IdeaConnection Interview with Clint Swindall, Author of Living for the Weekday and Engaged Leadership
By Vern Burkhardt
"But ultimately, where we are today is the result of the choices we've made in or lives, and where we end up will be the result of all future choices we make." Living for the Weekday, page 212

Vern Burkhardt (VB): Congratulations on the publishing of your second book.

Clint Swindall: Thank you.

When I wrote the first book I convinced my publisher it would be a good idea to write it in a fable format. There are some people in the publishing industry such as business book reviewers who don't think a business book in this format is an effective way of communicating. I stuck to my guns on the first book because I believed there's value in this approach. Besides a number of authors, including Spencer Johnson, Ken Blanchard, and John Kotter, have written wonderful fables that have been effective and successful. There's a market as many people enjoy learning in this format.

photo of Clint SwindallEngaged Leadership, which was written through the employer's eyes, enjoyed great success so I proposed to the publisher that for Living for the Weekday I would take the same fable that was in the first book and write it through the employees' eyes. That way the people who have read the first book would recognize the same characters but considered from a different perspective. Either book can stand on its own so you don't have to have read Engaged Leadership first.

A couple of weeks ago I read a review from someone who apparently doesn't learn from a fable format, and felt that a business book should be written in a business fashion. I often have readers tell me the books have made a difference in their lives, and they appreciated the format and the simplicity of presentation of the information.

It seems that many business authors and authors in general write books to show the world how brilliant they are, but the average reader looks at these books and thinks 'they're impressive but how do I apply them to my life?' My goal was to enable the average reader to be able to grasp and apply the ideas in the books.

Research shows that the average reader doesn't get past the third chapter of a book. The thought of somebody putting down my books after reading only a small portion was devastating to me, so I set out to try to avoid this happening. As a first step I decided to write the books with no third chapter! Both have one long chapter which is the fable, and a second chapter summarizing the business messages to be learned.

VB: In your first book, Engaged Leadership, you pointed out that leaders must build a culture to overcome employee disengagement – "…a culture where employees want to work." Would you remind us how leaders can work to build this type of culture?

Clint Swindall: With three out of four employees being at some level of disengagement, leaders have a tremendous responsibility to build a culture where employees truly do want to work. Any leader can do this by focusing on four specific things.

The first is building a consensus for the organization's vision. It's not enough just to have a vision. It's not enough to have a vision printed on a plaque, hung on a wall, and assume that everybody's going to be inspired to follow it. Employees have to know how their specific tasks and duties, however mundane, contribute to realizing the organization's bigger vision.

The second is inspiring people to want to pursue the vision. It's not enough to give people a job. Given the recession and the down-turn in the economy there are a lot of leaders who say that with over 9% unemployment employees should be happy to have a job and be receiving a pay check every second week. A pay check will be enough motivation to get people to show up for work and to do their jobs to acceptable standards, but if we want to create a culture of engagement where people want to contribute their best we have to find a way to focus on inspiring people to want to pursue the company's vision.

Third, a positive culture is accomplished by building a team to make it all happen. You can have the greatest vision, communicate it to your employees, and work hard to inspire them but if you have employees with the wrong skills or employees who are in the wrong jobs, then none of it matters. You need employees who are able and willing to contribute their talents each and every day to the best of their ability.

Fourth, a leader has to have an honorable character that no one can ever question. We can do the first three things well but if people question why we do what we do, or if we say something's important and do just the opposite, it causes people to not want to follow us regardless of what we say.

VB: By character do you mean integrity?

Clint Swindall: I do mean integrity. I mean our core convictions.

An example of not having an honorable character would be, after telling our employees it's important they be honest in everything they do in the organization, the next time the phone rings we say to the receptionist, "Tell them I'm not here." These types of small things completely negate what we say is important.

Leaders have to remember that employees are looking at them every day and they know what is acting with integrity. Employees see leaders' character, core convictions, and beliefs. Employees know whether or not there is congruency between what leaders say is important and what they actually do.

VB: In Living for the Weekday you say, "…employee engagement is a two-way road." Would you explain?

Clint Swindall: Leadership plays a critical role in overcoming employee disengagement but leaders can't do it without an active involvement and contribution from the employees in the organization. Leaders must do their part and employees must be actively involved with their own level of personal engagement to make it happen.

When both sides are doing their part, engagement has a chance to work. Ultimately they have to meet in the middle.

VB: What does it mean to be "actively disengaged" compared to disengaged?

