Employee Engagement and The Karate Kid

As I painted my apartment the other day, I realized something I didn’t understand when I saw The Karate Kid as a teenager.

When Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi for karate lessons, his body is hurt, but his spirit is even weaker. He's an easy target for bullies; he's just moved across the country and doesn't have friends or a father around to help. Mr. Miyagi's first lesson gives Daniel strength he didn’t know he needed – he strengthens his spirit.

Mr. Miyagi teaches Daniel a way to meditate while staying active. Waxing, sanding and painting help him to "meditate in action." This calms his mind and introduces him to basic karate at the same time. This strong spiritual foundation gives him an advantage in the tournament. When Daniel is hurt, he chooses to face his nemesis in the final match anyway. By preparing his spirit, mind and body, he triumphs.

This lesson from The Karate Kid is relevant to the workforce today. The spirits of many companies are still broken from the market crash. The balance sheets look good - consumer spending is up - but employee engagement is dismal. 

Unflinching focus on productivity and the bottom line leads to burn out. Like Daniel, companies and employees need to develop their inner strength. Making socially responsible choices – like power-down time, community involvement and values-based strategies – are some ways companies can help employees strengthen their spirits and find purpose in their work. These actions will create the productive and engaged workforce they seek.