results matter as  does performance. You can’t always control the results but you can give your best to your performance. Fans got very excited by some key performances especially a save by Pavelec, the goalie, in the third period. A strong performance engages not only the performer but people around the performer. Are your employees seeing excellent performance and are those exceptional performances fully recognized? Do employees feed off of the strong performance of others?

Lesson 5: Progress and Set backs. Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer in The Progress Principle wrote about how important progress is for engagement and that setbacks are very detrimental to engagement. Set backs are two times as powerful as progress so it is vital to prevent and guard against set backs. The Jets are built around solid goalies and strong defense. Is your organization designed to maintain engagement by being built to prevent setbacks that would diminish both progress and engagement?

Lesson 6: Ask and Trigger. The scoreboard at times would ask fans to make noise, as fans would start being loud the scoreboard would then flash:  “LOUDER.” We sometimes overlook the simple approach of asking for what we want. Winnipeg is already one of the loudest places in the NHL. Are you asking and letting employees know that you want more engagement? If you have a very engaged group do you ensure triggers are in place to sustain that engagement?

Lesson 7: Keeping score. The scoreboard, at all sporting events, is a key element of the game. We knew how many shots each team had taken. We knew how much time was left in the game or in penalties. We knew the score. This is a fine example of a key principle of games. 2011 was a strong year for looking at the gamification of work. Do your employees have a scoreboard or dashboard where they can keep score? Are you utilizing the principles of gamification to enhance engagement?

Lesson 8: Offer feedback. Aligned with keeping score is the process of feedback. One area that has experienced a tremendous boost because of feedback is the 50/50 draw. When the Jets were here 15 years ago the 50/50 was often not that large by today’s standards. Technology now makes it possible to watch the pot grow every second and this has provided a huge increase in sales because of the power of feedback to trigger behavior. Are your employees getting frequent and timely  feedback to encourage more engagement?

Lesson 9: The wave. Yes we can be prompted to make noise or buy 50/50 tickets but it is still powerful to see fans work out their own game within a game. The wave has been circling around stadiums for years but it is intriguing to watch as people work at getting others out of their seats, with their hands waved in the air, while creating a sense of movement around the arena. There were a number of failed attempts yet persistence on the part of the initiators eventually got the wave circling around the arena. Do you set up the conditions so the community in your workplace can start and create their own waves of engagement? Are the social media tools in place so people can connect with each others?

Conclusion. This was nine lessons from the Winnipeg Jets. Next time you are reading a book or at an event pay close attention and look for lessons that can enhance your engagement and work. Of course, be careful of flying pucks. Go Jets Go

David Zinger is an employee engagement expert and a fan of the Winnipeg Jets. He founded and hosts the 4600 member global Employee Engagement Network. If you would like to learn more about engagement visit his website or contact him at




Employee Engagement: 5 Prescriptions for Well Being

9. Working Well

(Part 10 of an 11 part series on how managers can improve employee engagement)

Enhance Well-being. We need to create wellbeing inside of work. There are things we can do outside of work but how we promote and enhance well-being within work is becoming increasingly important as mobile devices makes work portable and 24/7. We must eliminate toxic workplaces poisoned with a lack of respect or mutuality. We must create a profound wellbeing where people leave work enlivened and enriched rather than depleted and deadened.

Here are 5  prescriptions for well being at work

  1. Enliven the five elements of well being.
  2. Establish PERMAnent well being.
  3. Mind your work
  4. Establish and maintain psychological and social safety
  5. Be a well being heretic

Enliven the five elements of well being. Rath and Harder in Well Being state that well being is a combination of  “our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities. Most importanty, it’s about how these five elements interact” (p. 4).  About 66% of us are doing well with at least one of these elements but only 7% of us are thriving in all five areas. This leaves much room to improve well being at work by working on our career  well being, social well being, financial well being, physical well being, and community well being. By the way, I don’t think we try for the infamous work/life balance with these elements, rather we try and have healthy flow that benefits us and others.