Clint Swindall: Those terms come from the Gallup organization, which conducts studies of employee engagement every year. One of their studies showed that 74% of employees are at some level of disengagement. 55% are disengaged. They show up for work, do the bare minimum to get by, collect their paycheck, and go home. This breeds mediocrity, inhibits the organization from getting any better, and reduces the organization's ability to compete in the marketplace.

Even more troubling, 19% are actively disengaged. These actively disengaged employees are pro-actively trying to tear down the culture of the organization. They're constantly recruiting new members to join their 'pity parties'. They're bitter with the leadership and with the organization's vision and direction. Rather than showing up and doing their job to the bare minimum to get by which would be bad enough, these employees are purposely trying to recruit other people to join their group of actively disengaged employees in an attempt ultimately to disrupt and discredit the organization and its leaders. Often they refer to the leaders as "the management."

VB: The ultimate result could be to make the company, which gives them their job and paycheck, financially unsuccessful.

Clint Swindall: No question about it. It amazes me when I meet employees who are actively disengaged, realizing that the company made a decision to hire and bring them into the organization, and they proactively work to tear down the culture and to bite the very hand that feeds. It truly does amaze me but, according to research, one in five people in organizations are pro-actively trying to tear down the culture.

VB: What lessons can we learn from Larry Marcus, who was 'actively disengaged' in the fable in your book?

Clint Swindall: There are three things we can learn from Larry in Living for the Weekday.

Actively disengaged employees in any organization can and often do have a significant impact on the organization, and for this reason it's important to overcome their influence. Using the Gallup data, there are about 26% of the employees in an organization who are engaged, which is not a great deal higher than the 19% actively disengaged. Both ends have an opportunity to grab the 55% in the middle who are somewhat disengaged. This should motivate leaders to take steps to recruit the 55% in the middle to get them on the positive side of the business. The actively disengaged employees will also try to gain recruits from the 55% group because misery does indeed love company. You can be assured that the negatives can influence a worrisome number of employees within the middle group. We learn, through the character of Larry Marcus, if there is ever a reason to eliminate or at least try to figure out a way to manage around those who are actively disengaged it's that they can have a negative influence on so many other employees' attitudes toward their work.

The second thing we learn is that most people don't enjoy being around actively disengaged employees. I'm amazed at how often these actively disengaged employees think that somehow their demeanor is attractive to other employees. While some people may smile at them and nod their head appearing to be somewhat in agreement, at the end of the day most people do not like being around people who are always negative. It brings down the actively engaged and most of the somewhat disengaged employees, and most prefer to disassociate from these actively disengaged people.

The third lesson is that most organizations will tolerate this level of negativity and the tearing down of their culture for only so long. At some point, provided there is strong leadership in place and every effort has been made to try to turn the Larry Marcuses around, good leadership will realize it's time for these employees to have another career opportunity somewhere outside of the organization. The lesson is that most organizations can tolerate this negativity for only so long, as we saw in the case of Larry Marcus in the fable.

VB: One wonders whether the Larry Marcuses in the world can be happy in any job or career.

Clint Swindall: That's a wonderful point, and I'm not sure that they can.

Some people by nature fall in the top 26% of employees who are actively engaged. I call them the "Oh yeah's." I call the bottom 19 percent "Oh No's," and the 55% the "Ok's".

By comparison, it seems there's a portion of those in the bottom 19% – the actively disengaged – who would look for the negativity in everything they do no matter what job they've got and no matter how much it was in line with their passion in this world. Trying to tear down the culture is part of who they are. So I agree with you that unfortunately there's some – the Larry Marcuses of the world – who would probably not be happy in any environment.

VB: It must be more enjoyable to be actively engaged like Miles Freeman in your book?

Clint Swindall: No question and, in fact, it really doesn't take any more effort to be a Miles Freeman. In most cases it will take a lot less.

It takes more effort to be an "Oh no" negative person who is down on the organization than to show up for work and realize this is another day. Every day is a gift. You are fortunate to have a job since there's nearly 10% unemployment. Not only do you have a job opportunity, but also you're good at what you do.

It's a lot easier to be appreciative of what you do, bounce out of bed, and go do it even if it's not the thing you believe you were put here on the earth to do. It's a job, provides income, and allows you to live the lifestyle that you live.

VB: Does it surprise you when you meet people who drag themselves through the week in search of the weekend, week after week, but don't find another job or career?

