Unveiling the Essence of Employee Engagement — Patrice Graves

Inspiration And Insights
4 min readDec 20, 2023
Photo by Michael Parks, Daystar Photography

In the dynamic landscape of employee engagement discussions, numbers and metrics often take center stage. I’ve always had a penchant for delving into data-driven solutions to bolster these figures. But amidst this numerical pursuit lies a fundamental question that often goes unexplored: Why does employee engagement truly hold such significance? Let me share an anecdote from my own life that sheds light on this question, unraveling the profound impact of engagement through a personal lens.

To give you a bit of context, my husband is a former basketball player at Texas A&M University and he was hoping that we’d have a little athlete on our hands. He decided that he was going to enroll our son Zachary in sports, starting with soccer. For Zach’s first game, my husband purchased top-of-the-line cleats, shin guards, and even a personalized jersey. The occasion seemed to warrant nothing less than a Nikon camera, complete with a telephoto lens, to capture every intricate move on the field. On game day he invited friends, family, and even neighbors to form a cheering squad. Zach had his own fan club. We were all excited. It was a scene that promised to be a grand sporting debut.

As the young players took their positions on the field, they embodied the enthusiastic chaos typical of four-year-olds. They ran around chasing after the ball and kicking each other. Several minutes into the game, I noticed yellow butterflies flittering by Zach. He immediately diverted his attention and started to chase them around the field, then off the field. He was having a great time. To my horror, several of his friends joined in. I don’t really have to tell you what happened next. No kicks, no goals. They lost the game. My husband was extremely disappointed.

What transpired on that soccer field held a profound revelation — Zach has limited interest in sports. He loves computers, he loves the arts. Most recently, he has joined the track team at Morehouse College. We adapted our approach and now leverage the things that he likes. We enrolled him in camps at Georgia Tech and Mercer so that he could develop his programming skills. As a result, he’s a happy, well-adjusted kid.

Every day within the corporate setting, I see employees akin to Zach, chasing their own metaphorical versions of those yellow butterflies. The allure of their passions and capabilities can sometimes sidetrack them from the conventional path, just as Zachary’s soccer match was sidelined. Our job as leaders is to understand what they enjoy. To identify their strengths and determine how best to leverage them. To get — and keep — our employees focused on winning the game.

Genuine employee engagement isn’t just about boosting statistics. It thrives when leaders create a space where individuality is cherished and strengths are magnified. By recognizing and valuing the distinct qualities that each employee brings to the table, I’ve come to embrace my role in guiding my team towards shared goals. It’s the cultivation of a workforce that’s encouraged to chase their own yellow butterflies that leads to lasting and meaningful success.

To view my video on Chasing Yellow Butterflies, click here