Blind Faith in Leaders Is a Bad Employee Engagement Strategy

Most who measure employee engagement for a living can show you data that links the level of trust in the senior leaders of the organization to overall employee engagement. Most will go so far as to say that trust in senior leadership is a driver of engagement.

This makes sense.

As employees, we want stability and we hope our organization will succeed so we can reasonably assume better opportunities in the future. Senior leaders (i.e. the CEO and other C-level executives) make decisions that profoundly affect those two important outcomes. So, our confidence in those leaders can have a big impact on our confidence in the organization.

I have been wondering lately if the reason that trust in senior leaders is so important is that we are pretty terrible at communication within most of our organizations.

Trust is a belief that another person is reliable and worthy of our confidence. Synonyms for the word “trust” include faith and hope.

We typically call upon faith and hope in circumstances where we lack evidence or proof.

In medium to large size organizations, in particular, most employees don’t really know the senior leaders. They might hear them speak once a year at an annual meeting or on a shareholder call. But, beyond that, they don’t really know these people.

Compound this with the fact that in many organizations, strategy and decision making are at best poorly communicated and sometimes not at all.

Let me put it another way.  Employees often aren’t clear where the ship is headed or the path charted to get there. They also aren’t sure why they are on this course or how far they have yet to go. And, the ship is being guided by people who they barely know and rarely see.

And yet, they (or rather, their career) is on this ship along for the ride.

It’s easy to see why having trust or faith in your leaders could be pretty important to your overall feelings of engagement, even if that trust is mostly blind.

Here’s what I think all of this means.

Trust in senior leadership as a driver of employee engagement is a symptom of the deeper issues.

Try answering these questions for your organization.

  • What is the purpose of your organization?
  • What are your organization’s core values?
  • What are your organization’s strategic goals for the next three years?
  • How are organizational decisions made at your organization?  What’s the process?
  • What significant progress has been made towards strategic goals recently?
  • What significant failures have occurred and what was learned from these?

If you can readily answer these questions, you don’t need blind faith that your leaders are trustworthy. Your confidence in them and the organization flows from proof that they are worthy of it. They are transparently showing you their work and providing evidence of their ability to lead the organization into the future.

So, the next time your employee engagement results reveal that “trust in senior leadership” is a driver of employee engagement, dig deeper. The more that trust in senior leaders is driving engagement, the more likely it is that you’ve got a communication and transparency problem.

Make no mistake, this is still a leadership problem. But instead of trying to figure out how to help employees find the faith to believe, focus your energy on providing the evidence that removes faith from the equation.

This article was originally published on Jason Lauritsen’s Website.

Photo Credit: jadeaddisrazorlust Flickr via Compfight cc

Five Tips for Building a Winning Employee Engagement Strategy

Employee engagement is central to any organization’s success. Engaged employees work to build the bottom line, come up with solutions to work-related problems and often act as evangelists for their companies. So developing a winning employee engagement strategy is beneficial across the entire organization. Most companies want to engage their workers – and have happy employees who are more productive and invested in their job. But few companies succeed.

Have you noticed that when you Google “employee engagement suggestions” you find an enormous amount of information? Sifting through the dozens of simple and generalized tips— starting health and wellness programs, offering snacks, and promoting a work/life balance—can be a challenge. So, I’ll make it easy for you. Here are five powerful tactics you can use to build that winning strategy. Ready?

