'ENG'ine: A Simple Technique to Start Creating a Great Workplace

Scenario 1: You've just spent an hour on a crowded train (or driving through city traffic), dodging people on the way to the office in close to freezing temperatures. You walk in to your office and are on the way to your desk. You pass a number of 'colleagues', most of which greet you with the usual "good morning" whilst they stare at the screen and continue typing away at their keyboard. You reply with a 'necessary' good morning and settle at your desk, open email, etc, etc. Start of another day, same as yesterday, and the day before...

Scenario 2: You've just spent an hour on a crowded train(or driving through city traffic), dodging people on the way to the office in close to freezing temperatures. You walk in to your office and are on the way to your desk. You pass a number of colleagues - they lift their heads, and greet you by name - some even smile at you! Another asks you about your sick child. You remember they went to a great concert the night before and you ask them about it. Another colleague offers to bring you a cup of tea or coffee to warm you up from the cold. You decide to offer a quick sit-down and chat with them in the coffee area before starting work. When you get to your email, you've warmed-up, and feeling energized after some simple and positive encounters from those around you - ready to go with a positive outlook on the day.

Scenario 1 is all too familiar. As a workplace culture change consultant, I bring-up the topic of how the smallest things we do first thing in the morning can make a big difference to the day. Scenario 1 sets-up the usual mundane routines that the brain seems to love, by the way. Not before long, you're sitting in the same meeting, in the same place, with the same people and the same lackluster energy.

Scenario 2 is about people. It's how people can make you feel safe, wanted, respected, and foster a workplace of brothers and sisters and not just co-workers. It's the small things that anyone can do that can really make a difference to the way your day feels. It can make you forget about the long commute and uplift your day. Often the environment you walk into every morning can have a really positive (or negative) effect on the rest of the day.

If Scenario 1 sounds all too familiar, try this little exercise I share with my students. I call it, "ENGine". First, the correlation: Engine is what you need to start in order for your car to move (let's say in the morning when you need to go to work).

In the exercise, ENGine is something small you can do to kick-start your or someone else's day when you greet them. By the way, it doesn't have to be only with people you know - that's a bit.... too easy :). Trying sparking new relationships and start connecting a little more with anyone you encounter - you can practice using it in the office, at the train station, at home, with the staff of your favorite coffee shop, with the neighbors, [fill in the blank], [fill-in another blank]!

So what does 'ENGine' stand for:

The 'E' in ENGine:

  • E is for EYE CONTACT. Make EYE Contact with the person you are going to greet. Too often when a colleague walks by, we often just say good morning out of necessity, or politeness whilst still typing away at the screen. Yet, eye contact makes a personal connection with the other person. It shows them that you care enough to take a moment to give them your time. So stop typing, turn your body towards them and look them in the eyes as they are about to walk by.

The 'N' in ENGine:

  • N is for NAME. This makes a big difference! If you know their name, use it! When greeting someone by name, it automatically brings the other person into a state of attention. They will notice you are looking at them, and you've made time to learn something about them (in this case their name). It enhances the personal connection you just made from doing 'E' (making eye contact). You are no-longer just a presumed Mr or Ms 'so and so' from the finance department, or so and so's mother. You are known as Paul, or Atsuko-san, or whichever beautiful name your parent's gave you. When you hear this as a receiver, it clicks! Oh, that's me, that's my name. So after you make eye contact, say their name and you'll encourage eye contact from the other person.

The 'G' in ENGine:

  • G stands for GREETING. After you've established eye contact and said their name, greet them! Say "Good Morning". Say it with a smile if you like. No-one greets the same way so use your own personal touch to make someone's day. Saying "Good Morning" in a raised pitch will also raise energy levels rather than a drop-off in pitch which tends to weaken all your good work of E and N. Don't forget to watch what happens next!

Try it - turn on that ENGine!

So next time you want to greet someone in the morning, turn-on that ENGine and take note of their reaction. Did it feel different than just greeting someone out of necessity or politeness? Were they surprised? Did anyone react negatively? You might find people's expressions change - especially here in Japan. Remember, even if you don't know them so well and the response is somewhat abrupt, keep having the courage to greet them again the next day!

Who knows, one day, when you've mastered this part, you might find the courage to move to the next technique which I call, ENHance. Replace the 'G' in ENGine with an 'H' to make ENHance. By the way, H=Hug and yes, I have worked in companies where colleagues hug each other (yes, even in Japan). I can tell you in workplaces that have some ENHance happening, you notice productivity, engagement, and workplace culture is amazing (though it does take "work" get to ENHance - you need to Work the Change). If you're interested in more, contact me, I'll show you or your HR team how to transform workplace culture towards an environment you can start calling you colleagues, brothers and sisters!

Happy holidays everyone!!

My mission is simple: I want to help you become a great place to work! I help leaders work on behaviors and traits required to transform workplaces to achieve positive, lasting changes in behavior: for themselves, their people, and their teams. I also help people find 'themselves' in a world that holds true to who you are and your mission in it.

In 2017, I committed to helping 100s of people in Japan who wanted to be happier at work, happier at home, increase emotional intelligence, improve relationships with people, and create happier workplaces through coaching, training and employee engagement strategies. I'm ready for 2018!


Gabriele Ciminelli [Founder and Chief Happiness Officer, Work The Change]

Gabriele Ciminelli