The Pie Principle: An Employee Engagement Tool

apple_pieEngagement…As American As Apple Pie?

I recently heard a story that illustrates the impact of engagement and the power of one person to make a difference.

The story is about a pastry chef named Karen, and appropriately, was passed on to us by a fan of Karen’s, Sandra Abell, in Insight of the Day.

Sandra describes Karen as a gifted chef, who makes the best baked goods on the planet. Among these, her favorite things to bake are pies.

A couple of years ago, in appreciation of someone she admired, Karen decided to give them a pie. The recipient was so pleased with the personally baked gift that Karen decided to take things a step further.

She decided to bake a pie each day for a year, deliver each one to a worthy recipient, and then blog about it. This was the beginning of the Pie a Day Giveaway (

Each day for the next year, Karen found recipients waiting to be honored in stores, non-profit agencies, service organizations, among family and friends, and even among strangers. Anyone with whom she came in contact was on her special list, and they were not aware that they inspired the gift until Karen appeared, pie in hand.

Even when Karen was on vacation, she remained committed to her plan, finding ingredients, a kitchen, and a local recipient for a “pie a day.”

Imagine the difference this made in Karen’s vacations, as a special memory was created in each place she visited, and left behind with co-conspirators and recipients long after she was gone.

Karen’s commitment to this quest seems to Sandra to be very much like the spirit we celebrate during the holidays. Her focus is on her appreciation for others and the benefit of this recognition for them. Her efforts are personal and generous, geared toward the individual who has inspired her to share her talents in this way.

As you might guess, Karen’s actions have created a chain reaction. Karen influenced Sandra to use her talents in sharing Karen’s story. This in turn, influenced me to share the story with you. In addition to 365 grateful pie recipients, many more people are influenced by Karen’s actions.

Can you imagine the impact if the “pie principle” made its way into your organization? What if one employee recognized another for embodying the right spirit and actions, and inspiring others to do the same? Then, the employee who received this recognition would respond by passing on the gift, and so on, and so on.  What if senior leaders started this “Pay it Forward.”

On any given day, everyone in your organization would be potentially both an engagement gift giver, and an engagement gift receiver. The company could support this process by adding its recognition to recipients, and possibly also provide its own “piece of the pie” to sweeten the process.  Of course, the gift does not need to be a pie. Everyone has their own passions and preferences.  Companies have innate cultures.  Make the gift your own.  Have fun with it.

Here’s to Karen, Sandra, and the Pie Principle. We may never look at pie – or our coworkers – the same way again!

Share some of your favorite recognition experiences.


One thought on “The Pie Principle: An Employee Engagement Tool

  1. I love this concept. I do the same thing with my internet radio show, Change is the Essence of Life, at I call this concept teaching people how to teach people how to fish. Each week a guest I interview tells about an adversity in their life and how they overcame it, specifically. They boil it down into 3 tips they share with my audience. This way the listener who knows someone who is going thru an adversity can pass it on, easily. Maybe you or someone you know would be a great guest. All it takes is the desire to share your “wisdom of beating the odds” and how you did it. If someone is interested have them contact me at LinkedIn, DW Starr.

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