I love Chipotle.

Actually, that may be an understatement.

The chicken burrito with fresh lettuce and that crunchy corn salsa … boy, that’s good eating. I also like how they source and talk about their food. So, I’m a fan. And because Chipotle has experienced massive growth in recent years, it’s fairly easy for me to get Chipotle when I travel, because they seem to be everywhere nowadays.

This was the case as I traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, a few weeks ago to keynote the Kentucky MGMA winter conference. I was supposed to fly, but that big late-March winter storm that fouled up flights for a few days resulted in me having to drive the 6+ hours from my home in Pittsburgh to Lexington.

No worries, though. At lunch, it meant I could stop at Chipotle.

As I sat down at my table and dove in to my yummy burrito, I glanced over at the napkin I would certainly be using momentarily. The printing on the napkin got my attention. If you can’t read the image above, here’s what it says:

This napkin is made from 100% recycled content. It could have been a losing lottery ticket or a frustrating furniture assembly manual in its past life. … Forgive and forget.

And with just three sentences, Chipotle got me to stop and think: “Hey, that’s pretty cool. This napkin right here came from something I might have touched or recycled. A specific item I never thought to care much about or pay attention to. But it really does matter.”

I also smiled because this napkin is a terrific example of something I advocate for in all of the employee engagement training workshops and keynotes I deliver, as well as in a whole chapter in my book Cure for the Common Leader.

A key part of motivating employees to take action is creating line of sight between how even the mundane, generic parts of their day make a real difference in the lives of others. As a leader, you must go further – past the generalization of “good job” or “thank you” to highlight one or two specific items, situations, or scenarios to see the personal impact.

That’s what Chipotle did. Every recycled napkin in the world probably has some form of “made from recycled content” on it. But they went further, as you must, to the very real, very tangible things we see and experience every day.

This means helping front desk people understand how keeping the waiting area clean today likely prevented Mrs. Jones from tripping or slipping today. It means helping your Medical Assistants see that squeezing in that extra patient at the end of the day meant the patient slept better that very night as a result of being seen and getting answers.

As a leader, this is a key part of your responsibility: connecting the dots for employees to really see the differences they make in the lives of others.

Chipotle did that with this napkin. Leaders must do this, every day, in order to cultivate meaning and resilience in employees. Understanding the very specific ways in which the little things we do each day make a big difference inoculates us from the stress and strife of work. It feeds our souls (like a tasty burrito!) and energizes our brains … but only when we hear it.

Joe Mull, M.Ed, is a leadership trainer and keynote speaker. He works with healthcare organizations that want their practice leaders to engage, inspire, and succeed. To learn more or bring Joe to your site, visit www.joemull.com.