Engaging the System: Tapping into Diversity

By Cory Davis

In a previous post, I discussed tips and tools for engaging teams. Now, I would like to discuss some tips and thoughts about how to engage the system at work.

As always, I want to give credit where it is due. This blog post is inspired by Bob Chartier’s “Handcrafted Leadership” (2015) about the art of facilitation and engagement. If you are interested in the tips and tools that I share with you here, please check out his book.

Engaging the System

What do I mean when I say “the System”? I mean everyone at your organization. Not just your team or department. The system refers to all available departments or employees. The idea of engaging the system is designed to tap into different perspectives from all available angles or viewpoints.

There is power in numbers and diversity. Interesting ideas, stories, and knowledge stored in the system can spur innovation and creative problem solving if you can dig it out. By opening yourself up to data burried in the system, you can get a broader range of perspectives to address challenges and tackle problems.

Bob Chartier gave an example that resonated with me, demonstrating the value of diversity in problem solving. The operations department at an energy company in northern Canada regularly incurred massive damages to its powerlines in one particular area due to snow piling up on the lines that underwent melting and freezing. This was very expensive for the company. Furthermore, it created a dangerous and harsh work environment for repair crews. One employee from the health and safety department shared a story about her previous job in Vietnam. She worked at a hospital where helicopters regularly caused harsh drafts, which caused problems for them. Would flying a helicopter to blow the snow off the powerlines right after it snowed help? Yes, it would… and it saved the company a fortune.

The point here is to engage the entire company, community, or organization. However, engaging such a large audience can be tricky. Without a carefully designed approach handy, it can become a daunting task. There are too many large meetings designed around a problem, issue or task that result in no tangible deliverables.

That is why I wanted to share two facilitation tools from Bob Chartier’s “Handcrafted Leadership” to engage the system:

1. The Open Space

This is not your traditionally structured company meeting, with a power-point, strict agenda and formal seating. It is designed around the idea of a “Town Hall”, where everyone’s voice will be heard. The Open House is a themed meeting. It could be about a policy, new idea, or a problem that needs to be solved.

Design the meeting space to be in circles around the center of the room where your facilitator will be at the beginning. Have everyone introduce themselves and state what they think should be on the agenda. The boss will not create the agenda, the particpants will.

Once the agenda is created, post each agenda item around the conference room with an attendee, perhaps someone who came up with it. Then participants will be split into “pods” of 3-5 people who can wander freely to talk about the agenda items together. Each pod will generate ideas, recommendations or solutions for each agenda item. Give them a template to document them. You dont need to limit participation to employees, you can also invite partners or other stakeholders as well.

2. The World Café

This is a fairly common tool with lots of material online about it. Unlike the Open Space which is generative (creating ideas, solutions, etc.), the World Café is responsive. It is designed to elicit reactions from participants to a speaker’s presentation, new ideas, policies, challenges, a presentation, or new information. It is also a good chance to spur innovation and share knowledge, that you can put into action.

The World Café consists of three elements:

  1. The presentation or talk. This will provide the audience with information.
  2. The Conversation. Get everyone talking about the presentation. It will consist of a host at each table to faciliate a conversation between 3-4 people. Set a time limit for each group, then get them to switch tables about 3-4 times. Have a different theme for each round of conversations. For example, the first round can just debrief the presentation. The second round could be about ideas and questions. The third round could try to uncover the deepest unanswered questions.
  3. The Response. Questions that result from the conversation will be gathered and the speaker or other audience members can answer them in the format of a talk show.

This is a great tool to engage an audience after a presentation. We are all sick of sitting through a presentation to only have a few questions answered before particpants have a chance to discuss them or let the material sink in. The audience members will generate much higher quality questions after they have conversations about it.


The above are just two facilitation tools you can use to engage the system. If you are ot familiar with facilitation tools like the ones mentioned here, please check out the plethora of free facilitation resources online, or better yet, read Bob Chartier’s “Handcrafted Leadership”. One resource that I love found free online is the Institute for Innovation and Improvement’s Facilitator Toolkit.

This post was intended to create a dialogue about engaging the system. There is so much to be gained by opening up to the diverse perspectives deep within the system that can enable us to attack problems, or generate ideas from a wide range of angles. With the right approach, you can engage the system in an organized, effective and time-efficient way.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my post. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe, give it a like, or follow me on Twitter @interestpeaks.

I found this topic interesting. However, I would be much more interested to hear your thoughts, opinions, ideas, questions, or criticisms. If you would like to share, please do so in the comment section below. I promise to read all comments you post here.