Establish PERMAnent Well Being. Martin Seligman approaches well-being with the caution of a scientist and the optimism of someone who developed the approach of learned optimism. In Flourish, Seligman went beyond happiness work to examine flourishing and offering practical suggestions on instilling well being. His perspective of well being also has a foundation of 5 elements, different than Gallup, and structured around the mnemonic PERMA. PERMA stands for: positive emotions, engagement, relationship, meaning, and achievement. Positive emotions and the pleasant life contribute to our well being and happiness. Engagement creates well being with powerful connections to work, belonging and serving.  Relationships, one of the 10 blocks of the pyramid of engagement, in study after study is found to be one of the most salient contributors to well being.  Meaning, the most recent block we examined in this series on the pyramid of engagement is vital for health.  Achievement has been a more recent insertion in Seligman’s approach to authentic happiness and well being. Seligman examined his own love of playing bridge and realized how much achievement plays a role in well being. Achievement fits well with the top three blocks of the employee engagement pyramid: results, performance, and progress.

Mind your work. Mindfulness can be a powerful yet subtle pathway to well being. Jon Kabat-Zinn defined mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentaly.” How well do you show up to the moment? We may reduce high levels of stress attached to the past and the future by being where we are. As Stephan Rechtschaffen declared in Time Shifting, “there is no stress in the present moment.”

Mindful leadership.  A recent Harvard Business review blog post by Holly Labarre quoted Pamela Weiss: “If you want to transform an organization it’s not about changing systems and processes so much as it’s about changing the hearts and minds of people. Mindfulness is one of the all-time most brilliant approaches for helping to alleviate human suffering and for bringing out our extraordinary potential as human beings.” Mindfulness seems so subtle, almost anemic for well being, but for a world that has gone crazy busy it can keep us well, centered, aware, connected, and present. We often seem to be searching for dramatic data-driven tools when this subtle and powerful tool is always available to us, embedded in us, and always only a moment away.

Watch the talk. I encourage you to mindfully watch this Google talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn:

If the video does not open in this window, click here.

Establish and maintain psychological and social safety. We have focused and improved our work on physical safety at work. We need to keep all employees safe. In addition we need to ensure that our work and workplaces are infused with psychological and social safety. Safety is created through mutual purpose and mutual respect. It means we care about each other and we care about what each other is interested in. This must be genuine and is more than a fuzzy warm feeling. People read a lack of safety in seconds and this thwarts are ability to achieve results, build relationships and be well at work. A lack of safety saps away well being at work and creates ineffective conflicts and confrontations. We seem to have a bigger safety issue than engagement issue at work. It feels unsafe for most workers to be honest, direct, and respectful about engagement. An unintended consequence of the infamous anonymous survey in engagement is that we are telling employees we don’t want to know who they are, thereby making employees invisible. Robust engagement needs a name and a face. Management also justifies anonymous surveys because they don’t believe workers will be honest unless they are anonymous. We need to stop thinking of disengagement as a punishable offence and instead use it as a trigger for meaningful listening and talking about work.

Be a well being heretic.  I believe we have too much fluff and far too many mistaken notions about specific wellness approaches at work. I have believed this for 30 years but just recently has it coalesced together into the  Heretic’s Manifesto of Well Being. I do not write about this frivolously having been an employee assistance counselor for almost 20  years and a university educator in educational and counseling psychology for 25 years.

A wellbeing epiphany and dodging a bullet. Late last year, I was teaching a short course for blue collar workers on overcoming stress and engaged well being. They were a skeptical group who did not want to be there and approached the topic with a high degree of defensiveness and disdain. This was no time for fluffy soft skills yet I wanted to fully contribute to their well being and knew they could benefit from a focus on well being that was real, robust and respectful. I deviated from my plan, connected with the group and realized their rapt attention and interest was bringing out my personal weave of wellness in a way that even I had never fully heard before. When the session was over one of the guys came up at the end. He told me he hated motivational speakers and that he got nothing from them. Before the workshop he borrowed some change from a friend for Tim Horton’s coffee and his friend had a small caliber bullet in his pocket (gives you an idea of the audience).  He picked up the change from his friend plus the bullet saying he may need it as he had to listen to some speaker (me). After everyone else had left at the end of the session, he handed me the bullet, the most creative expression of gratitude I have every received as a speaker, voiced a big thank you, and really did make my day! And this was in…Beasejour, Manitoba! The impromptu and honest rant with the group during that session resulted in the articulation of the following 33 point well being manifesto:

