Finding meaning and connection when it’s 100 degrees outside, one o’clock in the afternoon, not a cloud in the sky, and 38 pallets of sod are waiting to fill in an acre of land, isn’t necessarily ideal. If you haven’t laid sod before, just imagine lifting a couple thousand 20-pound slabs of pre-cut dirt and grass one by one and carefully placing them on the ground in a brick-stack pattern to create an instant yard. Not only is the sod heavy like thick rolls of carpet, but there is A LOT of it! And the heat! This may seem like a crazy idea to most but this is what the DecisionWise team did recently for one of our own…did I mention the heat?
At this time last year, I was eating lunch with my good friend and co-worker. It was just me and him at a small Mexican joint when he received a call from his wife. By the look on his face I could tell it must be something serious. He politely excused himself from the table and took the phone conversation outside. As I ate my food I watched him pacing back and forth outside the window. He had a deep crease in his brow indicating serious concern for whatever his wife was telling him. He returned to the table, picked up his food, and without explanation he was gone. I finished my meal wondering what the news could be. It would turn out to be worse than I thought.
I returned to my office and completed my work for the day not paying much attention to what had transpired earlier with my buddy at the Mexican restaurant. As I drove home I dialed his number to see if everything was all right, not knowing what to expect. He picked up and proceeded to tell me that his 7-month-old daughter had just been diagnosed with leukemia, cancer of the blood cells. My heart sank. My baby boy was the same age and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I didn’t even know children that young could be affected by cancer. What could I say or do that could ease the stress, pain, and worry? No one knew the journey that lay ahead, the long conversations with doctors trying to understand the sickness, the sleepless nights next to their sick child laying in a small hospital crib, the side effects from chemotherapy that can bring even the strongest of adults to their knees, and the constant, pounding stress. Since that day, many people have reached out to offer help and any type of assistance possible to my friend and his young family, and frankly that’s about all we can do.
Eleven months later, his daughter is still undergoing treatments that cause loss of hair and other painful and uncomfortable side effects. She has a difficult time keeping solid food in her body so she receives nutrition via a tube that she wears constantly. After all her small body has been through, she still maintains an infectious smile and the energy to want to play with her big sister outside on the grass under the big blue sky. One problem though, there is no grass. Well, not yet.
Using every spare moment where he was not in the hospital, my friend has worked tirelessly to get his yard prepped. Single-handedly installing a sprinkler system he now has a permanent trucker hat tan on his scalp. But I haven’t heard a single complaint as he prepared for the new grass his two daughters could enjoy together.
A week before the sod was to arrive, the DecisionWise team approached my friend with an offer: allow the team to come together and install the sod in his yard so his daughters could have an enjoyable place to play. And that’s exactly what we did. Twenty DecisionWise team members got work done early and changed into their grubby work clothes for an afternoon to serve one of our own. We gathered work gloves, wheelbarrows, hats, sunscreen, water, and of course pizza, and separated into assembly lines of sod layers. With sweat dripping, slab after slab of instant grass was laid in an organized manner until the entire front and back yards were green—ready to be played on by two young sisters. It was hard work, but it was our pleasure to be able to put our own teachings into practice, especially for one of our own team members and friends.
At DecisionWise, our team of consultants guide corporate leaders on how to lead staff and build successful teams. We even wrote the book on employee engagement, ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations, in which we teach about meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection. Helping a sick child obviously taps into MEANING. But that wasn’t the only key in play that day. In just a few short hours, we went from a dust bowl to a lush yard; the IMPACT of our presence was unmistakable. Not to mention seeing the eyes of those sweet little girls. In fact, the CONNECTION with those girls, my friend and his wife, and all my colleagues sweating it out that day has gone through the roof. And you know what? Working for a company that gave us the AUTONOMY to take work off and help out both empowered me and increased my CONNECTION to it as well. Touching on all these ENGAGEMENT MAGIC® keys might explain why, despite the physically uncomfortable nature of the task, nothing but smiles shone through the dirt and sweat stained faces that day.
It was MEANING and CONNECTION, two of the five keys of employee engagement, which brought the DecisionWise team together that day. My friend and his wife were effusive in their gratitude to everyone for showing up and giving of their time and effort to help out that day. The DecisionWise team in turn thanked them for giving us the opportunity to serve, connect, and find a deeper meaning in our jobs. They received more than a yard and we received more than some time off of work.
It’s easy to show up for work every day and complete tasks, but that will never keep us authentically engaged. Finding meaning, making an impact, and building connections in both our job and with the PEOPLE we work with produce authentic lasting engagement.