Breakdown: How to be a Good Motivator – Highlights from “Bringing Out the Best in People” (1985) Ch. 1-4

If you are like me, you may never get a chance to read all the books you would like to. There is just not enough time in a single lifetime to absorb it all. That is why I wanted to breakdown “Bringing Out the Best in People” (1985) by Alan Loy McGinnis to share the key takeaways that I got out of it.

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“Bringing Out the Best in People” (1985) is a guide to be a good motivator. It provides the reader with 12 principles to bring out the best in people through motivation. The 12 principles are as follows:

  1. Expect the best from people you lead
  2. Make a thorough study of the other person’s needs
  3. Establish high standards for excellence
  4. Create an environment where failure is not fatal
  5. If they are going anywhere near where you want to go, climb on other people’s bandwagons
  6. Employ models to encourage success
  7. Recognize and applaud achievement
  8. Employ a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement
  9. Appeal sparingly to the competitive urge
  10. Place a premium on collaboration
  11. Build into the group an allowance for storms
  12. Take steps to keep your own motivation

In this post, I will break down the first 4 chapters. The first chapter is dedicated to “The Psychology of Motivation”, which was not explained academically but rather in plain, every day english. Chapters 2-4 cover the first three principles to bring out the best in people. If you like it, please look out for future posts where I will share highlights from other chapters.

Chapter 1: The Psychology of Motivation

This chapter highlights the notion that motivation is not always internally sourced. There are all kinds of external motivators that influences one’s drive. There is a need for inspiration. Have you ever thought of someone as being lazy, lacking motivation? It could be that they just have not been sufficiently motivated by any leadership, that nobody has acknowledged their potential and put in the effort to use it. Your employees don’t want to feel unengaged. They want leaders who can teach them to enjoy their work.

Some people can confuse motivation for manipulation. Manipulation is persuading someone to behave in a way that supports your best interests, not theirs. Whereas motivation is where you identify compatible interests and goals then develop a partnership to achieve them.

The famous poet Goethe once noted that “the greatest genius will not be worth much if he pretends to draw exclusively from his own resources”. What he is trying to do here is warn you not to fail to achieve great things because you failed to inspire others. This was an impactful statement for me. It highlights that there is power in relationships.

Chapter 2: Expecting the Best

This chapter is dedicated the first principle to bring the best out of people: expect the best out of the people you lead. It highlights that if you set the bar low, the people you lead will meet that expectation, but if you set the bar high – to greatness – people will tend to put in great efforts to live up to that.

Not only should you set the bar high for things like productivity, but you should also expect that others have the best of intentions. If you treat people like they have good intentions, you will get good things out of them. This chapter encourages the reader to see the good side of people, picking out the best in them and building on that. To do so, you need a genuine desire to help others.

This is in contrast to the authoritative policing style boss who always looks for the worst in people. It makes people defensive, protective and forces them to close the door to their inner potential. If you make people feel defensive and productive, they won’t be confident enough to make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and become the best they can be.

So, to bring out the best in people, you need to set up high expectations. Recall that Eminem song “The Way I Am”. In the chorus he rhymes “I am whatever you say I am, if I wasn’t, then why would you say I am”. This lyric gives insight into the human psyche, that we are moulded by others’ expectations of us to an extent.

This is summed up in what some call “The Pygmalion Effect”. It is derived from the George Bernard Shaw play “Pygmalion” where a professor helps a woman become an elegant lady. He does this by always treating her like one and the result was that she lived up to those expectations.

Goethe also sums it up succinctly: “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be”.

Everyone has the desire to do great things and to be somebody. The goal for you as a leader or motivator is to tap into that drive by showing them that you believe in them. If you show that you believe in them, they will try very hard to live up to those expectations.

Chapter 3: A Tailor-Made Plan of Motivation

This chapter is dedicated to principle #2, to make a thorough study of the other person’s needs. To be a motivator, you first need to understand what the person you are trying to motivate wants. They may not know this themselves, so you need to be patient. You may not get it out of them in the first conversation. If you don’t know what someone wants, then how can you motivate them to attain it? Remember, if you motivate others to do what you want, against their own interest then it is manipulation.  

Motivation is not some form of hype. Good motivators make motivational plans tailored to individuals they are trying to motivate. To do this effectively, you need to understand their beliefs, aspirations, and what they love (and don’t love). You need to understand their system of needs and desires. McGinnis says it well “People are driven by a bundle of interests. So, save yourself time and frustration by carefully appealing to their interests.”