A Heretic’s Manifesto and Guide to Better Well Being at Work:

    1. We must find wellbeing inside of work and not wait until we are outside of work at the end of our day or in retirement.
    2. Hope is a misguided future perspective taking us away from where we can really make a difference, right here – right now.
    3. There is no stress in the present moment so strive to be where you are.
    4. Self-esteem is an evaluative trap that snares you like cheese snares a mouse with the snap of the trap. Accept yourself don’t evaluate yourself.
    5. Life comes before work and work/life balance and any balance is dynamic like a teeter totter.
    6. Well being is only a concept until we engage in well doing.
    7. Ignorance is more important than knowledge in fostering and enhancing well being. We being by not knowing.
    8. People don’t actually hear most interpersonal feedback unless they feel safe and safety is the only way to overcome most of our problems.
    9. Genuine caring trumps professional competence in almost every relationship.
    10. Achieving  happiness is a shallow and insignificant approach to living.
    11. Structure trumps willpower in promoting and fostering well being.
    12. Powerful questions we ask ourself are the ideal WD40 for a brain clogged by an amygdala seizure.
    13. Wellbeing is strong stuff. We must know, live and leverage our strengths in the service of others.
    14. It take energy directed towards well being to get energy and when you are depleted this is a real hindrance to experiencing well being
    15. Relaxation is the anemic aspirin of stress management and can actually cause stress.
    16. What lessens your stress today could be a major contributor of stress tomorrow.
    17. There are no algorithmic certainties of well being only heuristic probabilities of success.
    18. In life and work you are going to fart, fumble, and fall. You are human. It is not about avoiding falling down it is about how you pick yourself back up again. Everyone is screwed up: I am not okay, you are not okay and that is okay.
    19. Placebos are examples of caring made tangible.
    20. Employee wellbeing is not a soft skill just as accounting is not a hard skill.  Wellbeing embraces fluid skills when the fixed parts of our life are in need of repair.
    21. Reality is overrated, living through positive illusion, not delusion,  is powerful and practical.
    22. Wellbeing is more than a personal endeavor it  is a social phenomenon.
    23. Only you are responsible for your own well being but others are accountable for your well being just as you are accountable for their well being.
    24. No one can upset you after 90 seconds.
    25. Compliance is the anemic byproduct of power.
    26. We do not resist change we resist coercion and the gravity of the familiar is what holds us in place.
    27. If life throws you a lemon — duck, determine where it came from, think about what you can do about it and only then contemplate making lemonade.
    28. Positive thinking must be changed into a more authentic constructive thinking. Lots of  bad things do happen and positive thinking may be a disrespectful glossing offer the richness, albeit ruggedness, of human experience.
    29. Bad is at least twice as salient as good in most situations so we must tip the scales of good for good.
    30. Most of what we know really isn’t so.
    31. Wellness tips like this without personal evaluation and experimentation can create a  misguided tyranny of tips leading towards more stress. The Buddha said, “we must be a lamp unto ourselves.”
    32. Contradiction is only troublesome if you are locked into rigid thinking and a fixed mindset.
    33. Take a long shot, Charlie Chaplin once said, “life is a tragedy in close up and a comedy in long shot.” How long does it take you to get a long shot on things?

Read these 5 sources to be well on your way:

    • Tom Rath and Jim Harter, Well Being: The Five Essential Elements.
    • Martin E. P. Seligman, Flourish: A visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being.
    • Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go There You Are
    • Stephan Rechtschaffen,  Time Shifting: Creating More time to Enjoy Your Life
    • Polly Labarre, Developing Mindful Leaders, Harvard Business Review Blog, December 2011.

Next post in this series: How to enliven energy for employee engagement.

David Zinger built the 10 block pyramid of employee engagement to help managers bring the full power of employee engagement to their workplaces. If you would like to arrange to have this course or workshop for your organization or conference contact David today at 204 254 2130 or

8 Powerful Approaches to Create Meaningful Employee Engagement

7. Make meaning – why work?

(Part 8 of an 11 part series on how managers can improve employee engagement)

Finding direction through meaning

Meaning. For work to sustain and enrich people it must be meaningful. Those who have a why to work can bear almost any how and a sense of meaningful work instills a strong and rich intrinsic motivation. Progress, when it is meaningful, can be one of the best events of our day.