Clint Swindall: Boy does it ever. It absolutely does.

We get one shot at life. It's not a dress rehearsal; it's the real deal. Every day, particularly as you get older, you find that more friends, family, and work associates pass on, and you realize we truly are here for only a whisper of time.

Our happiness while we're here is a matter of personal accountability. I am amazed at the number of people who are willing to settle for dragging themselves through 5 days to get to the weekend. If you are that unhappy find something else you would rather do.

I remind people that with 10% unemployment 9 out of 10 people who want a job have one. It's often easy for us to focus on the 1 out of 10 who don't. There are plenty of opportunities if you search hard enough. The jobs may not be at the income level you want but sometimes you get so caught up in the financial part you forget other aspects such as job satisfaction. There may be something else you would like to do but because it pays less you persist in a job you don't like or want to be in. To me it wouldn't be worth it if I had to drag myself through 5 days in order to get to a weekend just to be able to earn a higher income.

VB: You made the interesting point that those waiting for the weekend may not even have an exciting weekend to look forward to.

Clint Swindall: It's an interesting phenomenon.

It amazes me when you walk through an office on Monday and say to someone, "Good morning. How are you?" They look at you and reply, "Oh my gosh. It sure feels like Monday." Then on Tuesday you ask them and they say, "Is it still Monday because it doesn't feel like it got any better from yesterday." On Wednesday they look at you, smile, and say, "It's hump day. You know we're half way to the weekend." By Thursday they have a little grin on their face and say, "It's Friday eve. We're almost to the weekend." And on Friday they finally get excited because they've been waiting all week for the weekend.

Even more surprising, on Monday morning you pass some of the disengaged employees and say, "So how was your weekend? Did you do anything exciting?" In response, they look at you and say, "No, nothing special."

There needs to be a new rule! You can't have a count down to the weekend if you're not going to do anything novel or exciting when it arrives. It's almost as though people consider their life as having two sides to it: work and home. And only home can be fun and a place worth being at.

Perhaps an actively disengaged employee first came up with the saying that a bad day of golf is better than any good day at work. It's amazing that anyone would rather be bad at doing something that isn't at work than to go to work and have a great day.

VB: Get a different job and give up golf.

Clint Swindall: There you go, exactly.

I also advise, "For those who complain all the time about their work, try the alternative. Quit. Walk away from your job, do nothing, and see how that works for you. See how unemployment feels if you don't like your job." Once you face this question you realize it comes down to personal accountability, to how you choose to see your life.

It is amazing that some people prefer to point the finger of blame for their unhappiness at their employer, job, or career. The issue to be confronted is you have to find a way to enjoy this life because this indeed is your life and not your company's life."

VB: Would you talk about what you call the "imaginary concept of life balance?"

Clint Swindall: I called the idea of "life balance" an imaginary concept because it simply can't and shouldn't happen.

Balance by definition is an equality of distribution, and at no point in our life will we ever achieve balance, as described by some life balance experts. On the face of it the concept seems great. Some life balance programs use a scale, with work on one side and home life on the other as if somehow those two things have to balance. The implication is the goal is to achieve a balance of time, which usually means you need to work less and spend more time at home with your family. While this may be an aspect of bringing satisfaction to our life, the idea of balance being an issue of time between the two simply isn't applicable in most cases.

I spoke with a banker not long ago who made the comment, "Early in my career when I was raising children I worked 8 to 5, and raced home to be with my children. When they went off to college I experienced the empty-nest syndrome and realized that I didn't want to be at home as much. I wanted to be at work. Now instead of working 8 to 5, I'm probably working 7 to 7. I'm working significantly more hours than I did before, and I have the same level of satisfaction with my life, if not more, now than I did back then." She realized balance was not an issue of time. It was an issue of being satisfied with where she was in her life.

VB: You talk about finding the root of any challenge we face. What do you mean by challenge?

Clint Swindall: I mean anything you're facing that's causing you to not find satisfaction in the five areas that need the most focus in your life. In the book I identify the five areas of our life as being career, relationships, health, finances, and spirituality.

When we look at it from those five aspects, instead of just work and home, one or more of those five areas may be the cause of a lack of satisfaction in your life. You may think it's your job that's causing your problem when in reality it could be a health issue. You may be so out of shape that you feel lousy when you are at work. Feeling lousy all day may be causing you to not want to be at work, but you blame the work you do or your employer as being the problem.