The real key to this chapter is to tailor your leadership to the individual. For example, if someone is a pacifist, don’t motivate them using military code or stories about war. George Bernard Shaw said it succinctly “The only person who behaves sensibly is my tailor. He makes new measurements every time he sees me. All the rest go on with the old measurements

McGinnis gives two reasons why you should seriously study those you want to motivate:

  1. It gives you powerful data to inform your motivational plan
  2. It is a compliment to those you are trying to motivate. You are not only studying them, but you are also building a relationship with them and showing them genuine interest in them as individuals. Remember Bob Chartier’s note from “Handcrafted Leadership” that shows the association between relationships, possibilities, and action.

Some leaders will lead with the mindset of “follow me, I am the strongest! I know more than all of you.”. But the best leaders lead others by first saying “tell me about yourself”. They know that if they listen long enough, their people will explain how to motivate them.

Chapter 4: A Commitment to Excellence

This chapter is dedicated to principle # 3, to establish high standards of excellence. It highlights that you don’t have to sacrifice positivity and encouragement to be hard on standards. The best companies out there encourage and accommodate employees’ individuality while enforcing standards.

Being tough on standards does not mean that you have to be an oppressive leader. Being tough on standards simply means that you care. Standards are born to uphold excellence and the well-being of the organization as well as the employees within it. They are meant to act in the best interest of those invested in the company. So, if you are not tough on standards, you are not supporting the employees or the organization.

So how do you reprimand employees who are not meeting the standards? McGinnis provides four pieces of advice:

  1. Do it immediately. The longer you wait, the less impactful the reprimand will be. Don’t wait for a performance review, do it right away.
  2. Before you reprimand, confirm all the facts about what happened. You need to ensure that your data is accurate. Refrain from accusatory statements and blame.
  3. Be specific. Once you have all the facts, be very specific about what went wrong. Criticize behaviour, not the person or their motives.
  4. Do not hesitate to show your feelings. McGinnis states here to show your feelings of anger, annoyance, and frustration. However, please be mindful not to dramatize those emotions. Do not sacrifice your emotionally intelligent demeaner and high morale in your office for the sake of a reprimand. If you can refrain from being angry or harming your relationship with your colleagues, then don’t.

Remember that there is immense power in a challenge. People are not inspired when they are not expected to do much. People are inspired by a challenge. William James put it bluntly, “need and struggle are what excite and motivate us”.

There is also power in a cause. People can be motivated if leaders can offer a challenge and a cause. The cause gives meaning, a deeper level of motivation driven by the want to do good in this world.

Remember, that your expectations need to be realistic. It can be demoralizing to reprimand someone for not upholding standards that are unrealistic.


I hope you liked this breakdown of the key highlights from Alan Loy McGinnis’ “Bringing Out the Best in People”, chapters 1 – 4. If you would like more tips on how to be a good motivator, look out for my future posts which will cover more of this material. Or better yet, buy his book.

If you enjoyed this read, please subscribe to my blog, give it a like or follow me on Twitter @interestpeaks. I found this content interesting. But I am more interested in what your thoughts, opinions or advice on motivation are. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or feedback, please share them in the comments section below. I would love to hear them.

Engaging Teams at Work

In a previous post, I discussed tips and tools for engaging individuals at work. Now, I will discuss how to engage teams at work.

As always, I want to give credit where it is due. This blog post is inspired by Bob Chartier’s “Handcrafted Leadership” (2015) about the art of facilitation and engagement. If you are interested in the tips and tools that I share with you here, please check out his book.

It is clear that engaging individuals has significant benefits in terms of productivity and morale, but we still cannot ignore engagement on the other layers of an organizations structure.

Bob Chartier highlights in his book “Handcrafted Leadership” the need to engage people in organizations on the following levels:

  1. Individuals
  2. Teams
  3. The System

Engaging Teams

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What do you think about when you hear “engaging teams”? We often think about team engagement as team building activities such as a two-hour meeting, a team-building session, the old close your eyes, fall back and let others catch you technique, or a team-building course. That is the traditional mental model of team building.

Those activities may have a degree of effectiveness. However, as our understanding grows about team dynamics, we will need to shift our mental model about what team building is. For example, we now recognize that there are major benefits of building a culture within teams through continuous engagement, not necessarily one offs here or there.

There are benefits of one-off team building activities though. As Alan Loy McGinnis (late psychotherapist) in his book “Bringing out the Best in People” identifies, one technique to create high morale in teams is to “plan occasions for people to be away together”. He asserts that there is an interesting phenomenon observed by sending teams away out of their usual environment. They become more creative, open to new ideas and tend to form strong bonds rather quickly. So, sending them off for a few days together to a resort with planned activities, or a conference or something like that is an excellent tool to build team comradery.

