Many leaders unknowingly sabotage their careers by wrongly assuming their employees are actively engaged in their work.
This lack of understanding about engagement — enthusiasm, effort and enjoyment at work — will eventually affect the bottom line and make the leader look ineffective.
Here are the facts: The average leader engages only three out of every 10 employees. The best leaders engage six or more out of every 10 employees.
Your customers clearly see whether your employees are engaged or not. Engagement affects the quality of their work, their productivity and responsiveness, all of which affect your customers’ experience. They feel employees’ enthusiasm and energy — or lack thereof — and recognize the bad results of an organization with overall morale problems. Employee engagement matters.
Recently, I’ve sensed more people feel lonely and left out at work. With years of layoffs, those who remain carry greater workloads. This crowds out time to connect with colleagues. Managers are also stretched and have less time to connect with the people they are responsible for leading. When I ask people at the seminars I teach which element of a Connection Culture — Vision, Value or Voice — they would like to increase in their workplace culture, it’s nearly always Voice. One result of this is that there has been a decline of connection, community and the spirit of unity in organizations.
Seeking and considering the opinions and ideas of others reflects the character strengths of wisdom and humility. Today’s world is complex and rapidly changing so that we need to hear the perspectives of people who have had different experiences and who possess different thinking styles. Doing so helps improve the likelihood we will make optimal decisions.
Did you notice at the Olympics that all the world class athletes had coaches? No one becomes great without coaching. We all have blind spots we cant see that are sabotaging our performance. This is true of leaders, too. Coaches and mentors help leaders see their blind spots. They also provide advice and encouragement to help leaders overcome their blind spots and strengthen their strengths.
Are you stuck in your career or want to accelerate your growth? If so, get a coach.
Check out the interview I did on Connection Cultures with Ago Cluytens of Coaching Masters in Switzerland. You might also enjoy this article I wrote for the August edition of Leadership Excellence entitled “Great Leaders Connect.”
Several facts recently caught my attention.
- In 1940, 7.7 percent of Americans lived in one-person households. By 2000, that number more than tripled to 25.8 percent. (In Manhattan, 48 percent of all households were one-person households in 2000.)
- Between 1985 and 2004, the number of people with whom the average American discussed “important matters” dropped from three to two. During that same time period the percentage of people who had no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled to nearly 25 percent.
- A study by Norman Nie and his Stanford colleagues found that as people spend more time on the internet, they spent less face-to-face time with other human beings. (Who’s not spending more time on the internet these days?)
These facts all point to the conclusion that loneliness is on the rise in America. As we pointed out in our book Fired Up or Burned Out and in The Connection Culture: A New Source of Competitive Advantage, people need human connection to thrive. We are human beings, not machines. When we don’t experience sufficient human connection, we dysfunction. This may include experiencing feelings of emptiness, boredom and depression. It may lead some to engage in substance abuse to numb the pain. Others may pursue illegitimate thrills to feel alive again and in doing so develop addictions to pornography, sexual encounters with prostitutes and one night stands, or taking excessive business risks. These paths never end well for the individual, their families and friends, or for their organizations. To combat the pervasive loneliness that’s damaging American society and organizations, leaders need to create Connection Cultures that unite people and develop “relationship excellence” that supplements efforts to develop “task excellence” in organizations.
There are three general types of cultures in organizations when it comes to relationships and connection.
My mind must have been on something else as I began to edge out a bit from a side street to make a left-hand turn onto a main thoroughfare. At the same time, another driver was turning left onto the street I was on. I slammed on my brakes in time. Admittedly, the near miss was my fault and the driver I almost pulled in front of had every right to be upset. What surprised me, however, was the intensity of his reaction. He came unglued, turned blood red, repeatedly flipped me off and began spewing expletives and spittle. The rage on his face is burned in my memory. I kept an eye on him in my rear view mirror to make sure he wasn’t turning around to come after me. Fortunately he didn’t.
Why are so many people angry these days?
The New York Times has had a number of great articles related to connection and how it leads to success at work and in life. In an article about what Google discovered from Project Oxygen, a rigorous study of its successful managers, Laszlo Bock, the leader of the study stated:
“In the Google context, we’d always believed that to be a manager, particularly on the engineering side, you need to be as deep or deeper a technical expert than the people who work for you…It turns out that that’s absolutely the least important thing. It’s important, but pales in comparison. Much more important is just making that connection and being accessible.” (italics mine)
Research has shown that people perform better if they take time to create checklists that break their work down into necessary tasks. Here is an approach we recommend. Make a list of those individuals whom you count on you in order to do your work well and the individuals who count on you in order to do their work well. Think of these people as your “Critical Connections.” Strengthening your relationship with them is, in addition to making checklists, another key to achieving excellence in your work.
Facilitator and blogger Terry Seamon just posted a piece I wrote entitled “Weathering the Storm.” Terry has invited a number of thinkers to share their ideas on employee engagement in a series on his blog entitled “Engaging Voices.” This series will include posts from David Zinger, Tim Wright, Judy Bardwick, Phil Gerbyshak, and Judy McLeish.
The Economic Times in India just published an article I wrote about the six universal needs to thrive. With the recent economic and financial market uncertainty, employee engagement has suffered. Staying focused on activities that meet the universal needs to thrive helps us cope with times like this. You can read the article by clicking here.