If you are unable to manage your finances and are not sure whether or not you can make your car payment for the month, it's easy to think, 'My employer doesn't pay me enough'. The challenge may be that you don't manage your money well even though you are receiving a fair wage for the job you do.

I talk about finding the root of any challenge you face. The challenge will be whatever is keeping you from finding satisfaction in each of these five areas.

VB: "Keep in mind that our success in this world will not be determined by what we know. Our success in this world will be determined by what we do." Would you talk about this?

Clint Swindall: It's not what we know; it's what we actually do that matters.

Knowing everything we need to know about the five areas related to our satisfaction in life doesn't mean we will address problem areas. Another example is some leaders may know everything they need to know about leadership but not be able to develop and communicate an inspiring vision for their organization, or not be able to form strong teams to implement the vision.

We may know what we need to do to be successful but for whatever reason we don't do them. We know we need to be healthy, and we almost intuitively know that if we are healthier we will be happier. This knowledge doesn't mean we're actually working towards losing weight by eating better food and exercising more. We all know we need to manage our finances, but that doesn't mean that our financial house is in order.

VB: Is it a matter of what we do to address our challenges?

Clint Swindall: That's exactly right. Often it's an issue of awareness.

As I've traveled to speak about the messages contained in Living for the Weekday, I've often had people come up to me and say, "I've considered time as the key component of achieving a positive work/life balance. The result was I tried to leave work earlier and spend more time with my family, but it wasn't making me any happier."

Rather than the challenge being a matter of how to spend more time at home, the issue may be the nature of your relationships with your spouse, children, friends, and relatives. Your dissatisfaction with work may even be related to the type of relationships with your boss or some co-workers. More time may cause greater irritation and dissatisfaction if the problem is the quality of your relationships and, if so, addressing this challenge is the key to your happiness and perhaps even to your level of engagement at work.

VB: "…according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 67 percent of American workers are unhappy in their present work situation." Is being happy in your job mainly a matter of self-motivation?

Clint Swindall: To a considerable degree it is.

The ideal is to know what you do well, and doing it every day. This most often occurs when you are able to relate your career and the job you do to your purpose in life.

Self-motivation is especially important where your job is not related to what you especially enjoy doing, or you don't feel it relates to your career preference or purpose. If you have engaged leaders in your organization it is likely that your self-motivation will be enhanced in these circumstances.

You have to approach every day as if your boss is going to be buried with other issues and putting out fires. Then you will think your contribution and engagement is up to you, which will require you to be self-motivated.

One wonders why 2/3 of workers, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are "unhappy" in their present work situation. It seems strange that many of these people don't wake up to the fact that it is futile to merely sit around waiting for someone else to make them happy. Why wait for someone else to inspire you?

It's a matter of personal responsibility and accountability. If you don't have an engaged leader to inspire you, you have to strive to inspire yourself and to make a contribution toward employee engagement in your workplace. If so, personal happiness has a chance to occur.

VB: Do you foresee this high incidence of unhappiness with one's work situation changing dramatically, declining among youth who generally have many options for a career and the ability to be self-employed and work collaboratively with others through the Internet?

Clint Swindall: Increased career options because of technology and the younger generation's ability to embrace new technology should increase employee engagement. It will give more people the opportunity to do what they enjoy rather than what they have to do. There are many examples of young people being highly successful in implementing innovation related to a new technology.

But if we can't be engaged when working for someone else, the chances of working successfully on our own are probably small. On the other hand, increased career options could increase the unhappiness of highly skilled people in the workplace because they may constantly think that starting their own business would be easy, even if they don't do so.

For instance, you may like to build widgets and believe they can be sold over the Internet. Some moderate success in sales may not result in long-term success if you are not an entrepreneur with the ability to run a startup or expanding business. This may be a trap that some young people will fall into in the future, leading to unhappiness when they realize there's a totally different set of skills required of an entrepreneur compared to a good technician.

At the end of the day it's up to us to find satisfaction in whatever we do.

VB: If we can't be happy working for an employer is it unlikely we will be successful working for ourselves?

Clint Swindall: That's exactly right. It amazes me how many people think that working for themselves is the solution. If you can't find a way to enjoy a job, be engaged, and find satisfaction working for someone else, there's a good chance the idea of being self-employed will turn out to be a myth.

VB: Would you advise employers that the key selection criterion when hiring new employees is whether or not they were engaged in their previous jobs?

Clint Swindall: It matters, but it's not the key selection criteria. Some people can be disengaged in a previous job and it's not necessarily going to determine how they will be in the next one.