Finding and Defining Meaning. Paul Fairlie recently published an article on meaningful work and engagement in Advances in Developing Human Resources. He listed the common dimensions of meaning: having a purpose or goal, living according to one’s values and goals, autonomy, control, challenge, achievement, competence, mastery, commitment, engagement, generativity or service to others, self-realization, growth and fulfillment. Fairlie conducted research on meaningful work with 574 respondents.  He offered six implications for human resource development practice including deeper discussion and social connections, changing mindsets, and management education on models of human meaning. He concluded that meaninful work was a unique predictor of engagement, “meaningful work characteristics are an overlooked sources of employee motivation and engagement within organizations.”

Here are 8 ways to create meaningful work:

  1. Trump how with why
  2. Build abundant leadership whys
  3. Stretch meaning, shrink money
  4. Get Pink with autonomy, mastery, purpose
  5. Master your Mojo
  6. Reframe your values as promises
  7. Lead on purpose
  8. Double your WAMI at work

Trump how with why. Viktor Frankl concluded that the meaning of life is found in every moment of living and that life never ceases to have meaning. To move this to the workplace, if you have a why to work you can bear almost any how. Not everyone is engaged in meaningful work, but maybe everyone can be.  Part of making this happen is helping organizations, leaders, managers, and employees learn how to co-create meaningful workplaces. Part of making this happen is helping workers to perceive and experience the greater purpose in their work. In the workplace, meaning is co-created between the organization and individual. It is not something we give to another person — meaning must be built through authentic conversations about the why of work.

Build  abundant leadership whys. David and Wendy Ulrich wrote They Why of Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations that Win. The authors frame the book around some down-to-earth and meaningful questions around identity, prupose, motivation, relationships, teams, work culture, contribution, growth, learning, resilience, civility and happiness. They encourage us to ask ourselves:

  • What am I known for?
  • Where am I going?
  • Whom do I travel with?
  • How do I build a positive work environment?
  • What challenges and interest me?
  • How do I respond to disposability and change?
  • What delights me?

The Why of Work is a practical book for leaders who are looking to instill meaning. As the authors  state in their preface: “Leaders are meaning makers: they set direction that others aspire to; they help others participate in doing good work and good works; they communicate ideas and invest in practices that shape how people think, act, and feel. As organizations become an increasing part of the individual’s sense of identity and purpose, leaders play an increasing role in helping people shape the meaning of their lives.”

Stretch meaning, shrink money. Money matters but so does meaning, completion, competition and motivation to instill caring at work. Dan Ariely offered an insightful 4 minute video on work and meaning at Big Think. He outlines how motivation and engagement are created through meaning. I encourage you to watch this video. Here is a short snippet from the transcript:

Sure, we care about money and it’s nice to get paid, but there’s also a whole range of other things that we get–a need for achievement and completion, competition with other people, and a sense of progress and a sense of meaning.  And all of those things really, really matter.  But as we move to a knowledge economy that depends more on people’s good intention and willing, and as the nature of work becomes more amorphic and work kind of interweaves with life in all kinds of interesting ways, as we move more and more to that kind of workplace, I think the relative importance of money is getting smaller and the relative importance of those other things could get… could get much larger…The first lesson is that we need to recognize how important meaning, completion, competition, motivations are in getting people to care and to work hard, and we need to try to encourage those…we need to do things that don’t undercut those human motivations.

Get Pink with autonomy, mastery and purpose. Daniel Pink wrote the popular book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.  Meaning and motivation according to the research Pink gathered is created through autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Pink stated that purpose maximization is taking its place alongside profit maximization as an aspiration and a guiding principle.  We need to use profit to reach purpose, lessen the emphasis on self-interest, and help people pursue purpose on their own terms. Pink believe this may not only rejuvenate our businesses and organizations but also remake our world.

