DANIEL MONTGOMERY Founder & CEO Leadership Reality
Are your employees disengaged? Would you notice if they were?
According to Gallup, only a third of Americans are engaged at work. The rest are either passively skating by (50%) or actively trying to bring down the company from the inside (17%). Every year, disengaged employees cost American business billions of dollars.
In combatting this epidemic, smart leaders have discovered that workers—especially millennials—need more than a parking spot and a paycheck to engage with their work.
What is that more? Some call it passion. Others call it purpose. I call it place.
Mapping Our Place as Leaders
In simple terms, place is where you find yourself at any given point in your story.
Yes, that includes space (where you are) and time (when you are). More than that, place describes the social, emotional, and cultural environments in which you live and work.
For employees to engage, they need to feel as though they’ve been placed in a work environment where passion and purpose collide. They need to see themselves as valued members of a cohesive whole. They need to know that what they do matters to what we do and that what we do actually makes a difference in the world outside our doors.
As a leader, how would you describe your office culture? What are the key words your employees use to describe their experience at work? What do they celebrate? What do they complain about? How do they perceive the connection between their work and the organization’s mission? Do they see themselves as part of a bigger picture?
What Happens When We Lose Our Place
As leaders, it’s on us to not only map but make our place.
The problem is, we often suffer from tunnel vision. We get so focused on our own corner of the business that we lose our sense of place.
What does that look like?
- On a global level, we forget why we exist as an organization. We let profits distract from our sense of purpose. We lose our true north.
- On a market level, we fix on what we want vs. what the market wants—the sales equivalent of talking about features rather than benefits.
- On an organizational level, we drill down on our narrow departmental goals without relating them to the bigger picture (i.e., the Silo Effect).
- On an individual level, we fixate on personal goals without asking how they might enrich the people around us. We isolate ourselves and implicitly train our employees to do the same.
How to be a Place-Maker
Does any of that sound familiar? Have you gotten so wrapped up in your current project that you’ve lost sight of everyone and everything outside your immediate bubble?
We get it. Every day, we help business leaders recover their sense of self-awareness. It’s incredible just how far each can run down the rabbit hole before we realize we’ve completely lost touch with reality.
Mindfulness puts us back in touch, not just in terms of time, but place as well. Meditation brings us back to the here, not just the now. And, building on that present awareness, it gives us the opportunity to re-engage and re-create our environment.
This is where exercises like the 3-Minute Breathing Space (3MBS) come in.
Sit down. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing—slow, deep, rhythmic. Once you’re there, follow this 3-minute pattern of attention:
- Wide – Take a minute for overall presence. What are you feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually? Don’t ask questions. Don’t judge. Just notice.
- Narrow – Spend the next minute narrowly focused in on one aspect of your body. Where you focus doesn’t matter so much as that you focus. Narrow your attention to the physical fact of your presence in this time and space.
- Wide – Zoom back out for the last minute. Only, this time, get outside yourself. Where are you within the organization? What difference does your presence in this place make? How can you amplify your contribution?
If you want to get the most out of this exercise, follow it up with a walk around the office. Center yourself, and then get out there and engage with the place around you. Get to know the people on your team; acknowledge their contribution, and affirm their work. Let them know you see the connection between them and the bigger picture.
A Better Plan to Make Your Place
The point of grounding is to situate you in time and space—right here, right now. From a Christian perspective, there’s something important here I want to affirm about understanding our location in God’s created order.
The trouble is, mindfulness gets us there by way of abstraction. It makes us forget that God has intentionally put us in this place to transform it into something beautiful.
That’s why we need to add a 4th minute to the exercise I shared above:
- Panoramic – You’re not an empty container passively observing the cosmos. You’re made in God’s image to cultivate His creation. What might it look like to treat place-making in your organization as an act of worship?
For the next week, take 4 minutes a day to ground yourself. After that, keep up with the exercise at least once a week. Over time, that constant awareness and attention will force you to create a culture that consistently engages the best in your people.
Want to get rid of disengagement root and branch? Make a place. It’s that simple.
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