  1. Establish Concrete Objectives at the Employee Level You’re already familiar with the importance of setting goals—all successful companies set goals—increasing the base profit margin by X percent, lowering the enterprise’s carbon footprint by such an amount by a particular year, etc. These big goals are essential for success, but they don’t necessarily motivate your employees. Engaging employees means breaking down company goals into smaller pieces and then creating targets they can see, strive for, and achieve. These objectives might be things like replacing disposable cups with reusable ones or increasing enthusiasm for a faltering project. The point is that giving workers purpose (which is a philosophy Southwest Airlines embraces) fuels their commitment to the enterprise.
  2. Ensure Your Strategy Is Easy for Employees to Begin  You’ve heard it said, even thousand-mile journeys begin with one step. Getting employees to perform the first action towards engagement is the most difficult part. Once they’ve started to engage, it’s easier for them to engage more and more fully. So any successful employee engagement strategy starts with a low entry barrier. Don’t expect anything large from your staff in the beginning. Let them begin with something small. They’ll work themselves up to larger, more challenging engagement tasks with time.
  3. Create Personalized Choices People won’t all be passionate about the same things. If your plan offers choices across different topics, your employees are more likely to try it once—and if they try once, it’s easier for them to engage more. Allow them to choose topics they value. It will make them feel more in control of their work environment and create a greater feeling of investment in your business.
  4. Produce a Bottom-Up Approach for Good Employee Engagement Typically, most of the problems companies face are solved from the top down. People higher up the chain of command analyze the problem, decide on a solution, and pass it down the ladder for those under them to implement. An employee engagement strategy must work opposite to this typical problem-solving method, which can be difficult for some companies. get used to. Workers must be the ones to develop a successful employee engagement strategy. They know their own minds— as management, you can only guess. A good employee engagement strategy starts with talking to the people who work for you, distributing survey results among not just upper management but middle and lower management. In turn, team managers can directly involve their employees in the strategy creation process.
  5. Communicate Frequently with Your Employees Your employees want to know that their voices are being heard. Any good employee engagement strategy incorporates this fact. Annual or semi-annual reports on employee engagement are simply not enough. Employee morale—and hence engagement—increases when people feel comfortable communicating with their managers on a frequent basis. And, when managers ask their employees about their feelings and opinions on engagement strategies, those workers are more likely to participate. Transparency is another important factor to consider. Google, for example, encourages its employees to spend time being creative outside of their regular workday cycles. This promotes imagination and inspiration, but it’s also a fantastic way to let workers incorporate their own interests in their daily work and drive engagement.

Create a Tailored Strategy to Realize the Results You Need

However, just knowing what has worked for other companies won’t necessarily help yours. The trick to creating a truly successful employee engagement strategy is to tailor it to your workers’ unique needs and issues. Start by surveying your staff and asking for their opinions, which can lead to an engagement strategy perfectly tailored to your company’s unique employee pool. 

Pull an Employee Engagement Strategy Together

Understanding the mindset that goes into creating a working employee engagement strategy, a bottom-up mindset, and knowing a few solid pieces of advice on what has worked for other companies, can help any business create a successful strategy. But don’t think that simply adopting all the elements that worked for other companies will work for everyone else— get your employees to pinpoint their desires for an engagement strategy, and create a tailored plan that meets those expectations. If you do? You will begin to see powerful results that extend across your entire organization.

A version of this was first posted on

photo credit: Maxime Dinaux : Speech balloon via photopin (license)

Employees Care More About Compensation Than Employers Think

Employees can really only thrive in a great culture. Your team needs to work for a company where they are appreciated. It’s really all about the perks. False, false and false. Employees have needs, wants and aspirations for their career. While these are all important company attributes to consider, they aren’t the only things employees pay attention to when they are on the job search (regardless of if they are already employed). They do care about their salary. They do care about the benefits. They do care about hitting each monetary rung in the corporate ladder, no matter what the most recent blogs might tell you.

Money may not be everything, but it does matter, and here’s why:

Employees Will Quit

While 37% of employees did say the type of work they do is most important to them in a recent Workplace Trends study, 31% said the money they make is most important to them. Employers can give their staff great projects to work on, but at the end of the day, there’s still a chance that employees will leave the company for their talent competitors simply for a higher paycheck.

They might have a bad boss, boring work, or even difficult-to-work-with coworkers, but these are not the sole drivers of searching for a new position. These reasons do instigate the initial thought and possibly even the newfound job search, but they are the decision makers to finding a new position. Crystal Spraggins (@crystalmusings), Workplace Consultant, said:

“No matter how much an employee wants a new job, he or she probably won’t accept another offer until the money is right. And that makes compensation a significant factor in the decision-making process nearly always, regardless of the official survey results.”