As effective as this type of one-off is, it is just one tool within a suite of techniques to engage your team. Regular engagement with teams to build a culture of excellence, in addition to Alan Loy McGinnis’ advice, has proven to be effective for both its development and maintenance.

Bob Chartier recommends several tools for continuous engagement of teams which will be discussed below.

Tools to Engage Teams

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  1. The Daily Stand-Up Meeting. This tool is not time consuming and should occur daily at a scheduled time. The time you choose may depend on your team or the type of work you do. Mornings will work well with highly structured and organized workloads. However, if it is not highly structured then employees may not know exactly what their day will look like. In that case, this type of meeting may be best scheduled in the early or late afternoon. Everyone on the team stands around so they can see each other. Each person will have 1-2 minutes each to say how they are doing and what they are up to that day. This is also a good opportunity to disseminate information, give praise or congratulations, and get to know your employees personally. Not only does this tool engage teams, but it gives the leader an excellent opportunity to keep their fingers on the pulse on the team, the lives of individuals within it, and to observe team dynamics.
  2. The One-Hour Meeting Space/ Preventative Maintenance. Arrange for a one-hour meeting time in a quiet, comfortable space once a week, month, quarter or even year. This time is intended for good conversations. Make this meeting a ritual and make it mandatory. Bring snacks. This is not intended to be a time for brainstorming, problem solving or working on core-work duties. Just facilitate meaningful and rich conversation about what is going on. Again, this is an opportunity for you as a leader to get to know your team, but also for the group to develop bonds.
  3. The Team Charter. The team charter is not something set in stone, it can be continually revised. It is a conversation about how a team will get work done effectively. Too often we focus on the “what”, this is a document about the “how”. It may not translate to a document, but the most important thing about it is the conversation. It is a conversation about how the team wants and needs each other to work together to get things done effectively with excellence. The team charter should be viewed as a work activity, not an activity for your retreat or team-building sessions. It is work – not play and needs to be approached with that mentality.

Engaging Teams Remotely

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While you can use the above tools remotely over some video conferencing service, the dynamic of teams will have changed. Many of our leaders are weary of remote work, telework agreements and the lack of direct contact with people. There are many benefits of providing remote work options to your employees which deserves its own post here. But we have now been forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. It is unfortunate and sad that many organizations were not prepared for working remotely due to their insecurities about it.

Luckily, Simone Sloan from Forbes shed some light on how to engage teams remotely in an article found here.

  1. Trust. Your employees need to feel like you trust them. If you are a leader ho tends to micromanage and limit the creativity of your staff, you may need to reflect on how effective this leadership style can be while working remotely. Your team now desperately needs that feeling of autonomy to get their work done. Micromanagement can undermine that sense of trust. If you dont trust them, can they trust you?
  2. Set Boundaries but Provide Flexibility. Providing flexibility in how they work can help secure and maintain team motivation.
  3. Connect with Your Team Daily. This is a bit of advice that is not necessarily about how much you connect, but rather ensuring regular quality connections. You can use the stand-up tool here, or get more creative, encourage team members to share their experiences and show their personalities – make it fun. Good motivators know the importance of knowing their team on a personal level. There is no one sure-fire way to motivate all. Motivation plans need to be personalized, so keep your fingers on the pulse on individuals as well as the team. This connection will serve several functions. But importantly, some people will struggle more than others with remote work. There will be varying degrees of stress and discomfort. Humans are social creatures. Creating a connection with people can reduce that discomfort of isolation.
  4. Show Confidence in Your Team – Expect Greatness. People need to feel safe where they work and that includes at home too. Your team needs to feel confident without excess fear-induced stress about negative consequences. If you are not confident, then build confidence. You can do this be jointly creating expectations and goals together. It shows that you respect your team by including them in the process.
  5. Provide Regular Feedback. People desperately want feedback. It lets them know that their work is acknowledged. It also gives them a chance to be recognized and improve.
  6. Watch Your Emotions. We are all stressed out about the pandemic. The last thing your employees need is a Negative Nancy leading their team. This can be very demoralizing.
  7. Let People Be Themselves. Create an inclusive environment, where people can provide value and have fun while working without feeling like they are walking on eggshells – they need the freedom to be themselves. The moment you provide negative reinforcement for people being themselves is the moment you endanger their individuality. Threatening one’s individuality is offensive, heart-breaking and devalues that person at their core. People want to be part of a cohesive team, but we need our individuality to be valued, not punished.


