Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart

Feeding the Geckos – an employee engagement technique

By Darryl Stewart, Head of the Herd

Great teams develop their own unique words, phrases and culture over time.  It can be a badge of honour to understand the inside jokes and vernacular of the team.  It can create a real feeling of belonging to something special.

Photo by Paul Albertella

A front line manager I met recently described to me a phrase that had crept into the language of her team.  They have a program they support that has a resident Gecko (lizard).  During a summer lull in the program, somebody has to literally go and feed the Gecko.  Whose responsibility is this?  Her group thought this definitely fell into the “other duties as assigned” category for the manager of the program.  “Feeding the Geckos” is now the catch-all phrase for, among other things, giving me a lift after I met with her management.   I thought this was really cool and pretty darn funny.

At IBEX we have developed a culture around our namesake, the Alpine IBEX.  It includes unique things like:

  • Staff titles – Head of Spreading the Herd Word, Head of the Herd, Pasture Manager, Wild Kid Goat.
  • Meeting names – Herddle, nerdle, feedle (daily huddles for different teams).

We have so many unique parts to our culture that we literally have to give an orientation on all this to new employees on their first day, otherwise they may think we are all nuts!  And that is an important point.  Sub-cultures like this can just as easily exclude people as make people feel part of the group.

I think as long as care is taken to bring new team members up to speed as quickly as possible and unique sub-cultures are never used to exclude anyone on the team, feeding the geckos is a great way to increase engagement.