Your Team May Underperform

Different people are driven by different perks. For those that are driven by the chance at a raise or this year’s highest bonus, it’s money. The employees who are motivated by time spent at their vacation home, time off is the motivation. Without these incentives, employees may wane in performance or productivity. Laura Stack (@laurastack), Founder of The Productivity Pro, Inc., said:

“What motivates your team members to perform? …That takes time (which may be why so managers ever bother to put such an initiative into action. But if you do, you’ll jump ahead of 90 percent of your colleagues and competitors. You owe it to yourself to take the time to learn your team members well enough to dangle the right carrots when tempting them toward greater productivity… You’re not creating the motivation – you’re cultivating what already exists.”

No, not all employees are not motivated by money, but some are. Talk about their expectations during performance appraisals and even during the hiring process. Tell your employees the expectations from a managerial perspective as well (how they will need to perform and what kind of results they will need to drive) in order to receive their monetary expectations.

Salary Can Make or Break Long-Term Employees

An under average salary might not be a big deal to the employees who love what they do and feel like they are growing professionally. To maintain a competitive employer brand, however, it takes more than just the weekly employee lunch; salary can play a huge role in the employer brand as well as employee longevity. Patrick Ball (@_patrickball), Associate Editor at, said:

Long-term employees can feel stuck in a position at a company. Make it clear to your employees how you can help them advance in their careers, or you run the risk of losing them. ‘At some point, the employee has to feel the manager is going to help them progress in their career.’”

A raise can help clarify an employee’s strength in their role and their organizations. While there are other important attributes to employee engagement and satisfaction at work, the perks don’t always cut it when there’s a suboptimal salary. Money might not be the driving force to finding a new role, but it can very easily tip the scales. Understand where your employees want to stand financially with the company, or you run the very real risk of losing them to your talent competitors.

How To Encourage An Entrepreneurial Spirit At Work

What does Joe from accounting have in common with Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or Beyonce? He might not have the dance moves down and he’s probably never seriously considered moving to Mars, but maybe he shares these leaders’ entrepreneurial spirit.

Take note next time an employee advocates implementing new software or starts questioning the current budget breakdown. Embracing change, taking initiative, and risking failure are all signs of an entrepreneurial spirit—and encouraging that mindset in your employees can result in huge benefits for your company.

Traditionally, we think of innovation coming from the top down. It’s the CEO who has the vision, right? Conversely, startups are commonly associated with a company-wide culture of entrepreneurial energy—a smaller organization means employees have more contact with the founders and so a kind of creative contagion takes place. But leaders at larger organizations can also inspire an entrepreneurial spirit in those they manage or supervise.

When every employee feels empowered to experiment with approaches, offer new ideas, and question the status quo, better ideas are borne—and productivity and profits margins naturally increase. So whether your focus is on creating a strong workplace culture or you have your eye trained on the bottom line, fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in your employees just makes good business sense. Here’s how to do it:

Hire Carefully

When it comes to growing your company, you’re looking for entrepreneurial spirit—not entrepreneurs. Hire the latter and, before you know it, you’ll be back to reviewing resumes. But if you choose your questions carefully, you can discern whether a potential employee’s passion can be harnessed for your company’s benefit, or if it will forever be directed towards his own projects. Consider asking what concerns a candidate has regarding your company. The answer will reveal how committed he is to making your business better, as well as how willing he might be to offer feedback that challenges the status quo—a sure sign of an entrepreneurial spirit.

Empower Employees To Take Risks

That means creating an environment where it’s safe to fail. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, offers the example of an aerial trapeze artist: provide a net and your performer will attempt new, ever more challenging feats. To foster an entrepreneurial spirit in the workplace, you need to ensure a similar net is in place. Never reject an idea out of the gate—instead, thoughtfully discuss it. Even if the suggestion is eventually turned down, your employee will understand why and be more likely to provide additional feedback in the future.

Trust Employees To Rise To The Challenge

When a suggestion makes sense, ensure the initiating employee is involved in the follow-through. People feel a natural sense of ownership over their ideas and co-opting them will only result in a future reluctance to share. Connect your employee with the necessary resources to realize her suggestion and watch her entrepreneurial spirit take root.

