Food for Thought

Every single moment I get to spend with my 10-month old son, generates a handful of yummy opportunities for learning and development. For the both of us; but mostly for me!

Knowledge can be uncovered everywhere; even in the most unexpected places! With the right attitude and an seeking mind, even the simplest experiences can rise up and become deeply transformative.

Like feeding my son, for example. In a couple of months, this series of events have taught me more about myself than years of studying (or therapy!) ever did (or will)! Children are mirrors of behavior. If I’m stressed, my son gets worked up. When I’m smiling, he smiles back. And if I laugh, he giggles. Take that for feedback!

Besides being able to capture my own mood through my son’s behavior, I have learned even more about an entirely different topic as well! It’s about something called People Engagement. But first, just to make sure we are on the same page, let’s review some context.

What is People Engagement you may wonder. Good point. The term is used interchangeably with Employee Engagement, and there’s like a thousand definitions out there. I like best the one expressed by the Engage for Success movement, so here goes:

Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.

At the end of the day, People Engagement is about working towards setting up professional conditions in a way that helps people feel well enough to bring forth their maximum capability and potential. It is based on trust, integrity, two way commitment, and communication between the organisation and its members. The exact same things our family has had to establish, to have our son eat his food happily!

Photo: Sydney Troxell (Pexels)

Here’s what feeding baby Jason has taught me and the hubby on the rules of Engagement:

  1. It matters! Only 65% of employees globally are (highly or moderately) engaged in their line of work. The remaining 35% are either Passive, or Disengaged, meaning that they don’t really care about bringing their best self to work each day. Meanwhile, a 5 point increase in Employee Engagement is linked to a 3% increase in business revenue, all according to AON. Meanwhile, babies who get actively engaged in the process of eating (like the ones who do baby-led weaning) are found to cultivate positive eating behaviors, in terms of reduced fussiness and better appetite control. Any way you look at it, Engagement is a good thing to have and promote in all fronts!
  2. It’s a Process, not a Project! Don’t expect your efforts in People Engagement to end anytime soon. Like after a day, month or year is over. It takes time, trial and error, and to accept the fact that there’s multiple stages to pass until you see it grow. It’s no use fretting over when or how you are all going to cross the invisible finish line of “achieving” Engagement. Because there is no such thing. And the more you treat it as an ongoing process, the less frustrating it’s going to be for you!
  3. It can get very Messy. Especially in the beginning, when you are mostly testing the waters to see what works and what doesn’t, given your workplace culture. Be prepared for trial and error. Address the risk or magnitude of any shortcomings. Avoid feeding anywhere near the carpet. Keep an extra spoon near by, because gravity is lurking. Tell yourself -and others- that you are growing into this sport, and things won’t be this chaotic for ever. Breathe through the mess!
  4. It builds Gradually. Teaching your kid how to eat doesn’t just magically happen one day. It builds upon previously conquered competences. Some day he can accept purées. Then perhaps he is ready to process more lumpy textures. Afterwards he can chew small solid pieces. Once he feels confident enough, he will try to touch food or use the spoon. Then the fork. When his thinking has grown enough, he can comprehend nutritious eating habits. It takes years of effort to gradually develop this (or any type) of maturity. Same goes with employees: they need to grow along with your Engagement efforts!
  5. It’s not a one-time thing. Just because you “successfully” did it one day (whatever “successfully” means to you) doesn’t mean the next attempt will be equally nice. You need to be aligned and consistent in all your efforts, your communication and your overall presence. Because anything you may think you have achieved today, could turn to thin air tomorrow unless properly cared for. In the dusk of achievement, you need to still be there by dawn, while bringing your absolute best self to supporting the process.
  6. It gets mundane when it’s not creative. Would you eat the same dish over and over again, every single day of the week? Wouldn’t you rather have things spiced up a bit and discover stuff you didn’t know existed like new textures, tastes, smells or setups? People Engagement doesn’t have to be reinvented each day. It can be the same old banana. But if cut differently, it’s a whole different animal! Experimenting with creativity in the workplace keeps engagement up and running! (PS: Check this out if you’ve never seen bananas cut in the shape of dolphins before; they ROCK!)
  7. It’s so much better when it’s playful. Not every occasion deserves the extra spark, but if you pick your moment and incorporate gamification elements into the experience of Employees, even the most redundant processes lighten up. Take our Jason and his kiwi. We do a mini competition every now and then on who will be making the strongest face after chewing a sour kiwi chunk. Whoever wins, gets to eat a banana piece afterwards. Needless to say, my son aces that game, and we both have the time of our lives!
  8. Together is better. Empower the sense belonging in every opportunity humanly possible. I can’t stress this enough. Nobody likes to eat alone and have two (or sometimes four) pairs of eyes looking straight at him: it can freak out even the coolest person! But if we all join each other and, say, eat together, any tensions are lightened because we have co-created a safe space where we can all chill and enjoy our experience. Environment safety is paramount to easing moods and enjoying our hygge moments, wherever we may roam. Afterwards, we feel empowered to show our best self as we do the work!
  9. It’s a ripple effect! Happy and engaged mom during feeding time cultivates a calm and engaged feeling in Baby Jason. Baby Jason is, therefore, more open to trying-out new flavors and chew his way through life’s lumpy hardships. Meanwhile, back at the office, even the most disengaged workers will start to question their stand when the majority else around them frequently reports how haggling satisfied and motivated they feel! Well, what do you know…!
  10. Don’t forget to pass the spoon. Ok, it’s a process. This doesn’t mean that it should lack momentum, or celebration, or acknowledgement for that matter. People are engaged and stay motivated when they see light at the end of the long tunnel. Even if it’s for a little while. When there is an attainable goal. A milestone. So, every time something noteworthy is achieved, let them hold the spoon for a while, even if they don’t know what to do with it at first. If that’s what their heart desires at the time, the smile on their face will create a positive association stronger than any perfectly streamlined process ever will!
  • There you have it, Jason. I have shared some of the tricks you’ve taught me with our readers. Hopefully, this way, the World of Work may grow to become a better, nicer and more collaborative space. Now would you please finish up on your kiwi so we are good to go to the playground (again)?

  • Featured Photo: Tanaphong Toochinda (Unsplash)

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