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Lessons about employee engagement and culture from Mary Poppins

Vicki Hess is not only a highly-respected employee engagement expert, but also my professional colleague and good friend.  In fact, she’s been a guest contributor to the blog before when she penned Professional paradise: oxymoron or business imperative?  And now she’s back!  Today she dives into the world of Mary Poppins to offer us advice once again on how to build fully-engaged employees and leaders.

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Did you see the movie Saving Mr. Banks in theaters recently? I’m a big Mary Poppins fan. I have a signed poster from the Broadway show hanging in my office. I saw the show a few years ago and absolutely loved it. Something about the upbeat songs and the story of transformation and change is very appealing. It also reminded me of the very popular movie that I watched over and over again as a child.

It occurred to me that Mary Poppins is the ultimate culture change expert. Let’s see what we can learn from her to help with boosting engagement and creating a positive culture for your workplace and team.

Just a Spoon Full of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down.  In organizations today, team members and leaders are dealing with what could be compared to “harsh tasting medicine” in the form of financial cutbacks, rampant change and the challenge of being connected 24/7. If we take Mary Poppin’s advice, we would be wise to add a spoon full of sugar. The “sugar” I’m talking about includes open communication, open-mindedness & generosity. Imagine if every leader and employee in every organization added a spoonful of these elements to their interactions with others all day long at work.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite.  It’s springtime! Encourage your team to take a few minutes during the workday to go outside to fly their proverbial kite – or better yet – move one of your meetings outside. Look up at the beautiful blue sky, enjoy the blossoming foliage, and take a moment to listen to the birds (if you work at night – enjoy the moon and quiet time). Everyone deserves a healthy dose of Mother Nature on a regular basis. Don’t say “We don’t have time” because that’s just not true. Make it a priority for everyone to get outside every day.

I Love to Laugh.  Remember the scene in the movie when Bert, Mary, Uncle Albert and the kids all get together for tea? Things quickly fall apart and they end up on the ceiling howling with laughter. What can you do at work to lighten up and have more fun? Let go of old resentments, quit taking things personally, stop keeping score and HAVE SOME FUN! As a leader, it’s your job to show everyone that it’s okay – even imperative – to have fun. I promise it will be okay if you do – in fact it’s a great way to create more positive experiences at work.

Mary Poppins is truly a role model for being the “Chief Paradise Officer” (someone who is satisfied, energized & productive) of her job. As a leader in the household, she uses her influence for good and engages even the toughest in the family (Mr. Banks). Go and watch the movie again and you’ll learn all about positive culture change and engagement. Now that’s Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

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What other supercalifragilisticexpialidocious messages about employee engagement and positive workplace culture do you have to share?  They can be based in fiction (like Mary Poppin’s) or they can be based in your reality!  Do tell.

Vicki Hess, RN, MS, Certified Speaking Professional works with organizations that recognize that engagement is the one thing that affects everything. Her clients are ready and willing to create a positive culture of engagement. The author of 4 books about employee engagement, Vicki brings fresh ideas to companies who want more engaged employees, motivated managers & optimized organizations. She also presents keynote programs for associations.  Get FREE tools at

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