Publicly Recognize Employees – Sometimes

Not everyone craves credit. It’s important to offer quieter employees a more suitable platform to share their ideas—maybe even anonymously. Consider leaving a suggestion box in a quiet corner of the office. While you’ll still want to acknowledge these contributions regularly, an anxious employee can take heart knowing his name will not be attached to any idea he offers. In time (and if you follow step two on this list!) quieter employees may become more comfortable letting their entrepreneurial spirit show.

Practice Transparency

Michael Kerr, president of Humour at Work, says it best: “If employees are being asked to think like owners, then they need the same level of information that owners receive.” An open and honest dialogue is key to letting an entrepreneurial spirit shine through. Hold nothing back, and your employees won’t either.

In Conclusion

For employees with an entrepreneurial spirit, work is more than just their nine-to-five. It’s something that provides real purpose, provided their contributions are supported and appreciated. By encouraging innovation in your own organization, you’ll keep these employees where you want them—on your team, and not the competition’s. In return, you’ll see higher productivity and profits—and more importantly, you’ll get to come to work every day with people as inspired, passionate, and creative as you are.


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#TChat Recap: Live From #SHRM15: The Brilliant HR Profession Of Today And Tomorrow

This week the TalentCulture #TChat Show was live from the 2015 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas – where we discussed the brilliant HR profession of today and tomorrow.

The special show included three awesome guests: Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, Executive Director of HR at LaRosa’s, Inc., Chanel Jackson, HR Business Partner at Honda of America Mfg., Inc. and Callie Zipple, PHR, HR Rewards Analyst at Zebra Technologies.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), HR professionals are feeling more confident about the job security and growth opportunities than ever.

So what does this mean? Simply put, the HR profession has never looked brighter. Our guests talked about how and why HR leaders are now powerful change agents; amplifying talent engagement and driving business outcomes and discussed the modern role of the CHRO – whose traits are most similar to those of the CEO.

Did You Miss The Podcast Show? Listen On BlogTalkRadioiTunes or Stitcher.

What’s Up Next? #TChat returns Wednesday, July 8th: #TChat Radio Kicks Off at 1pm ET / 10am PT — Our radio show runs 30 minutes. Usually, our social community joins us on Twitter as well.

Next topic: #TChat Preview: How To Create A Culture That Rocks — Our halfway point begins with our highly engaging Twitter discussion. We take a social inside look at our weekly topic. Everyone is welcome to share their social insights #TChat.

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date! The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on See what’s happening right now on the #TChat Twitter stream in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!


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#TChat Recap: How Employee Engagement Empowers The Employer Brand

This week Stacy Zapar, Founder of Tenfold, and recruiting strategist, trainer & advisor joined us to discuss how employee engagement empowers the employer brand. I always love her energy and passion for this topic.

Spending ridiculous amounts of money to source sought-after skill sets and recruit top talent won’t get you very far when your employer brand has hit the skids. Meaning, if your current employees aren’t usually happy, even jazzed about working for your company, then that poison seeps into the groundwater and taints the wells around for miles and miles.

This is why, Stacy explained, you must step up your branding game and empower your own employees to evangelize your company culture in an authentic, transparent way. Energizing your employee base to truly engage, tell their stories, share their experiences and engage with potential employees is what empowers the brand.

A long time friend of this community, Stacy also discussed how recruiters, human resources and talent professionals can maintain excellent relations with candidates – both successful applicants and those who don’t get the job. Through taking the time to help candidates with their resumes and LinkedIn profiles, Stacy explained, recruiters can maintain and build important networks and create lots of extra good will.

Did You Miss The Podcast Show? Listen On BlogTalkRadioiTunes or Stitcher.


What’s Up Next? #TChat takes a week off and then returns Wednesday, July 1st with a very special live show from the 2015 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas: #TChat Radio Kicks Off at 1pm ET / 10am PT — Our radio show runs 30 minutes. Usually, our social community joins us on Twitter as well.

Next topic: Live From #SHRM15: The Brilliant HR Profession Of Today And Tomorrow — Our halfway point begins with our highly engaging Twitter discussion. We take a social inside look at our weekly topic. Everyone is welcome to share their social insights #TChat.

Join Our Social Community & Stay Up-to-Date! The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on See what’s happening right now on the #TChat Twitter stream in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!


