When you see a joyful person behind a cosmetics counter, an energetic, smiling waiter, or a personable customer service agent, there’s a good chance you’re watching an engaged person in action. Engagement shows up in a person’s eyes, actions, and above-and-beyond attitudes, which is exactly what I found on full display at a deathcore concert a couple of weeks ago.
Don’t judge me.
Did you know that research suggests death metal makes fans feel “joy and peace”? You can check it out for yourself. With names like Slaughter to Prevail, Illist, and Kronus, this isn’t exactly Top 40 music. But I’m not alone in my broad musical tastes. I, along with 24 (yes, I counted) other fans of guitars that squeal like chainsaws and vocals that sound like screams people make when being cut in half by those chainsaws entered a run-down, out-of-the-way venue to get our “joy and peace” on.
Slaughter to Prevail held the top billing at this show, and Illist opened for them. While they played, this clean-cut guy in the audience really got into the music and started doing a series of Capoeira-like dance/fighting moves on the floor. It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I kept waiting for him to misstep and kick a fellow audience member in the face, but it never happened.
What Engagement Looks Like for a Performer
Next, Kronus from Virginia took the stage. It took me by surprise when that same guy jumped on the stage and grabbed the microphone as the band fired up their chainsaws…er, guitars. Apparently, he was the lead singer of Kronus. This guy amazed me. I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. His presence demanded attention. Not only did he scream into the microphone like a demon set on fire, but his entire body punctuated the music as if he were attached to it by millions of invisible wires. During his performance, he writhed on the floor, did several back-flips, and threw his arms and legs in ways I didn’t believe possible.
What Engagement Generates
Okay, back to engagement. The music was…um, about what you would expect. I predict no future Grammy nomination for any of these bands. But when that one guy took the stage, every eye in the audience locked onto him. Yeah, I know that’s only 50 eyes, but for those 20 minutes he wailed, we were transfixed, totally buying what he was selling. As a result of this guy’s excitement, a mosh pit started, and about 10 people shoved and bounced off each other in a frenzy of energy that verged on mania.
After their set, I talked to him.
“You were something to watch up there!” I told him.
“Thanks, I love what I do,” he beamed. “I wish I could do this every day of the week!”
“I’d probably come out to watch your show every day of the week,” I told him. “What’s the biggest crowd you’ve played?” I asked.
“Maybe 100 people once,” he said. “But it’s not about the size of the audience. It’s about the size of the performance.”
He nailed it. It wasn’t about how many people came to the show, or how much band merchandise they sold. This guy performed as if he were headlining for the Wacken Open Air Festival in Germany. instead of playing for 25 people in a seedy bar.
Engagement Comes Out in How You “Show Up” at Work
When you’re engaged in your work, whether it’s leading a rock band, selling tacos out of food truck, or managing a department of accountants, it shows up in how you show up each day: excitement for the work at hand, gratitude for the opportunity, and love for the people around you. You give your all, not because someone is standing over you or paying you, but rather because your enthusiasm cannot be contained.
Engagement doesn’t take much special talent or skill, but it takes mindfulness to be fully present in the work that is in front of you at a given moment. When you do that, you create followers and get other people excited. Maybe you can’t get your team of actuaries to bang their heads and slam dance, but you can influence in how they show up for work when your engagement leads the way.
How Do You “Show Up”?
Were someone watching you at work today, would they see signs that you are fully engaged? Or would they say that you were just phoning it in?
P.S. The headliner, Slaughter to Prevail, played a technically tight set, each musician displaying mastery over his chosen instrument. But it kind of felt like they were going through the motions. Engagement is not about skills; it’s about excitement!