Interest and Apathy - 1 March 2011
The man in this photo is Narayanan Krishnan. He lives in India where he benefited from a middle-class upbringing, a good education, an award-winning career, and international offers for work. But despite the money and status, one day his interest was sparked in a profound way, and he abandoned his privileged life in favour of feeding the poor and mentally ill.
He begins each day at 4am, personally preparing hot vegetarian meals. Then, using a donated van, he and his team deliver the food (and often hand-feed it) to nearly 400 people. They drive over 200 kilometres every day, searching for the homeless underneath bridges and in dark alleys.
It’s more than just a kind heart that resulted in Narayanan’s sacrifice. His interest was sparked and maintained because his five senses were triggered in an intense way. It is these same five senses that can spark the interest in your employees.
Sight: One day, Narayanan saw an old man eating his own human waste. He started feeding that man – and never stopped. The interest trigger was seeing a need, and at work that may be spotting exciting work that needs to be done, or seeing the light at the end of a grueling tunnel. In the absence of any opportunities, interest declines.
Touch: Narayanan has served more than 1.2 million meals at breakfast, lunch and dinner to India’s most destitute. That statistic shows he’s touched thousands of lives. The interest trigger is making a difference, and at work this occurs when employees can see the fruits of their labour. In the absence of such evidence, their interest will diminish.
Smell: “The happiness I see in their face keeps me going,” he says, referring to the homeless. “I take energy from them.” The interest trigger is the smell of success. Countless studies show that when employees are performing poorly and are showing limited signs of improvement, they feel defeated, and so their interest deteriorates.
Taste: Narayanan sleeps on the floor of his charity’s kitchen, and even his parents weren’t supportive until they witnessed the impact of his work. In both cases, the interest trigger was experiencing the other side. At work, employees should know what it’s like to be your customer. Without an understanding of what it’s like on the other side, interest vanishes.
Hear: In recognition of his work, CNN named Narayanan one of their top ten heroes in 2010. Click on this link to see a short video of him that’s both inspiring and beautiful. The trigger here is getting feedback. Whether it’s good or bad, employees need to hear how they’re traveling – especially if it’s good. If feedback goes missing, so too does their interest.
When team members are apathetic, it’s usually because one or more of their five senses aren’t engaged, resulting in a blatant lack of interest that leaves a bad taste in their mouth. And yours.
To download complimentary e-books on employee engagement, retention, and recruitment (valued at over $100), please click