Zinger on Zinger

To me, one of the great­est suc­cess sto­ries on the web these days is David Zinger, who start­ed the Employ­ee Engage­ment Net­work. I had a chance to ask David a few ques­tions about his expe­ri­ences the oth­er day. Here’s what he told me about dis­cov­er­ing that he now finds him­self lead­ing a “move­ment.”


What do you think your role has been in help­ing cre­ate the employ­ee engage­ment movement?

I think my role has been a bit impro­vi­sa­tion­al and hap­haz­ard. I love your state­ment in our conversation:

‘It did­n’t seem to me you set out to cre­ate a move­ment, but you’ve got one. In my mind’s eye I see you turn­ing around one day and notic­ing that it’s not just a few friends you are walk­ing with, but a whole street-full. Wow! How did that happen?’ 

I am pas­sion­ate about employ­ee engage­ment and have been involved in social media and blog­ging for just about 5 years. One snowy Sat­ur­day after­noon in Win­nipeg I won­dered how this NING thing works. Best to learn by doing and I thought would­n’t it be nice if I could get about 20 to 50 peo­ple together.

We are now over 1370 mem­bers [1408 as of today].

I hope it looks easy but it requires a lot of love. I have wel­comed each mem­ber indi­vid­u­al­ly. I try to read as much as I can. I have banned spam­mers. I have tried a lot that has­n’t worked. I keep the con­tent fresh. I keep in con­tact with the mem­bers every week and I am hon­ored to learn from each of them. It is like a Mas­ter’s Degree in Employ­ee Engage­ment spend­ing the last 18 months with such a great group of people. 

How do you feel about the lead­er­ship role your web­site and your work as a consultant/trainer have placed you in?

I feel hon­ored that so many peo­ple will get involved in employ­ee engage­ment. I want employ­ee engage­ment to be for all. It can’t be the suck­ing out of dis­cre­tionary effort from over­taxed work­ers. I know that is a strong way to say it but I want every­one to ful­ly ben­e­fit by engage­ment. I am not over­ly fond of pair­ing engage­ment with the role of employ­ee by call­ing it employ­ee engage­ment but that is the accept­ed term and I will work with it for now. It seems some­times lead­ers and man­agers and own­ers for­get in many ways they are employ­ees too.

I work at lead­ing by fol­low­ing well and cre­at­ing a safe envi­ron­ment of caring.

I have devel­oped a new mod­el for employ­ee engage­ment that I will unveil in Sep­tem­ber. I think it makes engage­ment so much more inclu­sive and con­nect­ed. We need results, strate­gies, orga­ni­za­tions, com­mu­ni­ty & rela­tion­ships, cus­tomers, per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment, ener­gy mas­tery, and gen­uine hap­pi­ness. All of it for the ben­e­fit of all.

What is the most impor­tant gift you bring to your leadership?

I bring love. I love engage­ment and I love the peo­ple there. I want to con­nect with the members.

I am a good host and a wel­com­ing host. I can seize a nugget and run with it too. Michael Stal­lard, one of our fine mem­bers, sug­gest­ed the “move­ment” focus and he was spot on! I don’t just want this to be a col­lec­tion of resources.

I hope that the net­work can be account­able for a 1% enhance­ment in world­wide engage­ment. Hav­ing said that I am not sure I want to mea­sure it but I do want to mon­i­tor it. There is far too much sur­vey work in employ­ee engage­ment work already. I want action.

I want the employ­ee engage­ment mem­bers to let us know who they are engag­ing with, how they are engag­ing with peo­ple, and the impact it is hav­ing. I hope to cre­ate oppor­tu­nites for the var­i­ous mem­bers to make mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions to employ­ee engage­ment, the employ­ee engage­ment net­work, and their own engagement.

I am a suck­er for an anec­dote and I am think­ing right know of Tina, the cashier at my local gas sta­tion and how incred­i­bi­ly engaged and engag­ing she is. I just filled up the van two hours ago, so Tina is fresh in mind. She is so effi­cient and so con­nect­ed to cus­tomers and staff. I know this sounds hokey but I want to share Tina wis­dom. I will be inter­view­ing her in the very near future. One real Tina is worth 1,000 con­sul­tants or 1,000,000 sur­vey data points.

How do you think this work will change your life?

It has already changed my life. I will not teach what I do not live. I am chal­lenged to engage with oth­ers and my work more ful­ly everyday.

I have lived my life in reverse. I retired at 20 until 35. I was in semi retire­ment until 55 which will occur on Sep­tem­ber 24 and I will move into a work­ing phase from 55 to 75. I very much want­ed to be around home while my chil­dren were grow­ing up and they are now 21, 18, 18 and I still need them and they still need me but I can do a bit more glob­al work. I plan for my wife to join me as peo­ple who engage ful­ly also re-ener­gize through fam­i­ly con­nec­tions and inten­tion­al disengagement.

I have found some great mod­els of teach­ers and lead­ers who are 75 so I know I can do this too. I was so for­tu­nate to study with Kei­th John­stone who was 75 when he taught us a 10 day impro­vi­sa­tion course last sum­mer in Cal­gary Alberta.

