The gurus have spoken.

These days, employee engagement is down.  Way down.  Gallup says only 30 percent of workersare motivated; Bain, that engagement is lowest in the customer-contact tiers of the company.

Of course, blame is everywhere.  At leaders, for wearing rose-tinted glasses (McKinsey’s organizational health index).  At the lack of emotional bonding between employees and work.  And at the lack of “walking the talk” among senior executives.

No one agrees on the solution.  “Engagement cascades from the top,” trumpets one org health scientist.  Middle managers should have the tools and wherewithal to shape engagement, insists another.  Teams are the answer, claims yet another expert.

Why not do two simple things:  Ask – and listen well?  We’ve found employees are more than willing to share opinions and ideas … 

If. They. Know. They’ll. Be. Listened. To. 

Believe it or not, many care … and actively want to improve wherever they “live” for 40+ hours a week.  One of our recent information sessions, for example, gathered 75+ percent response, great insights, and lots of volunteers for a discretionary, extra-hours-after-work program.

But a caveat:  When you ask, then it’s incumbent to tell.  Share the findings, whether at a high or expansive level.  Have groups of workers examine the data and draw some conclusions … and remedies.  Or assign the task to frontline supervisors and teams.  You’ll find that kind of participation reaps not only engagement but also is much less expensive than the traditional diamond solutions.



The CIA and FBI do it.

Charles Darwin started it.

“It” being the art of facial coding, the insights and reads taken from an individual’s expressions and body language.  Of the two modes of translation, our super spies admit to preferring the face, above all.  It’s here where our emotions truly show what we’re thinking – and feeling.

Do we as communicators and other like professionals use it?  Except for executive coaches, not so much.  We’re often so busy with words and meetings and presentations and pitches that we forget to counsel leaders on how they say what they say.  Sure, a good speechwriter does act as an adviser, helping his or her client maximize the speech/presentation’s impact.

On the other hand …

Because human beings boast more facial muscles than other species; because there are universal expressions, whether blind or sighted; and because a true smile is easy to recognize, we need to pay attention to the ways our senior-most executives communicate facially.  Besides, people are willing to pay three times as much for products and services sold by a smiling versus an angry spokesperson.

Numbers and stats aside, it’ll all about authenticity, in language and tone and style and expressions.

Anyone for lessons from a Deep Throat?



What do scotch, soda, and whipped topping have in common – other than belonging to the general class of food/drink stuffs?

Answer:  Psychologists and advertisers who’ve discovered that joy (or its lack) is big news these days.

Johnnie Walker claims that joy helps people achieve more.  Reddi-wip, that we don’t have enough of it daily.  And Pepsi, that it’s a great inducement to song and happiness.

All these brands and others capitalize on the state of our hearts and minds, hoping we’ll walk with joy and Johnnie, add whoosh toppings to our meals, and drink more contentedly.

Jaded?  Sure.  But there’s a good point hidden by the hype.  Which is figuring out how, exactly, to infuse this state of being into our everyday doings.  In other words, into our favorite four-letter word:  Work. 

These days, in our meaderings around the Fortunate 500s and others, we deal with executives, managers, and associates – and watch.  A lot.  There’s much earnestness.  Deliberate conversations.  Determination to meet deadlines.  Intelligent and often soul-searching questions. 

Yet, within all this busyness, there’s not much levity or laughter.  Rarely do we see folks smiling when they exit a meeting or town hall.  Leaders might throw in a joke or personal aside or two before moving into the main subject.  And in cafeterias and break rooms, people occasionally grin when engaged in a personal round-table dialogue.  But not much else.

Perhaps our consumer marketers are right:  Is it time to embrace the ordinary stuff, to celebrate small wins, and to nurture at-work relationships with joy?


Atticus Finch is sticking in our minds these days.

And not due to Harper Lee’s just published Go Set a Watchman.

It’s this quote:  “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view ... Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

That sage piece of advice, as true today as 55+ years ago, needs to penetrate the hearts of business leaders and their employees. 

Oh sure, for some, the ‘empathy’ quotient works.  It’s how the CEO of Intuit designs his products, all the EQ stuff Daniel Goleman talks about.  For many companies that exist on growing relationships, it’s the second Golden Rule, the way their people connect and relate to others.  It’s the honest, dedicated interest in others, beyond selfies, out of cubicles and open work space.

There’s even a strong data-driven tie between empathy and positive performance, demonstrated in the 2000s by the Center for Creative Leadership’s research.

Yet.  Why do so many sidestep the emotion play when launching a Customer Experience initiative?  How often do company communications actively, even proactively talk about listening – and express bona fide emotions?  Where do learning and development professionals, those responsible for creating required (and not-so) courses, stand on encouraging workers to cultivate compassion, to take genuine perspectives, to make themselves vulnerable in the right ways (after listening hard)?

Or from Scout’s point of view:  "Atticus had said it was the polite thing to talk to people about what they were interested in, not about what you were interested in."