Creating a Culture of Engagement: Beyond the First Sip

February 19, 2024 by Gregory Offner

In my new book The Tip Jar Culture, I introduce a concept that seems simple on the surface but is profound in its implications: “Take a Sip.”

This principle, while initially inspired by the lively interactions of a piano bar, holds a deeper meaning for organizational culture and employee engagement. It’s about making that first move, taking a small step that signifies a willingness to participate, to be part of something larger than oneself.

At the piano bar, “Take a Sip” is both a literal and metaphorical invitation to guests. It encourages them to loosen up, to prepare for participation, and to signal their readiness to be part of the evening’s experience. This act of taking a sip is the first step in a series of engagements that culminate in a memorable, collective experience. It’s not just about the drink; it’s about what the drink represents—an opening gesture towards engagement, camaraderie, and the shared joy of music.

Translating this to the corporate environment, “Take a Sip” represents the initial steps employees take towards engaging with their work and the company culture. It’s about the small actions that signal an employee’s readiness to contribute, to be part of a team, and to embrace the organization’s values. Just as in the piano bar, where each sip prepares the guest for a night of participation, each small step an employee takes towards engagement strengthens the fabric of the company culture.

This principle challenges leaders to create environments where taking the first sip is natural, encouraged, and rewarded. It’s about making engagement accessible, ensuring that the barriers to participation are as low as possible. This could mean creating more open channels for communication, offering opportunities for employees to contribute their ideas and talents, and recognizing those who take the initiative to engage.

Moreover, “Take a Sip” is about setting the tone from the top. Just as the pianist at the bar leads by example, inviting guests to join in the fun, company leaders must model the behavior they wish to see. This involves more than just talking about engagement; it requires demonstrating it through actions, making that first sip, and showing the value of participation.

Implementing this principle also means acknowledging and addressing the fears and hesitations that might prevent someone from taking that first step. In a piano bar, the atmosphere is designed to be welcoming and inclusive, ensuring that guests feel comfortable and eager to join in. Similarly, organizations must cultivate a culture where employees feel safe to express their ideas, to try new things, and to take risks without fear of failure or ridicule.

Finally, “Take a Sip” is a reminder of the power of small beginnings. A single sip can lead to a night of unforgettable experiences at the piano bar. In the same way, small acts of engagement can lead to significant improvements in employee morale, productivity, and loyalty. It’s about recognizing the potential in every moment of participation and every effort towards engagement, no matter how small.

In essence, “Take a Sip” is more than just the first principle of The Tip Jar Culture; it’s a call to action for both individuals and organizations. It’s an invitation to engage, to participate, and to contribute to creating an environment where everyone feels valued and connected. Whether at a piano bar or in the workplace, taking that first sip is the first step towards a more engaged, vibrant, and fulfilling experience.

To fully embrace the essence of the principle “Take a Sip” from The Tip Jar Culture and expand upon the initial insights, let’s delve deeper into how this principle can be applied within organizations to foster a culture of engagement, participation, and innovation.

Engagement Comes Thrives in an Environment of Participation

Participation is the natural companion of engagement. In my keynote programs I demonstrate the creation of engagement in real time for audiences, and it all starts with the invitation to participate. The sip.

a piano player engaging the audience at a performance

Once employees take that initial sip, the next step is to encourage an environment where participation is not just welcomed but is seen as essential. This means creating platforms where employees can share their ideas, feedback, and innovations. It’s about moving from passive involvement to active contribution, where every team member feels empowered to add value.

Leaders play a crucial role in this transition. By actively seeking out and valuing employee contributions, leaders can demonstrate that taking a sip is just the beginning. It’s about creating a loop of feedback and action, where employees see the tangible outcomes of their participation. This not only boosts morale but also fosters a sense of ownership and pride in the work being done.

Building a Foundation of Trust

Trust is the bedrock upon which engagement and participation are built. For employees to take that first sip and continue to engage, they need to trust in their leaders and the organization’s direction. Trust is cultivated through transparency, honesty, and consistency in actions and decisions. When employees trust their leaders, they are more likely to take risks, share innovative ideas, and contribute to the organization’s growth.

Moreover, trust facilitates a safe environment where failure is not feared but is seen as a stepping stone to innovation. In a culture where taking a sip is encouraged, mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning and growth, not as setbacks. This mindset shift is critical for fostering an innovative culture where employees feel supported in their endeavors.

Encouraging Diversity and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are integral to creating an environment where “Take a Sip” can truly flourish. When employees from diverse backgrounds feel included and valued, they bring a wealth of perspectives, ideas, and experiences that enrich the workplace. Encouraging diversity and inclusion is about more than just meeting quotas; it’s about actively fostering an environment where every voice is heard, and every contribution is valued.

Leaders can encourage diversity and inclusion by promoting diverse teams, investing in diversity and inclusion training, and ensuring that all employees have equal access to opportunities for growth and participation. By doing so, they not only enhance the organization’s culture but also drive innovation and creativity.

Measuring and Celebrating Progress

As employees take their first sips and engage more deeply with their work and the organization, it’s important to measure and celebrate progress. Recognizing and rewarding engagement and participation reinforces the value of these behaviors and encourages others to follow suit. This can take many forms, from formal recognition programs to informal shout-outs in team meetings.

Moreover, measuring engagement and participation helps organizations understand what works and what doesn’t. This data can inform future strategies to further enhance the workplace culture and ensure that the organization continues to evolve and adapt to the needs of its employees.

Conclusion: The Ripple Effect of Taking a Sip on Workplace Engagement

The principle of “Take a Sip” is more than just an initial step towards engagement; it’s the catalyst for a ripple effect that transforms organizations. It’s about creating a culture where engagement, participation, trust, diversity, and innovation are not just encouraged but are embedded in the very fabric of the organization. By embracing this principle, leaders can inspire their teams to not only take that first sip but to continue on the path towards creating a truly vibrant, dynamic, and inclusive workplace.

I wrote my book, The Tip Jar Culture, because I’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of this principle. It’s my hope that by sharing these insights, leaders and employees alike will be inspired to take that first sip and embark on a journey towards a more engaged, participatory, and fulfilling work environment. Let’s raise our glasses to the journey ahead and to the endless possibilities that await when we dare to take a sip.


This book is the perfect companion to the keynote experience, diving deeper into the strategies and stories Gregory shares from stage.

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