A person' previous job may not have been the right fit. Sometimes you accept a job because it's the best, or in some cases, the only opportunity in front of you. You may have been disengaged in that role because it just wasn't the right job for you, and the one you're currently interviewing for is the right fit.

Another example would be where you worked for a boss that didn't create a culture of engagement, but instead did the exact opposite. Some leaders can have the effect of wearing down even good employees to the point where they became disengaged. In these cases good employees may be looking for another job to find a culture where they can thrive and show their best abilities. If so, a great hiring opportunity is available to a great leader.

VB: When talking about focusing on one's own personal growth to further your career you say, "Perhaps one of the best things you can do is to learn a new language." Why is this?

Clint Swindall: There are many things you can do to develop yourself and, as I mentioned in the book, we have a responsibility to do so. If an employer is not providing training a fully engaged employee will seek to increase his/her skills by finding their own training opportunities even if they have to pay for it themselves.

One of the best things you can do is learn a new language because the world is becoming ever more global. In this environment you've got to find ways to stand out and be noticed by great leaders and great companies. You've got to find ways that will make you unique and enable you to bring value to your current or prospective employer that other people aren't. A second language offers such value for many companies and furthers your career.

Technicians in some areas are relatively plentiful so competition for the best jobs is keen. A technician who also happens to be bilingual has an opportunity to stand out in a crowded field.

VB: Increasingly people living in countries outside North America are bi- or multilingual, which increases their countries' competiveness.

Clint Swindall: That's exactly right, which just increases our need to find a way to become bilingual.

VB: When talking about how effective relationships contribute to our success, you say, "Don't just walk away from the negativity – run. Get as far away from it as you can." It's that important?

Clint Swindall: It is. It's absolutely necessary.

We become like the people we're around. I always put a caveat on the statement you quoted – don't just walk away from the negativity, run so it doesn't rub off on you in any way. Negative people can have an incredible impact on the culture of an organization, and disrupt the positive nature of even highly engaged employees. Being with negativity is a risk that is often not worth taking. The choice is yours.

On the other hand, sometimes we do need to stay and try to help someone who is negative. If we are consciously trying to assist the person to recognize the adverse implications they are and will continue to face the negativity shouldn't rub off. Sometimes we encounter a negative person because part of our purpose is to help them see the positive nature of what's around them. Nonetheless, it will be irritating to be around.

VB: In your blog article "Top of the Morning" you say, "Research indicates that whatever we see, hear, or do first thing in the morning will stick in our subconscious mind for the rest of the day." What is it about human nature that bad news sells?

Clint Swindall: It's amazing to me.

You often hear people say, "I wish they would put more good news on the news" but it seems most are attracted to, or taken with, negative news and events. It amazing that so many people have an attraction to the negative side of any story. If you're driving down the southbound lane of a highway and in the northbound lane there's an accident, often the southbound lane will be moving slowly because many drivers want to stop and watch.

There's an old saying that 'if it bleeds it leads'. You can turn on a television and there will be somebody there to share with you information about all the murders, rapes, wars, and crimes that went on yesterday. Those who have the responsibility of selling ads and getting sponsors for newscasts must realize that we as human beings lean toward the negative or the unusual. This says something about us as a society. Perhaps it also helps to explain why negative people in the workplace seem to be able to attract a following, and experiences in their non-working life reinforce their negativity – in this case the media's news coverage.

VB: If you watch the media would you conclude the world is a dangerous place – much more dangerous than it actually is?

Clint Swindall: No question there is some truth to this.

Sometimes we judge society and the world based on what we see on the news. We are also prone to make decisions in our personal lives based on what we see and hear.

Not to advocate remaining blind to what's going on around us, but there are times when you ask someone about some current event and they look at you and say, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I haven't turned the news on in the last 6 months." One could almost be envious that they are able to detach themselves from negativity, allow themselves to enjoy life, and see their life through a different lens – a positive lens.

VB: "Consider this fact – two thirds of Americans are over-weight. Half of those are obese." Would America be significantly more productive and innovative if this proportion of its citizens ate less and exercised more?

Clint Swindall: It's impossible to be highly engaged at work if you feel lousy every single day. There's no question we need to become healthier to become more engaged.

