Last week, my town of Hillsborough, NC, got hit with 7.5 inches of snow…which is nothing to my friends in the Midwest. But here, that amount of snow is the equivalent of a volcanic eruption, a hurricane, famine, pestilence, war, and NO INTERNET rolled into one. In North Carolina, it doesn’t take 7.5 inches of snow to close us down; school’s been cancelled after a heavy dew.
Do you know who didn’t close down, though? My kids. Actually, they did quite the opposite: they sprang to life. They didn’t need an alarm clock to wake them up. Their eyes just magically opened, and their feet hit the floor while their mouths screamed, “SNOOOOOOOOW!”
The laws of energy do not apply on snow days. My kids get up early, eat little, and go sledding for hours. Then they build snow sculptures for some more hours. They run in the snow for the pure joy of it, dropping at times to make random snow angels or to lick the snow like puppies.
Snow + Kids = Engagement
Where are my real kids, I wondered, the ones who require electric shock to get them out of bed in the morning? The kids that shiver when the temperature drops below 70 degrees?
When kids become engaged in the snow, they have this amazing ability to shut out discomfort and focus on the best parts only.
Snow-like Ingredients + A Willing Leader = Engagement
And when kids of any age become engaged at work, they don’t need real snow to energize them with happiness, productivity and excitement. It does require, however, a leader who liberally sprinkles some of the same snow day ingredients around to maximize employee engagement, ingredients like these three:
1. Do Something Unexpected.
Why were my kids so excited about the snow? Rarity increases perceived value. We see more 4-leaf clovers than snow in North Carolina. We poison our clover; we savor our snow.
Sometimes when I worked as an executive healthcare leader, instead of conducting coaching in my office with me on one side of the desk and the employee on the other, I used to take an employee on what I called a “Walk-n-Talk.” We would stroll around Grant Park and talk like real people in real time in an unexpected, non-office environment. Once I even added a Frisbee to a coaching session. Those Walk-n-Talks didn’t distract the employee; rather, they elevated those times into engagement-building moments.
What unexpected, rare moments can you carve into your day that will energize, excite and engage your employees?
2. Do Something Fun.
Why did my kids stay outside in the snow for hours and hours without a single complaint (except when we told them it was time to come inside)? They were having fun. What’s that saying? Time flies when we’re …. miserable? No, of course not! Time flies when we’re having fun.
Years ago, my team and I scrambled to hit a creative deadline for a year-end meeting where we would be celebrating the retirement of a much-loved senior leader in our healthcare industry. We had no shortage of great ideas, but we lacked time to get everything done the way we envisioned. How did we hit the deadline even as time grew shorter? We kept things fun!
Photoshopping images may be common today, but this technology was new at the time. One person joked that we should superimpose the face of our boss on all sorts of iconic images like Mt. Rushmore, the Sphinx, in the reflection of the visor for the first moon landing, over the face of Don Corleone from the Godfather series, etc.
So you might wonder if having fun added extra time to the project. Absolutely, because we worked longer hours–tirelessly, with more energy, and without ever feeling like martyrs–until our vision became a reality.
What bit of fun can you create today at work, if only a momentary stress-break, so your employees can refocus, recharge, and recommit to the task at hand?
3. Do Something That Shows Your Appreciation
When the girls stepped out into the snow, their faces expressed a state of gratitude that bordered on worship.
At one point in my career, I had a hard time attracting in-house talent to my corporate team. My jobs didn’t typically pay as well as operations or human resources, and I relied on outside postings to fill positions. At first. But then something happened. When I had superstar employees, I let them know how grateful I was for them. My gratitude showed on my face when I saw them. On top of that, I spent time with them. I listened to them. I laughed with them. I played with them. I celebrated them.
In a short period of time, I had even more open positions on my team. Others recognized the value of my team, and my team grew. Instead of posting to the outside, word-of-mouth from current team members spread throughout the organization, and I found myself in the enviable position of having more qualified, passionate, engaged job candidates than I could hire. And it started when I expressed my gratitude to the great employees who were already on my team.
How can you express gratitude to your employees today so they feel acknowledged, appreciated, and awarded for what they do? Can your face show such genuine excitement and interest that your folks will wonder if you won the lottery?
Soon enough, the Winter cold and snow will give way to Spring humidity and floods, and then the Summer heat and droughts. But the best leaders know how to engage their employees in any season, just like a snow day engages a child.