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Using ‘Time’ To Attract Amazing Employees

Jeff, the managing director of a growing empire of eyewear stores, complained that he simply couldn’t find enough optometrists to achieve his expansion plans.  When I questioned him, his attraction strategy was almost solely based on salary. Jeff valued twenty-twenty vision, but he needed to look at this problem through different eyes.

Money by itself is not the greatest motivator, ranking between fifth and tenth on most employee lists of wants, so organisations that move beyond pure dollars will attract great applicants. In this instance we designed new shift times that allowed applicants to work 4 ten-hour days, rather than 5 eight-hour days, and enjoy a three day weekend. The outcome – Jeff filled all of his vacancies within a fortnight.

Time As a Commodity


Time is now a valuable commodity for employees and consequently for employers seeking the best people. Despite technological improvements, work hours are escalating in many developed countries, so flexibility in scheduling time is becoming more and more sought after. Many people are prepared to take lower salaries as a trade-off.

It’s not surprising then, that companies that embed time flexibility into their systems and then highlight this in their recruitment marketing, experience outstanding success.

Take the Marriott Hotel group who was looking for staff for its new hotel in Hong Kong. The company discovered a six day work-week was standard there, so instead implemented a five day work-week. With this point of difference, they filled all their positions with employees of choice.

My local bus company was also having difficulty hiring drivers. After focusing on the needs of their target employees, the organisation created a new shift time from 9.30am-2.30pm, and filled their vacancies with parents who wanted to only work between school hours.

Creative Time-Packaged Salaries

Time can also be linked to salary packaging. St George Bank identified that many of their prospective employees wanted time to pursue other interests, without sacrificing their career. The bank introduced a policy that let employees work four years and take a fifth year off, fully paid. It worked this way – if an employee’s annual salary was $50,000, they were paid $40,000 for four years and then, when they took the fifth year off, they continued to be paid $40,000, being the $10,000 owing from each of the previous four years. The icing on the cake was that many employees locked in for five years, reducing staff turnover as well.

‘All-Or-Nothing Thinking’

Organisations who allow employees to work more flexibly have almost doubled since 2005. Yet many still resist this practice, exhibiting conventional ‘all or nothing’ thinking.  They believe that if the person isn’t in the office full-time they are just lazing around. When IT giant Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer banned employees from working from home, she announced that part of her decision was poor productivity and the need to stop slackers. Hewlett Packard’s CEO followed suit, cutting it for the bulk of her workers.

Yet all the latest studies show a statistical increase in productivity when employees work from home. Pennsylvania University conducted a longitudinal study in which psychologists examined 20 years of research on telecommuting involving 46 studies and 12,833 employees. They found an overall beneficial effect which was a win-win for employees and employers.

Often those who are the most fervent in blaming telecommuting for their company woes, have poor metrics and management processes. Moving demotivated, unproductive workers from home to office is like relocating rotten apples and expecting them to flourish. If organisations have objective measurements for employee outcomes, then managers can constructively deal with poor performers, no matter where the  workplace.

Another problem is the mistaken belief that telecommuting has to be for everyone every day, when what’s required is its judicious use. Allowing a leader to work one day a fortnight from home can be enough to attract better employees, especially if the competition isn’t offering this benefit.  That’s why blanket bans like Yahoo’s can be damaging – they can  harm employer branding and increase staff turnover, often a company’s greatest hidden expense.

More Flexible Time For Everyone

It’s not just rank and file workers who seek for more time flexibility either. Mohamed El-Erian, CEO of two trillion dollar investment firm Pimco CEO, quit in January 2014 after his daughter handed him a list of 22 milestones he had missed because of his job. In an interview a year later, Mr El-Erian was enjoying time with his daughter and they were planning a holiday together. As he told The Independent: “Hopefully, as companies give more attention to the importance of work-life balance, more people will be in a better position to act holistically on what’s important to them.”

Max Schireson, CEO of MongoDB, Patrick Pichette CFO of Google and OzForex leader Neil Helm are other leaders who cited ‘spending more time with their family’ as their specific reason for quitting. It’s a sad indictment of 21st century organisations when the only way someone can do this is to resign. It does however highlight that flexible workplaces aren’t just an effective attraction strategy.  They’re vital for retaining great people as well.