This post was intended to open a discussion about how to engage teams. In conclusion, keep connected with your team, respect them as people, stay positive, and never waiver on your high standard of excellence. There is an art to maintaining excellence without damaging team morale. Be tactful, inclusive, and open to acknowledging and tapping into the potential of your staff, remotely or otherwise.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my post. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe, give it a like, or follow me on Twitter @interestpeaks.

I found this topic interesting. However, I would be much more interested to hear your thoughts, opinions, ideas, questions, or criticisms. If you would like to share, please do so in the comment section below. I promise to read all comments you post here.

Engaging Individuals at Work

In my previous post “Why Employee Engagement Should be a Priority“, I highlighted the relationship between productivity and engagement, among other benefits.

In this post, I will share with you some tools and tips for engaging individuals. Stay tuned for posts in the near future about engaging teams, engaging the system, and engaging accountability.

As always, I want to give credit where it is due. This blog post is inspired by Bob Chartier’s “Handcrafted Leadership” (2015) about the art of facilitation and engagement. If you are interested in the tips and tools I share with you here, please check out his book.

How to Engage Individuals

First, acknowledge that engagement is a priority and disengagement is a problem. If you are not convinced of this, then read my blog post “Why Employee Engagement Should be a Priority“.

Second, identify behaviours that indicate disengagement. This will help you prioritize your time. Forbes Human Resource Council (2018) identified 12 signs that your employee is disengaged. Here are a few signs that may indicate disengagement:

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  1. Withdrawl. Disengaged employees tend to withdraw from activities, conversations, communities of practice, social gatherings, non-essential meetings and side-of-the-desk projects. They tend to do the minimum to get by, limiting their productivity.
  2. Poor Communication. Disengaged employees tend to limit their participation in meetings, debriefs, one-on-one’s, and sharing their feedback, opinions, ideas, or problems.
  3. Silence. Disengaged employees tend to not talk a lot in meetings, calls, one-on-one’s, performance reviews or just in general. This may be glaringly obvious if they started out talkative and positive but over time became less so. This is a sign of disempowerment also. Remember, relationships – possibily – action. If someone is not engaged, your possibilities diminish.
  4. Exhaustion, Cycnicism and Inefficiency. Disengaged employees may result from extended burnout. They may simply have lacked the tools to preserve their mental and physical well-being during periods of intense work-load, or lacked the support or soical structure to accommodate it.

Once you identified individuals who exhibit disengagement, prioritize them in your engagement efforts. So how do you engage individuals? Karlyn Borysenko (2019) at Forbes highlights four ways to engage employees.

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  1. Be Transparent. Do not give your employees half-truths, they will begin to recognize to take what you say with a grain of salt. Be honest if you identify a problem with engagement at your workplace, but also highlight any positives.
  2. Get Your Employees Involved. Have individuals commit to a few actions they can take to improve engagement at the workplace.
  3. Check in with People. Talk to individuals, get their feedback and dont be a stranger.
  4. Create Measures for Continuous Improvement. You want to have a culture of engagement, which may take a continuous effort that needs monitoring.

So the above are all good general measures, or tips for engaging employees. However, there are engagement tools you should place in your toolbox to get results. Bob Chartier’s “Handcrafted Leadership” provides several tools to help you engage individuals.

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  1. The One-On-One Conversation. This tool gives disengaged employees your time, letting them know that you are interested in them. As noted in Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, let them do most of the talking, practice active listening, and give encouragement. Find out things about them such as what is going on in their life, remember their wife and kids names, find out their hobibies and their interests. Use this information to let them know that you are genuinely interested in them in your one-on-one’s. Create a personal-confidential profile for each emploeyee if you need help remembering facts about them.
  2. Reward Good Behaviour. Remember BF Skinners seminal work in psychology on rewards and punishment. Behaviours change more effectively and efficiently when rewarding good behaviours, rather than punishing bad behaviours. So spend your energy rations on rewarding good behaviour. You will find it less emotionally draining and it will result in a more positive environment.
  3. The Feedback Tool. Remember that employees crave feedback. If you are a manager or a supervisor, then remember to regularly give feedback. It lets the person know that their work is acknowledged. But prior to giving feedback, let them give themselves feedback first. They may criticize their own work for you, allowing you to focus on more positives. Then you can acknowledge their their self-awareness and give them advice or encouragement for improvement.
  4. 12-Minute Tool. Set aside 12 minutes every day at a designated consistent time to have conversations with employees that need to be re-engaged. Go to the coffee room or other visible space and encourage conversations with those that need it most. This time should be spent asking the employees what they are working on, challenges they are facing or successes they had.


