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How Do We Get People to STAY and STAY ENGAGED?

In both education and sports, we are seeing an exodus unlike anything we have ever seen before. Teachers are leaving the profession at higher rates than ever before, and the transfer portal in college sports is filled with more athletes than ever as well.

Now more than ever, leaders and teachers in coaching and education could benefit from creating a culture shift that keeps people happy, hopeful, and engaged enough to come back.

Gallup is a global analytics and advice firm that helps leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. They have done studies showing that engagement and job satisfaction increase when we have the opportunity to do what we do best every day.


Before the Georgia Bulldogs defeated Alabama to win the 2021 college football national championship, they talked about how they used what they call Skull Sessions to create the deeper relationships that they needed to get an edge to get closer to their goal of winning their first national championship in over 40 years.

Those Skull Sessions were regular, small group meetings where players opened up about their lives and motivations. It helps their athletes become more connected as a team. In the sessions, teammates and coaches open up and tell personal stories about what motivates and inspires them. It allows the team to see each other more as people, and not just football players, and they say it is definitely working because they know what inspires, motivates, and encourages each other.


In The Culture Code, author Daniel Coyle tells the story of how internet entrepreneur and venture capitalist Tony Hsieh uses collisions to connect people. Collisions are small but meaningful personal encounters, and he feels like these encounters are the lifeblood of any great team. He has set a goal of having one thousand ‘collisionable hours’ per year for himself.

When you meet regularly with the people you work with, you get to know them better, they get to know you better, and you get to know each other better. This helps you better define your purpose and create a shared purpose that everyone can support and believe in.


In The Culture Code, author Daniel Coyle also writes about how some of the best cultures are built on what they call Belonging Cues.

Coyle writes that boosting salaries, adding perks, and increasing incentives make sense but don't really help in the long term. He writes that creating Belonging Cues is a much more effective way of transforming noncommital team members into engaged team members. Creating Belonging Cues, like what Georgia does with their Skull Sessions, makes people feel:

1 - Closer to each other

2 - Safer with each other

3 - Like they have a future with each other

Coyle looked at the WIPRO call center in India as a case study for how to keep people coming back to work and engaged in an industry where high employee turnover is the norm - like we are seeing in education and sports.

He looked at how WIPRO hired and trained new workers. Several hundred new hires were divided into three groups:

1 - Group 1 was a group that was hired and trained like normal.

2 - Group 2 was a group that was given an additional hour of training on the company's identity, success, and star performers. At the end of the hour, they were given a sweatshirt with the company's name embroidered on it.

3 - Group 3 was a group that was given an additional hour of training on the company that focused more on them as individuals and what they would bring to the team, including asking questions like, “What is unique about you that leads to your happiest times and best performances at work?” 

Group members were also asked to imagine they were lost at sea and to consider what special skills they might bring to the situation. At the end of the training, they were given a sweatshirt with the company's name AND their name next to each other.

Seven months later, the 3rd group was 250 percent more likely than those from the first group and 157% more likely than those from the second group to still work at WIPRO.

Coyle wrote, "The hour of training had transformed group 3's relationship with the company. They went from being noncommital to being engaged on a far deeper level," because of the steady stream of individualized, future-oriented, amygdala-activating belonging clues they created between the employees and the company.

When we make people feel connected, safe, and that they share a future together, people want to work harder, they are happier, and they are more likely to come back.

Taking the time to do things like Skull Sessions, creating 'collisions,' and taking the time to build connections like WIPRO could be the difference between losing great teachers or great athletes, or keeping them happy, hopeful, engaged, and winning championships.


1 - What are some of the things you do, or could do, on day one to help a new team member feel like they are truly part of the team?

2 - What are some intentional touchpoints you can make during their first week, month, and year to help connect with your team members?

3 - Do you have any team members who might not feel as connected to the team as others? What could you do to connect with them?

For a printable PDF, click here: How Do We Get People to STAY and STAY ENGAGED?

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