About The Author

Mandy Johnson is a best-selling author; a start-up founder of Flight Centre’s UK operation and an active speaker and advisor to both public and private organisations. Her first book Family, Village Tribe made Kobo’s 2014 top five list for Business-Entrepreneurship and is a set text in many Australian MBA courses. Her second book Winning The War for Talent has just been released and garnered excellent reviews in the business media. Follow her on Twitter @mandyjohnsonoz or download her free business tools at

#TChat Recap: How Megatrends Revamp Employee Engagement Strategies

How Megatrends Revamp Employee Engagement Strategies

If there’s one thing certain about trends, it’s that they happen and they usually pop up on everyone’s radar. But it’s megatrends that create impactful circumstances that affect everyone on a personal, cultural, and societal level. Megatrends are hard to miss now because of all the social connectivity that leads us to hard-to-miss news. Megatrends also affect how organizations organize and lead their efforts. This causes organizations to adjust how they approach employee engagement to stay current. This week’s guest: Mark Royal, Senior Principal at Hay Group, who helps organizations design and implement employee engagement strategies, shared his insight on how organizations can revamp their employee engagement strategies.

When it comes to meeting the challenges of developing and maintaining employee engagement we must understand what it is that’s causing the demand and urgency to change.

Each one of these trends help shape how employee engagement is viewed and treated within the organization from top to bottom. People, location, technology, and behavior affect our understanding of how employee engagement should be handled. Creating sustainable employee engagement has to come from a revamped leadership that’s current with what employees want. It starts with:

It’s all about building an employee engagement strategy that sets the tone for your positive business outcomes. We don’t find change by throwing innovation out the window. We learn to adapt with change, and combat megatrends that affect work through flexibility and rolling with the punches. Even though the focus should be on employee engagement, that’s not always the case. We know that:

But it’s learning how to create room for both parties to see eye-to-eye that begins making a difference when it comes to combating megatrends. This doesn’t have to be scary. It’s about aligning organizational goals with employee goals that help keep things in order and positive. Planning for employee engagement does not only rely on understanding megatrends, but understanding how to connect with your employees through effective leadership engagement. Remember:

People want to find meaning in their work and be a part of a common goal that everyone is working towards. This doesn’t happen unless we understand how employees think. Organizations have to align their organizational goals with employees goals. That’s how modern-day employee engagement strategies work now. Employees have a big part to play because they directly affect business outcomes. This has to create a light bulb effect that causes organizations to rethink how leaders lead and how to train them to understand modern-day employees through better engagement. Start with creating better employee engagement and follow that up with better leadership training to sustain the engagement.

What #TChat Had To Say About Employee Engagement Strategies!

What’s Up Next? #TChat Events Kicks Off On Wednesday, Nov. 19th!


We’ll be discussing The Challenges of Enabling a Talent Management Strategy with Technology during our Social Hour on #TChat with our guest hosts:  Margaret Wood, HR Generalist at Kay Flo; and Tom McKeown, Head of Sales and Marketing at HRsmart.

#TChat Radio Kicks Off at 7pm ET / 4pm PT — Our weekly live broadcast runs 30 minutes. Usually, #TChat-ters listen in and engage with our Twitter community. View this week’s BlogTalkRadio preview: The Challenges of Enabling a Talent Management Strategy with Technology.

#TChat Twitter Kicks Off at 7:30pm ET/ 4pm PT — Our Social Hour midpoint begins and ends with our highly engaging 30 minute Twitter discussion. We enjoy taking a deep social dive about our weekly topic by asking 3 thought adrenalizing questions. So join in on the fun during #TChat and share some of your brain power with us (or tweet us @TalentCulture).

Become A Part Of Our Social Community & Checkout Our Updates! 

The TalentCulture conversation continues daily on Twitter, in our LinkedIn group, and on our Google+ community. Engage with us anytime on our social networks or stay current with trending World of Work topics through our weekly email newsletter. Signing up is just a click away!


Photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via IM Free cc