How Your Work Culture Can Get You Through the Sands Dunes of Life

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Jun 12, 2014

“You are here,” the mat reads.

You look down, mouth agape, and you think, “So where the hell is here?”

You’re standing atop a great sand dune among a mountainous range of dunes. Nothing but blue sky above, you’d think the future would look brighter, but it might as well be raining, since the sunlight hurts your eyes and you’re drenched in sweat; the sun’s heat is unbearable.

And there’s no one or nothing else around. No wind, shade or drink to help cool you down. No one to help or even commiserate with.

Your metaphorical sandstorm has begun

All you know is that the project you’ve been working on is due and your deadline is what’s pushing the humidity down around you, wrapping you up like a dirty wool blanket once forgotten in an attic chest.

That’s when finally a sand-filled wind whips up leaving grit caked on your exposed face and hands. You close your crusty eyes and wait.


Your metaphorical sandstorm has begun. You’re crazy busy and completely overwhelmed. Combine that with the fact that you’re a remote worker feeling isolated, or maybe you’re just sitting in your own office, open space, or cube feeling isolated – either way your parched and need help.

The good news? You love what you do, and so do most of your peers and colleagues, so through the blistering sandstorm you slowly see hands reaching out to help.

The benefits of a high engagement climate

Thank goodness they’re not zombies; that would make for a completely different world of work story.

No, friendly help is here and not a moment too soon. That’s how I felt the past few weeks, and each time helping hands were there, even when I was here, there and everywhere else.

I did what I could in kind as well when others felt the same. They didn’t even have to be major assists either; just little incremental things that shifted negatively perceived performance to positively reciprocated reinforcement.

That’s what a high-engagement climate and culture does – they love what the do and whom they do it with and ensure it always gets done.

Why is this important? Because when the hearts and minds of you and your co-workers are emotionally and intellectually invested and engaged (there’s that word again), and leadership is just as committed if not more so, then that all can lead to extraordinary effort and positive financial results.

Some positive results of an engaged workforce

Here are some new illustrative examples:

  • Companies with highly engaged employees’ score between 12 percent and 34 percent higher in customer satisfaction ratings (Vance).
  • Among Fortune 100 companies, there was a 1,000 percent decrease in errors among engaged versus disengaged employee populations (Gonring).
  • Highly engaged employees have 48 percent fewer safety incidents (Gallup).
  • Engaged employees are 21 percent more likely to be involved in personal wellness efforts (Gamlem), which in turn reduces sick time off work and improves productivity.

Micro-shifts to macro dunes

This is why we should pool our collective Zen and always go:

  • From micro-shifts. It’s the little things, the incremental positive activities that keep us all moving forward and on task, keeping work relevant with little waste or margin for error (even when we feel trapped on a hot dune). This is the help we give one another when we’re committed and engaged to one another and the work we do first, from a collaborative problem-solving session to simply a pat on the back – the company ultimately benefits as long as it supports such micro-shifts.
  • To macro dunes. If you know anything about sand dunes, they shift over time. The incremental changes may not be immediately perceptible, but at some point the landscape evolves in the weathered ecosystem in which it lives and breathes. Individual contributors and leaders alike must elevate themselves and each other continuously in order to adapt to and traverse the evolving workspace, where blue washes out white hot, forever impacting your business.

Hey, here’s a glass of ice water. I’ve got your back.

This was originally published on Kevin Grossman’s Reach West blog.

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