What does an antique vase got to do with employee engagement?

vintagevaseI was at a closing sale at an antique store over the weekend and as I was lost in my thoughts wandering the rows of furniture and old knick-knacks I came upon a vase. It looked ordinary and maybe even unmemorable to some. But to me, it was vase that reminded me of a pottery class that my sister went to when I was 10 years old. She brought home every case, cup, plate and as a final assignment, a peacock that she laboured painting for weeks. There was an intensity and focus in her eyes whenever I’d see her in her shop cleaning, chiseling, desiring an outcome that only comes from someone with a natural talent for exactness, from someone who listens to her heart and expresses concentration to bring out stellar performance, and from someone who needs to explore her hidden talents as they are adventures in themselves.

Looking at this simple white long neck vase with etched circular patterns and strokes of lush green on its base, I was transfixed at that memory of my sister’s elation as she brought home a final project – a peacock – to show our parents. A familial pride overwhelmed us and we laughed and mom cried with joy. This was amazing work. I was sure I felt I belonged. I belonged with a winning team. I belonged to a group who will run away with those passions and make something out of it. And interestingly enough, I had no need to outdo, out-talent or compete since I knew that wasn’t my capability. I was genuinely happy for her and for us.

peacockpotteryI didn’t buy the vase for many reasons one of which is that it would not work with our current home decor but I did bring home that feeling of what belonging mean. 

Every employee wants that sense of pride. Every employee wants to feel they belong, that they’ve found their home. Every employee will do their best at every circumstance but only to the extent of what they are feeling at the time they are doing their tasks. 

I then call upon leaders to be curious and learn what will keep their team members feeling like they belong to the team, to the organization. Understand who are the introverts so they can be asked during their one-on-one’s with them and to the extroverts who would readily provide their input during team members. A clearer picture of what drives one to feel they belong will result in a more cohesive team.

So here’s a question for you that I’d like for you to respond to below in the comments – what activities or triggers in your work environment that makes you feel like you belong?

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