Posted by: drewdice | March 2, 2014

This is NOT the Checklist Manifesto

The power of engagement fascinates me – when true engagement occurs, relationships flourish, business thrives, individuals get inspired, and you can feel a tangible energy and flow around the engaged parties.

Simple and elegant in concept and action, yet too often, individuals, teams, communities and organizations miss the mark. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of examples of getting it right – just not enough, in my not-so-humble opinion. I can’t help but actively observe day-to-day interactions between people, especially while at Whole Foods, or the gym, or at work, or a local restaurant (actually, according to my wife, JoAnn, I might just be obssessed with the subject). We miss so many opportunities to create moments of pure magic (check out this YouTube video by Drew Dudley on Lolipop moments – it totally captures the spirit of what I mean).

I’ve got a thought on what could be causing this huge miss. You may have others, and I’d love to hear them, so please post your thoughts. Here’s mine:

– At work, we’ve become so distracted and so transactional and ‘checklist’ based, that we’ve lost the art and beauty in human interaction. Think about it. Can you remember the restaurant server who asked how everything was – without making eye contact, and in a tone that really said “I am not actually concerned with your meal, but I know I have to ask this question”? Do you remember the last customer service interaction you had on the phone when the person asked if there were anything else she could do for you, when you know that question was only asked because it is a line item on the quality assurance checklist?

People are so programmed to perform the task without remembering the intent behind the action. Going through the motions is giving too much credit, in many cases, and I know we can do better.

Let’s get back to the basics:

– Whether at work or in our personal lives, mindset and attitude comes from the ‘top’ – how are you leading the culture of those you lead? (and if you don’t think you are a leader, you are very much mistaken)

– An abundant mindset of serving and engaging drives employee and customer loyalty, referrals, spend, drive….the list goes on and on. Is yours an abundant or scarcity mindset?

– Metrics matter, but remember what is behind the metrics? If those metrics aren’t used to learn, improve, grow, coach, and lead, why bother?

I know we can do better, and I’m counting on you to help move this engagement transformation forward.



  1. Great points. Since many of these interactions happen in a workplace, how much do you think our “programming” to complete these checklists and devolve into transactional interactions comes from performance management systems built on carrots and sticks?

    • Brenden – I definitely think this checklist mindset comes, in part, from performance measurement systems. I’ll give the ‘A’ here and say that I believe that is unintentional, but it happens, just the same.

      Here is an example:

      When I was a personal trainer in my first job in a health and fitness club, we had to carry a clipboard as we walked the floor, documenting all of our member interactions – the person’s full name, the actual time we spoke with them, and the topics/themes of the discussion. The intent was to ensure that trainers interacted with all members – not just the ones we knew – and that the discussions were productive and focused on helping members achieve their goals.

      What actually happened, though, was that because trainers were measured daily and weekly on the number of members talked to, versus the members who checked in to the fitness floor, it became more of an exercise in just writing down names (often times, trainers didn’t actually speak to the members, just wrote the names) and making up topics and time frames.

      What management measured ‘got done’ in a very checklist way, but the intent of the exercise was not achieved. HUGE gap in execution and intent.

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