Employee Engagement: What’s Cooking?

I  recently  devoured Dan Charnas’ intriguing book, Work Clean: What Great Chefs Can Teach Us About Organizations. The book outlines the method of mise-en-place. Mise-en-place is a way of working, being focused and disciplined — many chefs believe it is a way of life.

I enjoyed reading the book and could not help but think of the important lessons for all of us as we engage in our work, either inside the kitchen or anywhere we encounter our work.

Work Clean Cover

The key take-away for me was a focus on preparation, process, and presence. These 3 P’s offer strong guidance for anyone wishing to enhance their engagement.

  • Chefs commit to a way of working where preparation is central. You always need to be thinking ahead as cooking cannot happen without the prep coming first. Charnas stated that preparation becomes, “a kind of spiritual practice: humble, tireless, and nonnegotiable.”
  • Process is how we execute the plan. Chefs pursue the best process to do just about everything. Dan says that process is about “becoming a high-functioning human being and being happier for it.” It makes both our work and ourselves better.
  • Presence is fully showing up for our work. It is about being fully engaged, becoming one with the work and being mindfully engaged in everything we do.

Preparation, process, and presence are not abstract concepts. They demand a fourth “P” – Practice. We need to make engaged work a daily practice. This fits well with my 8 word definition of employee engagement: good work done well with others every day.

Dan suggests three commitments for engaged work:

  1. Commit to preparation with a 30-minute daily planning session.
  2. Commit to a process that makes you better.
  3. Commit to being present in whatever you do.

I invite you to read the book to learn more, but even more importantly, I strongly encourage you to infuse your work with preparation, process, and presence as the essential ingredients in your employee engagement.

David Zinger is an employee engagement speaker and expert who enjoys cleaning the kitchen in creating a culinary tabula rasa for the next meal.


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