I am often in discussions with managers and leaders that lament that their teams are not engaged. The latest Gallup poll shows that 87% of the workforce is disengaged. This is slightly down from the previous report where 89% were disengaged.
Many of these colleagues will report to me that they just don’t understand why. They blame it on schools, parents and peers. Let me suggest there may be another culprit. The manager!
Often times it is the manager’s behavior that causes disengagement. Let me offer some examples:
- When they only focus on mistakes employees begin only to see mistakes and pretty soon the morale of the entire organization suffers. I once worked with a CEO who was always pointing out what was wrong. And even in the face of stunning success he could not acknowledge that except when pressed and then he would say, “I’m not interested in success, I want to fix what’s wrong.” Would it be easy for you to be engaged with him?
- Sometimes it’s by dismissing any idea the manager or their superiors have not endorsed already. I used to work with a manager some years ago who would acknowledge that there were a lot of creative ideas, but they were not going to get his sponsorship. His instructions to his team were, to just deliver within the constraints of the current offerings. What do you think how engaged would you be if you were not heard?
- And then there is the manager who just can’t keep their word. I worked with one of these (fortunately not for him). He was always promising to deliver; it could have been a report, coaching to an employee, or perhaps even a price or product deliverable. And 8 out of 10 times he would not deliver on deadline. When pressed he would reply, That’s OK we did not get it this month we will get it next month.” Would you be engaged without Trust?
My opinion is that no one sets out to focus only on the negative or to stifle creativity by dismissing ideas. I am confident that very few leaders would see themselves as liars. So what happens?
- The CEO I was working with had a successful career in taking over troubled companies and finding what was wrong. That’s OK for the turnaround. But to sustain growth you have to give people a vision. Sometimes people get stuck in the story they have told themselves about why they are successful.
- Being successful by doing what you have always done works for a while. And change can be uncomfortable, particularly if we don’t initiate it or own it. Yet when we listen to our teams and use their good ideas, they generate more! AND they feel more connected (read engaged) with the organization.
- And I really believe no one wants to be a liar. Yet research shows most of us are at some point. It takes a very strong will and courage to tell the truth when it will make you look bad, affects your paycheck and or worse. People will often lie to look good and or to cover up their mistakes.
It could be easy for any of us to fall into these behaviors. I think one of the best things we can do to avoid this is to be mindful. To pause as we are going through the day and reconnect with our intention. “When I make this promise what am I really trying to do? Am I able to deliver or… can I set a more realistic expectation?” When someone brings an idea instead of being busy stepping back to examine the merits and perhaps help them become the sponsor for their own idea.
Take Good Care,