These are just a few tips and tools for engaging individuals in the workplace. If you are interested in engaging teams, the system and accountability, then stay tuned!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading my post. If you enjoyed it, please subscribe, give it a like, or follow me on Twitter @interestpeaks.

I found the material here interesting. However, I would be much more interested to hear your thoughts, opinions, ideas, questions or criticisms. If you would like to share, please do so in the comment section below. I promise to read all comments you post here.

Why Employee Engagement Should be a Priority

What is engagement?

What does it mean to be engaged? Microsoft Workplace Insights provides a clear, simple definition that resonates with me:

“People want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization.”

The Harvard Business Review defines higher employee engagement as:

“The strength of the mental and emotional connection an employee feels toward their workplace, [which] has many positive benefits — including reduced stress, improved health and job satisfaction, as well as increased productivity, job retention, and profitability.”

The Problem

While reading Bob Chartier’s “Handcrafted Leadership” (2015), I found some painfully disappointing statistics. Other studies and polls reached similar results. The Gallup polling company surveyed almost 1.5 million employees across various sectors and found this:

  • Only 28% of employees feel engaged at work
  • A whopping 54% of employees do not feel fully engaged, meaning that they are compliant, not fully checked out, but lack passion or drive
  • A disheartening 17% were actively disengaged from their workplace

This pains me a great deal. How much more productive could we be if we were able to get those fully engaged at work up to 50%, or 70%, or 100%? How much is our GDP, our communities, our businesses, and future generations impacted by our lack of engagement?

Check out these facts from the Gallup Poll:

  • Organizations with high levels of engagement have a 22% higher level of productivity as those with low engagement
  • Organizations with high levels of engagement have double the success rate as those with low levels of engagement
  • Organizations with high levels of engagement have lower staff turnover and absenteeism
  • Organizations with high levels of engagement have higher quality of work and fewer workplace safety incidents

Think about all the potential that is locked away due to a lack of engagement. These are truly dismal times. Our workplaces are not engaged and it impacts everyone to the detriment of society.

Have you ever felt unengaged at work? If you have, you may have felt bored, burned out, or like your potential was not being fully tapped or acknowledged. This is a major tragedy – that most people, the vast majority, feel this way. You are not alone, and you are not powerless.


Do something about it. Get people engaged by thinking and talking together. Talk to management and your colleagues to ask how you can help engage others. Start a community of practice on engagement. Support heath and wellness at the workplace, get people out for lunbreak walks, have a potluck or BBQ and invite everyone, or start a company sports team. Talk to other people, ask for their opinions, ask them what they are up to at work, encourage people, appreciate and recognize their work, and ensure your colleagues have a chance to share their knowledge and experiences. Create a culture of sharing, relationships and knowledge transfer.

As recommended by Bob Chartier in “Handcrafted Leadership” (2015), engage your workplace on four levels:

  1. Engage individuals
  2. Engage teams
  3. Engage the system
  4. Engage accountability

If you are interested, in the near future I will write some key highlights and tools to consider when you are planning your engagement activities. So, keep your eyes open for that.

In the meantime, check out the Harvard Business Review’s discussion on how to build employee engagement here: https://hbr.org/2019/11/making-work-less-stressful-and-more-engaging-for-your-employees and Microsoft Workplace Insights’ discussion on productivity and engagement here: https://insights.office.com/productivity/employee-engagement-does-more

Thank you so much for reading my post. If you liked it, please subscribe to my blog, give it a like and follow me on Twitter @interestpeaks.

As always, I appreciate comments. Please share your thoughts, questions or opinions it will make for very engaging dialogue.

Your Practice and the Power of Community of Practice

This article was inspired by Bob Chartier’s book “Handcrafted Leadership” published in 2015 by Doghouse Publishing.

Your job is not just your core work duties outlined in your job description. Most of us have something we do at work that goes beyond that. Maybe you are an expert in some area, have an on-going side-of-the-desk project, or are working with others to resolve some issue. This is a practice.

We all should have a side-of-the-desk practice, or better yet a community of practice. If your goal is to improve your leadership abilities, then develop a leadership community of practice. Anyone can have a leadership practice, you can lead from wherever you are, whenever you can help. All you have to do is ask “can I help?”.

The traditional way of doing things was to put together a committee. A Leadership Committee, a committee on process improvement, a committee on standards, etc. But these tools may be outdated. A relic of the “old boys club” days.

