North American Leaders Get a D!

Accountability Productivity Well-being


Key Point: The formula for developing strong engagement at work is clear, but both as leaders and employees we suck at developing a highly engaging work environment. Why?

The Energy Project, a consulting company, partnered with the Harvard Business Review last fall to conduct a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a broad range of companies and industries. They also gave the survey to employees at two of The Energy Project’s clients — a manufacturing company with 6,000 employees, and a financial services company with 2,500 employees. The results were remarkably similar across all three populations.

Their conclusion: “Employees are vastly more satisfied and productive, it turns out, when four of their core needs are met: Physical, through opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work; emotional, by feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions; mental, when they have the opportunity to focus in an absorbed way on their most important tasks and define when and where they get their work done; and spiritual, by doing more of what they do best and enjoy most, and by feeling connected to a higher purpose at work.”

Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath elaborated on this in the recent New York Times article, Why You Hate Work, stating:

“Renewal: Employees who take a break every 90 minutes report a 30 percent higher level of focus than those who take no breaks or just one during the day. They also report a nearly 50 percent greater capacity to think creatively and a 46 percent higher level of health and well-being. The more hours people work beyond 40 — and the more continuously they work — the worse they feel, and the less engaged they become. By contrast, feeling encouraged by one’s supervisor to take breaks increases by nearly 100 percent people’s likelihood to stay with any given company, and also doubles their sense of health and well-being.

Value: Feeling cared for by one’s supervisor has a more significant impact on people’s sense of trust and safety than any other behavior by a leader. Employees who say they have more supportive supervisors are 1.3 times as likely to stay with the organization and are 67 percent more engaged.

Focus: Only 20 percent of respondents said they were able to focus on one task at a time at work, but those who could were 50 percent more engaged. Similarly, only one-third of respondents said they were able to effectively prioritize their tasks, but those who did were 1.6 times better able to focus on one thing at a time.

Purpose: Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations — the highest single impact of any variable in our survey. These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.”

In North America, an appallingly low 30 percent of employees feel engaged. Wow… This is not an overtly complex formula. So, what are you and I going to do about it?

Character Moves:

  1. Be intentional about recharging yourself at work. Take a break… Move around. If you have people reporting to you, reinforce the need to recharge. Model it. Take your breaks… And your vacations!!! Never bank them. Don’t be a martyr and try and outwork by hours put in. Results count way more than punching in over time. You will burn out if not intentional about recharging!
  2. If you’re a supervisor… For goodness sake, recognize your team individually and collectively all the time. If you’re boss doesn’t get it, set the example by sincerely recognizing others. Maybe the example will rub off. In the meantime you will benefit from being the GIVER. Just do it.
  3. Work to set and establish clearly defined results. You and I can only work on one thing at a time AND yet we can effectively have a number of initiatives underway in parallel. Focus is learning how to leverage your time in an effective way. As a boss you can help prioritize and focus your team. As an employee you can proactively seek out to clarify priorities and desired results. Make results measureable and don’t buy into the idea that you can’t.
  4. Find the higher purpose in what you’re doing. The cleaning people in the Mayo clinic operating theater don’t describe themselves as “janitors.” They describe themselves as people who save peoples lives by eliminating any pathogen from the operating environment. What’s your organizations purpose? How do you contribute?

Engaged in The Triangle,



You’re a Dunce… Go Stand in the Corner!

Empathy Kindness Respect


Key Point: I’ve emphasized in past blogs that you and I will remember most people by the way they “made” us feel versus what they’ve said or done. Of course, words and actions are important, and they are the medium for evoking a sense of what others feel. But, what I have NOT written much about is the LASTING impact of how people “make” us feel. When I use the phrase “make us,” I’m NOT talking about choice and self-accountability. In that sense people can’t really “make” decisions for us regarding what we feel or don’t feel. However, as much as we can rationalize and choose to think about situations in retrospect, the immediate “feeling” associated with the memory of an event is often ever lasting.

On Saturday, I drove my 93-year-old mother in law, Louise (and my 85-year-old mother Mary) back to my mother-in-law’s homestead and the country village she grew up in. These two women are so lovingly wonderful that both will be taking the car pool lane to the best of what afterlife has to offer. It was a beautiful June day, with the spring green painting every part of the prairie landscape. We stopped for lunch at an iconic small town burger joint. Hilariously to me, they both inhaled cheeseburgers, fries and milkshakes… And of course, the version of old time cafe coffee that in my opinion barely beats dishwater. (No $3 dollar coffee for these gals).


During lunch, my mother in law told us the story of being five years old and attending school for the very first day with her six-year-old sister. The country schoolteacher had a large class of kids from grades one through nine, and according to my mother-in-law, he combined the characteristics of the worst villains in a Disney movie. Like most prairie farm families in the early 1900’s, my in laws (and my mom’s family too) were very poor from a material perspective. So when Louise was presented with a box full of crayons for the first time, she joyfully began to color. In fact she was so happily engaged in creative play, she started to whistle. The teacher, upon hearing the whistling, became annoyed and demanded to know who the culprit was. Of course fingers pointed at little Louise. Incensed at this horrible deed, the teacher yelled at Louise and demanded she stand in the corner. As Louise sheepishly made her way to the place of shame, she sat in a chair that was permanently there for the incarcerated. “I told you to STAND in the corner,” the teacher yelled. As Louise left school that first day, the teacher told her older sister to tell her parents that Louise was too stupid to be in school. Louise never went back that year. Now here we were, almost 90 years later, and she was recounting the experience with the wisdom and grace of a matriarch. Yet the feelings that moment evoked, are permanently etched in her memories, and always part of the picture Louise colored that day.

You may recall an earlier blog, one of the most popular with my readers, where my father, when he was seven-years-old, gave up his mitts to a neighbor girl as they walked home from school in a freezing blizzard. That lasting memory led to that little girl, some 80 years after the incident, visiting my dad, who was dying in palliative care, so she could “thank Leo for giving up his mitts… He was always so kind to me.”

Character Moves:

  1. Remember that our words and actions can evoke emotions and feelings that last a lifetime. Of course we’re likely to say and do things that hurt others. Most of that is based on our own insecurities, fear and whatever systemic shortcoming we wrestle with. On the other hand, think of the POSITIVE, LASTING feelings we can create.
  2. Be kind and empathetic with sincere intention. Recognize that you may add a lasting memory that many years later could be part of a discussion over burgers and milkshakes. Also remind yourself that you could be on the other end of that discussion. Sometimes people in positions of authority lose sight of the lasting impact of their words and deeds.
  3. If you can, go for a ride in the country with a couple of seniors. They will help you see the “spring green” in a new light. When they longingly look out the car window as you’re driving, you will be reminded that life is a “very short ride” and along the way, with acts of kindness, we can make lunch stop memories a little sweeter.

Coloring memories in the Triangle,