I can think back to a time in my life when I wasn't very healthy, because I ate and drank what I wanted. I was tired when I got up in the morning, fatigued when I sat down at my desk first thing in the morning, and I couldn't wait for lunch because I was starving by mid morning. My body was in a state of high-fat hangover in the afternoon because of the garbage I would put into my system at lunch. And then I couldn't wait to go home because I was so tired and didn't feel well due to the fact I was overweight. I was never obese, but I wasn't healthy.

I look back on those days and realize that while I was an effective and efficient employee, I probably could have contributed at a much higher level. I could have been much more productive, innovative, energetic, and engaged if I had focused on my health, which is one of the five areas for living for the weekday.

VB: Are you optimistic that reducing this overweight and obesity problem is likely to occur in the coming decades?

Clint Swindall: I wish the answer to that question was yes, but I'm not optimistic about it changing over the next decade.

It's a matter of personal accountability, and relates to what we discussed earlier. Our success is more tied to what we do than what we know. People know that we have an overweight society, and they know obesity is a problem. Individuals who are overweight, if they acknowledge to themselves that they are overweight, would know it is not healthy. Yet the problem gets worse and worse.

While I recognize there are times when someone can't control their weight, the majority of time it's an individual choice and each person has to make a decision to make the necessary changes that will improve their health and weight. It may require a trigger point such as a friend or member of the family dying or being unhealthy from being overweight, or the person may get to a point of saying, "Enough is enough."

About a year ago a good friend looked in the mirror and said, "It's time to make a change." It wasn't the media, scientific articles, reports or awareness programs that changed his perspective. He looked in the mirror, acknowledged to himself he had a problem, and made a life-changing decision that had an incredibly positive impact on his health and happiness. It also meant he had the energy and drive to take steps to add more value to his employer.

VB: Is it almost a sure thing that every employee who focuses on adding more value to his or her employer will stand out in an organization?

Clint Swindall: Yes it is.

With 74% of employees at some level of disengagement the highly engaged employees who are adding value will draw the attention of their leaders. With the economy the way it is and companies trying to find ways to innovate, be more creative, and add more value to their customers, they're starving for employees who will add more value.

When companies talk about plans to layoff 10%, 20% or 30% of their workforce, it is of less concern to those who know they're adding additional value to their employer. Those are the employees that employers retain to the extent they can.

And even if laid off, highly engaged employees who habitually add significant value to their employers will have the confidence, positive references from their leaders, self motivation, energy, and support systems to enable them to find employment. In these cases pity the negative people who were actively disengaged before they lost their jobs.

VB: Even if your whole division were to be closed a highly engaged employee would likely have the confidence to find another job.

Clint Swindall: No question about it.

I've seen occasions where an employer will shut down an entire division or operation, but they still moved high value employees to another division of their organization. They realized that those who understand the importance of adding value, or of being an effective leader for positive thinking, should be retained because of their benefit to the organization.

In the worst case scenario if the entire company shuts down, the highly engaged employee will have the self-confidence to walk into another employer and say, "Here's what I did at my other organization, here's how I added value above and beyond what was expected, and I will do that for you." Highly engaged employees remain highly engaged in attitude and behavior even when faced with adversity.

VB: "Before you can be happy at work you must be happy with you, and before you can figure out your bigger purpose, you need to determine what makes you happy." Do you have recommended approaches for becoming clear on these two points?

Clint Swindall: In order to determine what's going to make you happy and how it ties into our bigger purpose, you have to figure out what makes you angry. What keeps you up at night? Once you've been able to identify what makes you angry you can say to yourself, "I'm not going to rest until I know that every day I'm making a contribution to correct this injustice or improve the situation."

Some people say, "I don't know what my bigger purpose is but I know what makes me happy, and so I'm going to pursue that happiness." It may or may not be true happiness. Having a purpose is an important part of your spirituality.

VB: Which of the actions identified by members of the Dinner Club in the fable you include in Living for the Weekday are your favorites?

Clint Swindall: My absolute favorite was the existence of the Dinner Club in and of itself.

A group of employees came together on a regular basis to talk about how they could improve the business, but perhaps even more importantly to learn more about each other. This reinforced their commitment to be fully engaged employees who were not just living for the weekend. It reinforced the idea that organizations aren't just made of good employees; they're made of good people.

If employees spend time together outside of the workplace they will understand each other better, and likely spend time talking about ways to add more value to their business. Miles Freeman quickly learned this lesson when he had the opportunity to meet on a regular basis with the members of Dinner Club.

VB: How would reading Living for the Weekday help with establishing a culture of innovation in an organization?