Committees have challenges, they are bureaucratic, energy intensive, and non-inclusive as membership is restricted. Whereas a community of practice is entrepreneurial, creates energy and is all-inclusive, no restriction on membership.

The practice and community of practice therefore is a valuable tool to effect change, self-improvement and empowerment.

So what are some ideas for communities of practice at your workplace?

  • Social Media
  • Writing
  • Leadership
  • Mapping & GIS
  • Union work
  • Workplace Engagement
  • Workplace Fitness and Wellness
  • Public Speaking
  • Relationship Building
  • Event Planning
  • Volunteering
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Facilitation
  • Marketing
  • Mathematics
  • Trend analysis
  • etc…

Try this. Next time you have a goal, aspiration, side of the desk project or something, create a community of practice with others who share the same passion.

Remember, there is power in relationships. Relationships – Possibility – Action. Having a community may uncover benefits and possibilities you could not realize on your own.

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and reading this post. But those are just my thoughts. I think it would be more interesting to hear yours. If you have any thoughts, opinions, questions or ideas, please share them in the comments below.

If you liked this post, please subscribe to my blog, like this post and follow me on Twitter @interestpeaks.

Handcrafted Leadership: The Art and Craft of Building Engaged Workplaces and Communities by Bob Chartier Book Review

By Cory Davis

This is a review of “Handcrafted Leadership” by Bob Chartier. This book was published in 2015 by Doghouse Publishing in Calgary Alberta.


“Excellent addition to your leadership repertoire”

About the Author

I received this book from Bob Chartier himself in 2016 while attending a course he taught in Prince George, British Columbia at the Ramada Hotel. It was my first multi-day course on the art of facilitation and engagement. If you have the opportunity to attend one of his courses, I highly recommend it. As you could imagine, a course on facilitation and engagement should be engaging and well-facilitated. It was.

Bob Chartier is a speaker, writer, artisan, and musician. He is the author of two books, “Handcrafted Leadership” and “Bureaucratically Incorrect: Letters to a Young Public Servant”. He also authored several essays. He had a long career with the Canadian public service in many different capacities including working with Deputy Ministers and their management teams and has taught executive leadership programs at Royal Roads University. I got my B.Sc. from Royal Roads University in 2015 and only wish I were smart enough to know he was instructing classing there.

I have no affiliation with Bob Chartier and make no money from advertisements. However, if you are interested in his work, please visit his website at www.BobChartier.ca to find out more, or better yet attend his courses, hire him to speak at your event or buy his books.

What is Handcrafted Leadership All About?

Handcrafted Leadership is a guide to the art of facilitation and engagement giving the reader tool after tool to lead meetings for business results. It tackles difficult problems and is forward looking. It is practical, concise, and short. The tools provided in this book are tried and true. They have been rigorously tested and proven to be effective.

This book is an excellent addition to your leadership repertoire. However, on a deeper level this book does much more. These are critical times for humanity. Thus, we need to work efficiently and effectively. Throughout my career I have seen hundreds of working hours wasted in ineffective and inefficient meetings.

I often hear people groan about attending meetings. Well, if you don’t want to be in a meeting, you probably shouldn’t be there. This is a problem with meetings today. We often do not accomplish enough. They are bland information disseminating relics of a previous era. Today, we know that meetings and teamwork can accomplish much more when facilitated well. There is power in numbers: innovation, collaboration, comradery, motivation, community, and relationship building. However, most of us know that teamwork is difficult. At university, you may have hated working in teams. Teamwork is tough – when it is accomplished haphazardly.

There is an art to teamwork, facilitation, and engagement. These are real skills that needs deep consideration and practice for your team to achieve its potential. This book is an excellent addition to this compendium of knowledge.

What “Handcrafted Leadership” promises the reader

This book promises to help you develop as a leader through sharing ideas, theory, and facilitation and engagement tools better. Reading this book will not make you an expert on leadership, facilitation or engagement. However, you will be more informed and hopefully inspired to put some of this content into practice at your job or volunteer practice.

How it delivers on its promise

The book starts off just how Bob Chartier started his course in 2016. He showed a hand-drawing of a skating rink. This he said, “is the status quo”. He noted that, “it works pretty good”. However, the skating rink is a somewhat rectangular shape – it is a hockey arena first and foremost. If you are unfortunate enough to be a figure skater, then you skate in circles. If you are a speedskater, you skate in an oval shape, if you are just going on a date, then you have to just adhere to whatever shape the rink it. So, this is a problem. Skating rinks are designed for hockey and therefore are best for hockey.