Master your Mojo. Marshall Goldsmith offers MOJO to find meaning. Mojo means working with 3 elements:

  1. Identity (Who do you think you are?)
  2. Achievement (What have you done lately?)
  3. Reputation (Who do other people think you are? What do other people think you’ve done lately?) .
The back and forth of mojo. We find professional mojo by what we bring to an activity. This includes motivation, knowledge, ability, confidence, and authenticity. Our personal mojo is developed by what the activity brings to us. This includes happiness, reward, meaning, learning, and gratitude. Watch and listen as Marshall takes 3 minutes to help us get our mojo working:

If the video does not open in this window, click here.

Reframe your values as promises. I appreciated Mike Morrison’s slim book on The Other Side of the Card: Where Your Authentic Leadership Begins. Mike was the Dean of the University of Toyota. He stated that one side of our business card has writing and the other has meaning. The meaning is created on the blank side of the card. The book offers a number of short exercises to fill the white space of our work with meaning. One element of the book that really stood out for me was to reframe values as promises. Values are often nice sounding statements that frozen in a framed wall statement while promises are something we keep. Ensure that your values don’t stagnate on the wall, think of them as promises, and then do all you can to keep the promises you make.

Lead on purpose.  Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer have done some great research and writing demonstrating how important minimizing setbacks and maximizing progress is for engaged work. In the January 2012 McKinsey Quarterly they outline how leaders kill meaning at work. This occurs by “dismissing the importance of subordinates’ work or ideas, destroying a sense of ownership by switching people off projects teams before work is finalized, shifting goals so frequently that people despair that their work will ever see the light of day, and neglecting to keep subordinates up to date on changing priorities for customers. The article includes a plea for executives to instill meaning in other and find meaning for themselves at the same time:

 you are in a better position than anyone to identify and articulate the higher purpose of what people do within your organization. Make that purpose real, support its achievement through consistent everyday actions, and you will create the meaning that motivates people toward greatness. Along the way, you may find greater meaining your own work as a leader.

Double your WAMI at  work. Michael F. Stager encourage us to fine our WAMI through a work and meaning inventory. People work for many reasons – some are obvious (I am paid to work), some are not as obvious (work is where my friends are). Research evidence and case studies testify to the reality that understanding how people approach work and what they get from it is vital to learning how to achieve the best possible outcomes for individuals and organizations. Meaningful work is a good predictor of desirable work attitudes like job satisfaction. In addition, meaningful work is a better predictor of absenteeism from work than job satisfaction.  The Work and Meaning Inventory (WAMI) assesses three core components of meaningful work: the degree to which people find their work to have significance and purpose, the contribution work makes to finding broader meaning in life, and the desire and means for one’s work to make a positive contribution to the greater good. To download the 10-item WAMI assessment and scoring key click here.

Five meaningful considerations.

  1. Create meaning rather than searching for it. Making meaning is a creative and co-creative process.
  2. Work with meaning while achieving meaningful results.
  3. Actively engage with some of the sources listed here to enhance your own meaning and help others create their meaning.
  4. Have wide eyes about your work so that you can see and experience the greater purpsse in what you do.
  5. Remind yourself that meaning is a process not an event. You don’t simply find meaning one day, you engage in meaningful work every day.

Read these 7 meaningful sources:

    • Paul Fairlie, Meaningful work, employee engagement, and other key employee outcomesImplication for Human Resource Development. Advances in Developing Human Resouces. December 2011.
    • Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.
    • Dave Ullrich and Wendy Ulrich, The Why of Work: how Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win
    • Dan Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
    • Marshall Goldsmith, MOJO: How to get it, how to keep it, how to get it back if you lose it.
    • Mike Morrison, The Other side of the Card: Where Your Authentic leadership Begins.
    • Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, How leaders kill meaning at work. McKinsey Quarterly, January 2012.

Next post in this series: Experience Well Being.

David Zinger built the 10 block pyramid of employee engagement to help managers bring the full power of employee engagement to their workplaces. If you would like to arrange to have this course or workshop for your organization or conference contact David today at 204 254 2130 or

How to Leverage 5 Pathways for Strengths Based Employee Engagement

6. Leverage Strengths – An outline of why employee engagement needs to be strong stuff.

(Part 6 of an 11 part series on how managers can improve employee engagement)

Let’s get strong in 2012.