Clint Swindall: Reading the book will help you understand the five areas that ultimately bring about happiness, and once we have figured out how to become happier we are more inclined to become more engaged. There's no question that engaged employees add to a culture of innovation in any organization.

It's not only a matter of employers hiring people who are innovative, who are creative, and able to implement innovative ideas. It's a matter of how to help employees find satisfaction in those five areas of life so they will be motivated to contribute to the company's need for innovation in order to survive and prosper.

VB: At the end of the fable you include a quote from Albert Einstein. What is the significance of this to an engaged employee?

Clint Swindall: The quote is, "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction."

Genius is about having the ability to stop making things more difficult. I mentioned at the beginning of this interview that some authors try to make things more complex than they have to be in order to make themselves look smart, and some employees do the same thing. These employees mistakenly try to make things more difficult thinking that it shows the value they bring to the organization.

Albert Einstein was right that any fool can complicate things, but it takes a touch of genius and courage to be willing to say, "Let's make this task or product easier to understand and use, not more difficult. Let's find a way to enable more people to understand the simplicity of what we do."

Our success in this life doesn't have to be that hard. Becoming an engaged employee doesn't have to be difficult. Getting out of bed every day, going to work, and doing something that we enjoy doesn't have to be a big challenge. Focusing on simplicity is a good start in the direction of becoming a more engaged employee.

VB: Being an engaged employee is likely easier than being disengaged?

Clint Swindall: There's no question about it.

It takes a lot of energy to keep up the stance of always being negative. Other than the supportive responses from others who are negative, there are few rewards. Poisoned relationships with fellow workers who are adding value to their organization, and a lack of positive reinforcement from their leaders because they are not adding value and contributing to a positive workplace climate must be an unpleasant experience throughout the weekday.

Positive energy generates a positive attitude, and a positive attitude generates positive energy. Negative energy will never be pleasant or motivating.

VB: "The value of this book to any reader comes down to one simple word: application." Based on the feedback you are receiving, are most readers heeding this advice?

Clint Swindall: We're hearing some interesting stories from some people who have read the book. As an author it's pleasing to hear stories from people who are trying to make changes so they can live for the weekday.

I heard from a supervisor not long ago about a woman in her workgroup who was disengaged in her job. The person telling me the story wanted to help her become more engaged because she was not a positive influence in the workplace. She said the woman was "my Larry Marcus." This supervisor bought copies of Living for the Weekday for all of the people in her work group, and encouraged everyone including the negative woman to read it. She said, "They read it, we came together to discuss it, and, before we had begun to discuss it, the woman said, "I have decided to resign from the company." She went on to say, "After reading this book I realized that my satisfaction with my life is totally up to me. I've always wanted to get a higher education degree but I haven't done it, and it seems to keep me angry all the time. My frustration has led me to be disengaged, to think of my job as only a source of income, and increasingly to dread coming to work. In thinking about it, I realize I'm also angry at other relationships in my life because I'm so frustrated with not getting the education I need to pursue my desired career. I'm moving in with my parents in West Texas so I can get the degree I have been dreaming about."

Hearing a story like this is incredibly satisfying because it tells me some are applying what I wrote about, and it's making a difference in their lives. It's the reason I do what I do.

VB: You are President and CEO of Verbalocity, Inc. What services do you provide?

Clint Swindall: Verbalocity is a leadership enhancement company.

We focus on personal development for leaders. I speak at corporate events, trade association conferences, and conventions.

We oversee 360-degree surveys and employee engagement surveys within a company to measure the level of employee engagement. Based on the 360-degree surveys, which provides feedback from employees, we help leaders determine what they need to change in their own behaviors and issues to work on in the organization in order to create a culture of engagement.

We also offer customized training to leadership teams. Also, I will facilitate discussions among employees about the role they can play in enhancing their engagement and commitment to the organization's vision and strategic directions.

The key message is that employee engagement requires a partnership between engaged leaders and employees who are engaged or are willing to take the necessary actions to change those aspects of their lives that are preventing them from being fully engaged.

VB: Do you do personal coaching for leaders?

Clint Swindall: Yes, we call them accountability sessions rather than personal coaching.

There's an inference when we hear the term coaching that the coach is going to provide all the answers, and the person being coached will sit back and listen. I offer leaders tools for doing what it takes to be an engaged leader but ultimately it's up to the leaders to assume personal accountability and make changes that are necessary in their organization. I tend to see myself as a Big Brother from outside the organization who can offer a fresh perspective. Also, I can stress the need for action such as ask the leaders, "Tell me what you've done over the last 30 days to improve in those areas we discussed, and what changes have you made to the way you relate to your employees?