See the source image
The traditional skating arena, retrieved from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/ff/Joe-Louis-Arena.jpg/1200px-Joe-Louis-Arena.jpg

So, some skating rinks tried to improve on the model and added a little pond for little kids to skate while older kids played hockey. Great improvement, now it accommodates more use. This improvement can be thought of as a metaphor for change in an organization, community or even a political or socioeconomic framework. You can always tweak it for the better. These small innovations still keep the same old skating rink model as before, but improvements are always good.

An improved skating area. Retrieved from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/62/Night_ice_skating_on_Mount_Royal.JPG

However, Bob Chartier was inspired when he saw a new kind of skating rink. It was not a rectangle or any one simple shape. There was a fireplace on the ice where people could warm their hands. There were several interconnected areas where people could skate accommodating a much wider range of activity than could with the original hockey-model. This is analogous to a paradigm shift – a complete transformation. This is a major innovation, not just incremental improvements.

Retrieved from: https://seasonsofbownesspark.ca/fw-event-slug/ice-skating-at-bowness-park/
Bowness Park Skating RInk
A new ice skating arena paradigm, retrieved from: https://calgaryplaygroundreview.com/skating-bowness-park-lagoon/

Why is such a transformation or paradigm shift so hard to achieve? Why is it so difficult to “unlearn” ways of thinking or ideas? When I say “skating rink” we all think of the rectangular hockey-style arena. Why can’t we imagine something much better? We all see the world through a particular lens sometimes referred to as a “mental model”.  It is important to understand that mental models play out in organizations just as they do your personal lens.

So, the analogy of the skating rink applies to your organization. Organizations tend to cling onto their mental model with employees left feeling disloyal for challenging it. So how do we shift the mental model of an organization to enable it to transform, embrace a paradigm shift and develop major innovations? Well, one way you could try is to put together a fully engaged team of people who won’t hesitate to ask big questions. This may be the simplest pathway to great big thinking.

I know what you are thinking – “right, like a meeting”. Well, not a meeting in a traditional sense. I mean a meeting that is fully engaged – one that is productive, open, and efficient – that gets results.

This book is a supplement to your toolset for engaging employees and communities. It provides ideas, thought, theories and facilitation tools to help you develop as a leader. It really emphasizes the tools. Most chapters will provide you with several tools for engaging people for results efficiently and effectively.

What you will get from this book

This book will give many tools to put into action. Tools to engage people, teams, systems, and audiences. It will give you tools to replace old-school traditional ones like meetings, committees, and workshops.

Favourite quotes

“A wise man once said to me that you could start to get your head around the challenge of moving an organization of one thousand people when you just consider that such an organization is really just one hundred teams of ten.”

“The whole system is rife with bad meetings, managers making critical decisions behind closed board rooms, and eight-person committees sending reports off somewhere, wherever reports go to die.”

“Action without relationship has no commitment. And action without possibility has no imagination”.

Favourite Part

My favourite part of this book is the facilitation tools it gives. They are not necessarily given in a step by step format. Many of the tools are presented as ideas for you to tailor to your situation.

Least Favourite Part

The book often looks at problems through a management lens making it less relatable to the employee. It looks at problems from a place of authority within an organization as if handcrafted leadership is something for managers only. It does try to accommodate the employee, in some instances, but then goes back to the old boys club management perspective. I would have liked it to give more power and tools explicitly to the employees. So in some ways, it did not resonate with me as much as it could have.

The book is forward looking, however, nobody could have predicted the enagement and facilitation challenges that arose from the pandemic. I hoped that this book would have given more tools that could have been used virtually. It even notes in the “RadioShow” tool not to use internet or video streaming platforms due to technical challenges. This is not the way of the future. We are using video conferencing services more and more. This was a trend prior to the pandemic – the use of telework agreements to attract top talent. Even the public service acknowledges that it is not about where you work it is about what you work and how you work. Why go to an office to do something you can do just as easily from home, or Tim Hortons for that matter. Most young people I talk to love that idea. It saves office space, reduces carbon emissions from the commute and provides autonomy for your work. Even Harvard studies suggest that employees are more engaged with work-from-home options. What we need are facilitation tools for the virtual world – a mental model shift that is desperately needed, but not acknowledged at all in this book.


I highly recommend this book. It is full of useful tools, examples, and new ways of thinking to boost the productivity of your engagement programs. It is a book that I have revisited on several occasions through my facilitation endeavours. However, with that said, there are many resources online as well such as facilitator toolkits. Regardless, this book makes an excellent addition to your toolbox, a deeper look into facilitation and engagement in a clear, concise, and well-organized format.