Engagement Wins

Let’s talk about engagement.

No, not the connection of employee to work that so many speak of, let’s take it down a level, or up, depending on how you look at that.

Let’s talk people to people.

I just left my favorite grocery store – Central Market on N. Lamar in Austin – where engagement is in vogue every day. On today’s trip which was simply to buy eggs, I also wound up buying one jar of pasta sauce in order to get five additional items for free, a $16 value. And no, not throw away items like store-brand white flour, but branded pasta, pepperoncini (I love!), Balsamic vinegar and a few other things. How did I find out about this week’s Foodie special? Two different associates saw me in that area and told me about it. Two. They engaged me.

The associate at the register as well engaged me seeing I bought a product she’s been wanting to try and asking about it. She then made sure I got all the right Foodie specials. Are these people engaged or what?

Last week I saw Furious 7 – I don’t care how juvenile you think the Fast series is, I like Vin Diesel, it was Paul Walker’s last movie (RIP) and any movie where The Rock gets to say, “Lady, I am the calvary” is a good movie – at my favorite theatre, The Galaxy (or Highland 10). My favorite theatre is not the closest, newest or bestest in terms of neighborhood. But its my theatre because everyone I interact with there is engaged, every time.They talk with me, tell me what to look for, give me their opinions on new films and tell me what looks hot in the next few months. They act like they love film.

The other day I tried Amazon’s new one hour delivery service and yes, they delivered in an hour, and yes the process to order was painless and yes the delivery guy (young man) was courteous and polite and even commented on how we have the same car (diesel VWs rock…). He was engaged with me.

As a very seldom flier – which you will be after you log hundreds of thousands of miles as I have – I fly only Southwest. Why? Everyone is engaged. When I have to call them to check on my outstanding balance of excess miles they’re engaged. When I see the desk agents they smile, the flight attendants look at me when they speak to me, and the pilots almost always wave. Its as if they actually like their work.

In the old days we would say empowering people (which somehow sounded like a lot of effort) would enable them to do good work. Maybe so. But here’s an idea: let’s look for engaged people, give them a clear vision of what we’re about and then get the hell out of their way. In many ways this is the recipe for success at Pixar (thanks to Ed Catmull) as well as the companies mentioned above.

You see, groceries, movies, airlines and deliveries may not be very sexy businesses but they’re businesses none the less, and with very thin margins. But their engaged employees keep me coming back, keep me telling you, you telling others and so on and so on.

Engagement really does matter. And its not just with you as the employer. Its with your customer as the ultimate partner.

Engage your people and let them go.

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