By the way retire­ment and semi-retire­ment do not mean you don’t work; it means you work in dif­fer­ent ways and with dif­fer­ent moti­va­tions — more dab­bling, exper­i­ment­ing, no rac­ing, no need to have to acheieve. I was very impro­vi­sa­tion­al from 20 to 55. By the way I am talk­ing about the prin­ci­ples of impro­vi­sa­tion, not actu­al on-stage impro­vi­sa­tion. I will still be impro­vi­sa­tion­al for the next 20 years but blend that into strate­gic-impro­vi­sa­tion. And I love the con­trast of those two terms stand­ing together.

What wounds does it heal for you personally?

I spent 25 years being involved in teach­ing coun­selling psy­chol­o­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­i­to­ba. I always loved the wound­ed heal­er mod­el. I think Robert Bly stat­ed: Our wounds trans­formed become our gifts to our com­mu­ni­ty. At times I am prone to both dis­en­gage­ment and pro­cras­ti­na­tion. At times I can dis­en­gage from some­one I care for. At times I have been quick to judge orga­ni­za­tions, lead­ers, employ­ees. Employ­ee engage­ment for all keeps me mov­ing and trans­forms all wounds into a gift to our com­mu­ni­ty! One phrase I made up and tried to teach to my coun­selling stu­dents was: Life is not a prob­lem to be solved but an expe­ri­ence to be lived. I want to help peo­ple ful­ly live their expe­ri­ences and part of those peo­ple ‘is me!’ 

I assume as some­one teach­ing coun­selling psy­chol­o­gy, that you’ve done a lot of per­son­al work on your­self over the years. Is that right?

You are right.

As a coun­sel­lor and coun­sel­lor edu­ca­tor there was a lot of self-devel­op­ment and per­son­al work over the years. Years ago I would have answered that ques­tion dif­fer­ent­ly but today I do feel quite secure. I am ready to die hap­py today. I even played with that as a web­site for a while: www.diehappytoday.com.

I have grown slow­ly and ‘bumpi­ly’ into who I am. I real­ly do see life as an expe­ri­ence to be lived rather than a prob­lem to be solved and I am more and more okay with not know­ing while also express­ing what I know at this point in time. Mind­ful­ness and being more in the moment have helped. Great men­tors, I’ve had dif­fer­ent ones but I have always had one since about 25. They have all been impor­tant to me. My wife keeps me hon­est, gound­ed, and challenged.

I read some­where that all you need for hap­pi­ness is an income of about $24,000 or some­thing like that (can’t remem­ber the exact num­ber) so eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty is easy for me. Work is an expres­sion of who I am and there is a secure fusion of doing and being. As I write this I also know this has real­ly devel­oped a lot in the past 5 years. I love get­ting old­er and I can’t wait to grow up and be child­like forever.

To me, David mod­els a flow of such pos­i­tive, effer­ves­cent, inclu­sive ener­gy that he is per­fect for what he is doing — and it shows in his “results.” This is a man with a great heart, gen­er­ous, deeply engaged and alive in a way many of us want to be. Com­mu­ni­cat­ing with David, I get the sense that he helps every­one feel suc­cess­ful. That sort of pres­ence is nat­u­ral­ly inspir­ing and awak­en­ing. It is a plea­sure and a priv­i­lege to record some of his con­tin­u­ing sto­ry here.


Technorati Tags: . Link to blog posting. Link to Oestreich Associates website.


  • Great inter­view, Dan. I’ve real­ly enjoyed learn­ing from you and David recent­ly, and it was a pleas­ant and not unex­pect­ed sur­prise to see that the two of you are con­nect­ed. Small world.

  • Wow, I feel like I was just wal­low­ing in a vir­tu­al can­dy store! How absolute­ly scrump­tu­ous­ly, lip-lick­ing deli­cious is this, hav­ing two of my favorite lead­er­ship thinkers talk sto­ry with each oth­er, and being able to lis­ten in.

    There is so, so much here, and I will come back to read and reread often: Thank you for shar­ing your con­ver­sa­tion Dan!

    For now, I will pick out this one gem — so David!

    I was very impro­vi­sa­tion­al from 20 to 55.”

    And David — absolute­ly, pos­i­tive­ly, you DO bring love.

  • Dan,

    Thank you for your stim­u­lat­ing ques­tions and your very fine com­pli­ments. You have giv­en me heart and made me feel hearty for the rest of August.


  • You are most wel­come, David. I hope oth­ers stop by here and make even more appre­cia­tive com­ments about you!

    @ed — It is a small world, and I’m real­ly glad, Ed, to make the con­nec­tion. Here’s to lots of cross-talk in the future!

    @rosa — Thanks for appre­ci­at­ing this post with such char­ac­ter­is­tic deli­cious­ness.

  • David Zinger is a gem! Thanks for help­ing him shine a lit­tle more here.

    His move­ment and his love are inspi­ra­tional! I was for­tu­nate enough to share Slack­er Man­ag­er with him for about a year, and what a year it was! He looks at man­age­ment and life in a very play­ful lov­ing way, and I am glad to know him, and I always enjoy learn­ing more from AND about him!

    Here’s to liv­ing life in reverse and shar­ing the love! Whoo-hoo David Zinger!

  • Great inter­view, Dan. Thanks.

    David has done (and con­tin­ues to do) a great job as vir­tu­al host to an online com­mu­ni­ty that has grown to glob­al proportions.

    I’m hap­py to be part of it.


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