The Heart of Engagement The Spirit of Creativity The Conversation of Efficiency The Focus and Discipline of Success

by Sandy Nelson on March 16, 2016

I’m fascinated by the current conversation about employee engagement. The statistics are disturbing and the cost of disengagement alarming.

At the end of the day, what we are experiencing is a decidedly post-industrial phenomenon—recognition that human beings contribute measurably greater value when they care about what they are doing and why they are doing it.

One does not have to dive too deeply into research to discover that a booming global industry is being rapidly built around this topic—how, oh how do we deepen the engagement, creativity, contribution and success of our people?

Wake up. This is not rocket science.
Want me to be engaged? Speak to my heart. Inspire me.
Top talent today is found in teams with vision, purpose, awareness of the value of the individual and connection to the human are where the very best are to be found. In these places, on these teams, you and I feel as if we matter.

Show me that you value my ideas, needs and aspirations. Treat me with dignity. Never under-mine my identity. Inspire me with your vision, authenticity, courage and integrity.

For goodness sake, show me some emotion! I am not an automaton and neither are you!

To deepen engagement, have a meaningful purpose, a compelling vision and a powerful story that reaches out and grabs my heart.

When I care, I am engaged. When what I do makes a difference, I am all in.
Want me to innovate? Lift my spirit. Invest in my growth.
Want to unleash my creativity? Let me know that I matter to you. Treat me with dignity. Build my identity. Give me something meaningful to explore.

Challenge me to solve a problem. Ask my opinion. Invite me to the paying field in a way that I will happily do the grunt work that must be done because I can see directly how it falls into the overall scheme of changing the world for the better.

Above all, invest in me. Help me learn and grow so that I build the capabilities we need to win and win again.

Pride and accomplishment are powerful motivators.
Looking for greater efficiency? Talk turkey with me.
If it’s efficiency you are looking for, bring honesty and clarity to our conversations. Speak to me in a straightforward manner. Don’t withhold. Tell me straight—I would always prefer to know the “truth” than a sanitized version of it.

Please, please, don’t talk to me about your integrity. Live it!

Do what you say you are going to do. If there is a reason you can’t, own it in real time. When you do, I am there with you. When you don’t, there is no there there.

Have courage. Show me that you are willing to take the risk of disclosing who you really are.

If you have a nit to pick with me, let me know. Come on ‘round and have the conversation. Don’t tell my colleagues and let me hear about your concern from someone else.

When you want me to help with something, have an adult conversation with me about it. Frame the conversation—why should we talk? For the sake of what?

Paint the picture, set context, share with me your thoughts about what success will look like. Be open to my ideas.
When we collaborate creatively together, we can quickly explore options and align around what success will look like. Once done, I can run—no more false starts and uncomfortable reckoning down the line when we inevitably discover that we are not aligned as a result of around misinterpretations and wasted efforts.

Take the time and have the courage to speak with me in detail about how we plan to move forward until we each know exactly what success will look like and how we plan to get there. Once there, we, suddenly, no longer need to think in terms of or deal with inefficiency.

Efficiency is human in origin. As is inefficiency!

Want to get out ahead of the game and stay there? Focus. Discipline. Ritual.
Let’s face it. In the world we live in today, possibility exceeds biological capacity. In this, the second decade of the Twenty-first Century, many of us live in a virtual candy store of oppor-tunity and possibility.

Not to decide not to choose is to choose not to win. My job is to know what matters to me and to us. Every decision I make and action I take must be consistent with what matters. The conversations I choose to decline are as, if not more, important than those I choose to en-gage in.

Discipline is knowing when and how to say no as much as when to say yes.


We read a lot about design thinking today—bringing customer awareness and empathy to the table in order to design and deliver experiences that surprise, delight and inspire.

What is often missing from this conversation is the recognition and value of ritual in the pro-cess of designing and delivering scintillating experiences. Be assured, I don’t mean ritual in the religious sense. Though, I am reminded of the beauty and comfort of certain religious rituals and the positive impact they have on believers.

The same is true among designers and within the design-driven organization. A set of recurrent practices, trusted and followed with focus and discipline, lead to solutions that routinely surprise, delight and inspire. These routine practices are carefully structured and thoughtfully followed—rituals that represent the heart and fabric of design and innovation.

Ritual weaves the fabric of innovation. 


Check at Home First
At the end of the day, the place for us to look is at home. We can make these conversations complex. We can also make them really quite simple.

The time is now for us to individually and collective realize and accept that the answers to so many common talent related questions in the business world—deepening engagement, un-leashing creativity, increasing efficiency, achieving higher levels of success—are not questions of technology and systems, brilliance, pedigrees of education or accomplishment.

No, these are questions of humanity. Of culture. Of human awareness and emotional accessi-bility.

Look at me. I am human. I am, by definition, imperfect. Yet, if you speak to my heart, lift my spirit, talk straight and honestly with me with focus and discipline, I will soar.

When I soar, so do we!


Sandy Nelson

The Ides of March 2016

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