VB: In an entry in your blog you say, "I found my passion in leadership. I have become it, and let it become me." Would you talk about this passion?

Clint Swindall: I knew early on in my life that focusing on leadership was where I wanted to be. When I was in university I had the opportunity to become a leader on campus, which was the president of the student body that consisted of about 22,000 students. This gave me some insights into the mechanics of leadership, and I became hooked and passionate about helping other leaders to improve the way they lead their organizations.

After I started my career and gained some work experience, I realized that many people were sick to death of being managed and were starved to be led. They wanted leaders who will take them in a direction that is clear, and to inspire them to greatness.

VB: You and your wife, Heather, created the First Chance Foundation. Would you tell us about this foundation?

Clint Swindall: You bet. We looked at organizations that were designed to give kids a second chance – youth who had followed the wrong crowd or for other reasons were failing in life. We looked at different organizations which were working with these types of unfortunate kids. We had several opportunities to visit a ranch called the Saint Judes Ranch for Children here in the Texas Hill Country. It offers programs designed for kids who have been abandoned, abused, and neglected.

After one of those experiences at the ranch Heather and I discussed the fact that most organizations are designed to give kids a second chance, and we concluded that these kids who have been abandoned, abused, and neglected don't need a second chance. They need a first chance. So we created the First Chance Foundation as our way to give back to our community.

We raise money throughout the year, either through some of my speaking engagements or through other fundraising activities. We're not on the front line of working with these children, but there are a lot of organizations which need financial support.

VB: Is this what made you angry, and therefore it became your philanthropic passion?

Clint Swindall: It is. We have participated in several worthwhile non-profit organizations around the city throughout the years. They need the time, talent, and treasure of many people to become involved with them. All support very worthwhile causes.

After we had some experiences with kids who had done nothing wrong, but had parents who for whatever reason were unable to adequately care for them, we became angry. It angered us that there were abandoned, abused, and neglected children who needed to be taken care of but adequate care and nurturing was not available, or the organizations working with them couldn't provide adequate programs due to lack of funding. It's our philanthropic passion and our responsibility every day to find a way to do more.

VB: Do you have any additional advice on how to live for the weekday?

Clint Swindall: The best advice I can give people on living for the weekday is to be passionate about the weekend. A lot of people live for the weekend but don't enjoy it to the fullest. This may create an unconscious expectation that the weekdays will be even less enjoyable.

If I were to give anybody additional advice on how to live for the weekday it would be to tie your work to your philanthropic passion – your bigger purpose. Understand that by getting out of bed and going to work on Monday morning it helps you contribute to that philanthropic passion.

VB: Is one way of thinking about our bigger purpose to ask ourselves what we wish to be remembered for after we've died?

Clint Swindall: Perhaps if more of us realized that we are here for a whisper of time and we never know when we may be taken, we may be more motivated to work to leave a legacy. If everybody lived their life to achieve something that will carry on long after they're gone it might motivate us to bounce out of bed to work on improving our career, relationships, health, finances, and spirituality. One of the many benefits would be we would always live for the weekday.

VB: Are there any other questions I should have asked you?

Clint Swindall: I don't think so. I thought your questions were great.

"Life is not a dress rehearsal." Address the hard questions related to your career, relationships, health, finances, and spirituality in order to be happy, feel positive, and equally live for each weekday as well as the weekend.

Clint Swindall's bio:
Author Clint Swindall began his career at SBC Communications Inc. (now AT&T) upon his graduation from Texas State University. As a participant in the company's Leadership Development Program, he quickly gained hands-on experience in sales, marketing, customer service, finance, and technology.

He is the president and CEO of Verbalocity, Inc., a personal development company with a focus on leadership enhancement programs, training, speaking, and general consulting. In 2005 he received the Certified Speaking Professional designation. Less than 10% of speakers worldwide who belong to the National Speakers Association and the International Federation for Professional Speakers hold this designation. As a professional speaker, trainer, and leadership consultant he has delivered his programs throughout the U.S., Canada, South America, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

Clint Swindall is the author of Engaged Leadership: Building a Culture to Overcome Employee Disengagement (2007), and Living for the Weekday: What Every Employee and Boss Needs to Know about Enjoying Work and Life (2010).

Share on      
Next Interview »