Engagement is strong stuff. When you know your strengths, live your strengths, and leverage your strengths in the service of others you will have increased engagement, happiness, and well being. To bring out the strengths of others we must be aware of our own strengths. Powerful managers “spot” employees’ strengths and make strength training and strengthening routines a daily endeavor.

Strength Based Leadership. I have been a student of strength based leadership for 7 years. If you go back and read blog posts on this site from 5 years ago you will see most of them had a strength based leadership focus. In fact, this specific blog was started November 11 2005, the day Peter Drucker died.  I dedicated the website to his legacy and encouragement of a strength based approach to work. I have taken inventories of my strengths, taught strength based approaches, encouraged thousands of employees to learn more about their strengths and believe that strengths are a foundation cornerstone in the pyramid of employee engagement. Overtime I realized that strength based approaches for work were best subsumed under the broader perspective of employee engagement.

5 pathways to strengthen your engagement and work:

  1. Don’t be a sucker, heed the advice of Peter Drucker.
  2. Follow Martin Seligman’s strong path towards happiness and well being.
  3. Gallup along with your strengths, your winning combination is 40-22-1.
  4. Set aside your trombone and find your strengths by looking at what engages you (Marcus Buckingham).
  5. See your best reflections as others offer you your reflected best self.

Don’t be a sucker, heed the advice of Peter Drucker.  Peter Drucker was a prolific management writer who focused intently on strengths at work  in his final years. In 1999 in an article in managing our own career Drucker said we have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution to our organizations and communities. And we have to stay mentally alert and engaged during a 50-year working life, which means knowing how and when to change the work we do. It may seem obvious that people achieve results by doing what they are good at and by working in ways that fit their abilities but Drucker believed very few people actually know–let alone take advantage of–their fundamental strengths. He challenged each of us to ask ourselves and hold conversations with  others at work about:

  • What are my strengths?
  • How do I perform?
  • What are my values?
  • Where do I belong?
  • What should my contribution be?

Accept yourself. Don’t try to change yourself, Drucker cautions. Instead, concentrate on improving the skills you have and accepting assignments that are tailored to your individual way of working. If you do that, you can transform yourself from an ordinary worker into an outstanding performer. Today’s successful careers are not planned out in advance. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they have asked themselves the above questions and rigorously assessed their unique characteristics.

Follow Martin Seligman’s strong path towards happiness and well being.  If Drucker is the dean of management then Seligman is the dean of psychology and leader of positive psychology. Seligman is a cautious academic, former head of the American Psychological Association, and a true difference maker. He was instrumental in turning psychology toward a balance of the positive and the negative. Starting with Learned Optimism and then moving to Authentic Happiness Seligman created a constructive and positive foundation for psychology. In regards to strengths the single greatest resource Seligman was involved in creating was the is the VIA Strength Survey of Character Strengths – measuring 24 character strengths. Of all the strength assessment inventories available I recommend this one the most. It has a universal perspective, it can be applied both inside and outside of work, and best of all it is free. Research has gone on to demonstrate that is you know your top 5 strengths, use them on a daily basis, and leverage them in the service of others you will have a much higher level of happiness and well being.

My top 5 VIA strengths going back to November 2004 were: humor, creativity, curiosity, love of learning, and perspective.

Gallup along with your strengths, your winning combination is 40-22-1. As an organization Gallup has been at the forefront of helping individuals and organizations bring strengths to work. The third question in their famous Q12 survey of employee engagement is: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. Marcus Buckingham and now Tom Rath have created powerful and popular books and resources for strength based work. Their primary strength-based assessment is StrengthsFinder 2.0. You can take the online assessment after purchasing one of their books related to strengths at work and entering the code at the StrenghsFinder website. Gallup does an impressive job of creating helpful information and resources to learn more about your strength and how to put them to work. They offer a number or resources in addition to StrengthsFinder 2.0 to get the most from your strengths.

My top 5 StrengthsFinder 2.0 strengths are: maximizer, strategic, positivity, ideation, and empathy.

