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Chapter 3: The Roots of Engagement

Engagement is not one-dimensional. It’s found in sports, friendship, and through all facets of life. It can be effortless, natural, and magnetic. Over the years, we’ve learned the characteristics of what really engages people in such a compelling, sustained way that they feel captivated, drawn in, and connected. We stumbled upon some of the “secrets to the sauce.” We weren’t present to interview those bricklayers who were building that cathedral. But we have talked to some of the tens of millions of people we’ve helped to become more involved in the workings of their companies. We asked them what really engages them in their businesses—what’s necessary for them to volunteer the contributions of their heads, hearts, and hands to their organizations.

There are four qualities that we keep hearing about that make engagement more natural. These qualities form the foundation or the roots of engaging people.

1. People want to be a part of something big.

Who isn’t interested in being a part of something that’s bigger than themselves? It’s evident in the way concertgoers act as one, connecting with hundreds of people they’ve never met in order to create a force far bigger than they could achieve by themselves. And by association, they feel like they’re part of an effort, a piece of something more substantial and significant than they could ever be alone. When this happens, people get a feeling that they are as big as the effort is. This feeling affords a sense of substance, importance, pride, and direction.

You wouldn’t think that country music legend Garth Brooks would feel the need to be part of something bigger than himself. (He’s pretty big any way you look at it.) But in 2007, he was inspired by his wife, Trisha Yearwood, to join the fight against breast cancer. She took part in a 60-mile walk for the Susan G. Komen organization, the world’s largest and most progressive grassroots network of cancer survivors and activists. Brooks said, “Of all the things my wife has done, I’ve never been more proud of her. So I started thinking, ‘What can I do to be that cool?’”

Brooks produced a special “Pink Edition” of his Ultimate Hits album and donated $10 from the sale of each album to the fight against breast cancer, hoping to raise $10 million. When he released the album, he said, “This is the proudest day of my musical career.”

The Roots of Engagement

The Komen organization’s “main event,” the Race for the Cure, has raised nearly $1 billion for breast cancer research in the past 25 years, and the color pink has become synonymous with breast cancer advocacy in everything from yogurt to jewelry. This group uses the power of more than 100,000 activists—including Garth Brooks—to bring about change at federal, state, and local levels.

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