What do homelessness and employee engagement have in common?
Like many people who spend time in the downtown core areas of their cities, I walk by many homeless people huddled in the cold on lonely street corners. I've given out pocket change, larger bills, tanks of gas, Egg McMuffins and Tim Horton's coupons but most often I just walk by going about my business indifferent to my fellow human being stuck on that corner. Homelessness is a complex problem and I'm never quite sure if I'm helping or hindering.
A few days prior to the launch of my first book Higher Purpose Higher Profit I stopped to give a "commemorative" five dollar bill to a man camped out on the corner of my parkade. I'd seen him there every morning and afternoon all winter. It was a brutal winter and I marveled at his toughness but I had never actually engaged with him.
A few weeks after that, I was heading to my car and saw him reading a copy of Think and Grow Rich. I gave him another fiver and this time stopped to talk. Someone had just given him the book minutes before and then I arrived with money. That must have gotten him thinking. I was a little embarrassed to find out that he was not stereotypically crazy or addicted. He had come to the province to work, got injured and had no family or friends to help. I realized then how few steps there are for any of us to end up on the street.
I hired Tim to sell my books on the street that summer. I also invited him to my monthly entrepreneurship talks to sell books at the back of the room. I gave him all the proceeds of the sales but the real gift was hanging out with entrepreneurs and getting immersed in the entrepreneurial mindset. By the end of the summer Tim was back in school with a new job, a car, a girlfriend and a place to live.
I have the good fortune of sharing office space with Brett Wilson who did the math and decided it was economical to have a private chef. Everyday everyone in the office gathers at 12:15 to eat family style at a long table in the kitchen. We are all done by 12:45 recharged and reengaged. In the past 7 years or so, I have consumed more meals from Chef Suzy than anyone else.
Chef obviously understands the role physical nutrition plays in team performance in the office. There are always nuts and berries around for healthy afternoon snacks. But her real contribution is more spiritual. After her meditation every morning, Susanne Clark picks a word for the day. The word is the energy that she brings to the office as she holds court over lunch. While lunch is very efficient it has become a powerful instrument of staff engagement.
Having access to a private chef is a first world privilege about as far away as it gets from homelessness. Obviously people need to eat every day to survive. But to really thrive people need to be a part of something more meaningful and more nourishing. I don't think it took us that long to figure out that the secret ingredient in everything she makes is actually love.