Set aside your trombone and find your strengths by looking at what engages (Marcus Buckingham). Marcus Buckingham worked with Gallup and is now a very popular independent strength based speaker, writer, and coach. He has just developed yet another strength assessment tool for work in StandOut – designed to help you find your edge and win at workHis assessment is okay but I believe his best contribution was in the book Go Put Your Strengths to Work and the video, Trombone Player Wanted. I especially appreciated how, at that time, Buckingham encouraged us to find out strengths not in an assessments or inventories but by paying very close attention to what we looked forward to doing each day at work, what fully engaged us at work while we were there, and what gave us our greatest sense of satisfaction.  In other words, we looked at what engaged us to determine our strengths and then we maximized these activities and roles to enhance our engagement. There was no need for an inventory or test. I think his delightful video series on Trombone Player Wanted was a great way to help a team build strengths by watching the videos together, having conversations about the applications and implications of what he said, and holding each other mutually accountable for bringing their best to work each day.

Here is a sample video  from that series:

If the video does not load in this window, click here.

See your best reflections as others offer your reflected best self.  The University of Michigan’s Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship developed the Reflected Best Self Exercise to use stories collected from people in all contexts of our  life to help us understand and articulate who we are and how we contribute when we are at our best. These stories collected from people who know us can strengthen and connect us to others, help us experience clarity about who we are at our best, and refine personal development goals so that we can be at our best more often. I think the strength of this approach is the social element and as opposed to the anonymous feedback of a 360 evaluation it offers triggers for further discussion and elaboration from the people who let us know what we were like when we were at our best.  Many of us have blind spots or lacunas about our strengths and the reflected best self exercise can fill in the holes.

Seven strong suggestions:

  1. Ensure you go beyond taking a test and saying you’ve “done that strength thing.”
  2. Don’t merely reduce strengths to a list of 5 attributes.
  3. Be mindful of what truly engages you and work backwards from engagement to strengths.
  4. Notice other people’s strengths and give them lots of strength based feedback.
  5. Develop a daily structure or reminders so that you don’t lose your strengths in the flurry of demands and activities.
  6. Be disciplined about your strengths and turn your strength based work into the foundation of your work.
  7. Gain additional strength perspective and insight by taking another  popular assessment for strengths at work: Strengthscope.

Consult these  5 sources to enhance your engagement and put you in the moment:

    • Peter Drucker, Managing Oneself.
    • Martin Seligman, Flourish: A Visionary new understanding of Happines and Well-being
    • Tom Rath, StrenghtsFinder 2.0
    • Marcus Buckingham, Go Put Your Strengths to Work 
    • Marcus Buckingham, Trombone Player Wanted (Video)

Next post in this series: Make meaning.

David Zinger built the 10 block pyramid of employee engagement to help managers bring the full power of employee engagement to their workplaces. If you would like to arrange to have this course or workshop for your organization or conference contact David today at 204 254 2130 or

Bonus Trombone Player Wanted Guide

Here is a free e-book I created for the Trombone player video series which includes a review of StrengthsFinder 2.0. Click here to read or download.



Take 30 Minutes to Tackle 21 Myths in Employee Engagement

Don’t myth out on Employee Engagement

30 minutes on employee engagement. When is the last time you spent 30 minutes thinking about employee engagement? What myths surround employee engagement and how do they influence your outlook and actions? David Zinger’s research highlights a series of myths that are associated with employee engagement. These are myths we work by that may not be working for us.

Transforming our myths. Joseph Campbell believed that if myths are to continue to fulfill their vital functions in our modern world, they must continually transform and evolve as older mythologies, untransformed, simply do not address the realities of contemporary life, particularly with regard to the changing cosmological and sociological realities of each new era. The question therefore needs to be asked: Are we operating from an old employee engagement mythology?

21 myths we work with. The 21 myths range from Employee engagement is a noun not a verb to Executive, leaders, and managers are not seen as employees.

Free E-book. This short study guide was written by David Zinger  and produced by Berghind Joseph. It is a practical and cogent employee engagement  resource. To download the PDF E-Book click on the cover above or click on this link: Zinger and Berghind Joseph Myths of Employee Engagement

Contact David Zinger today. Don’t myth out on employee engagement, contact David Zinger to get assistance with your employee engagement endeavors ( or 204 254-2130).

December Assorted Zingers New E-book Special $3.99.

Click on the image below or click here to learn more and place an order: