Category Archives: Values
Keeping employees engaged is similar to the process of using a balance scale.
On a balance scale, if you place weights more on one end than the other the scale will tip towards the heavier side. Employee engagement is very similar.
Envision the scale with two distinct balances on either side – one is engagement and one is disengagement. Each side has has a weight that can only be placed on one side – one weight is positive impact on your people (engagement), and the other is negative impact on them (disengagement).
Each organization has an employee engagement scale, but so does each team and each individual.
The overall goal of leadership is to weight the scale so heavily on the positive engagement side, with virtually no negative on the other balance. However the delicate nuance is to understand each individual’s scale and ensure their engagement side is properly weighted.
The challenge is to understand the principles of negativity and employee disconnect, and how any negative actions, including yours, are counted on the employee’s scale.
Negative impacts to your staff almost always outweigh the positive.
It takes a large amount of positive to offset negatives when they do occur.
Unlike weights on a physical scale which has constant density, employee engagement has variable weights based on the dynamics of the individuals and basic human principles of interaction. Consider the following variables:
- Positives are lighter while negatives weigh more
- Negatives can vary in weight from individual to individual
- More than one positive is needed to offset negatives
- Small and seemingly normal positives may not outweigh negatives
- Both weights have varying degrees of visibility – positives need to always be visible (public and tangible); negatives are usually invisible and hard to discern as many leaders are blinded to them
- Negatives gain increasing weight over time (distrust grows) where smaller negatives can carry an enormous weight
- Staff Appreciation Days, Thank You cards and Employee of the Month programs are good positives, but are too infrequent to offset constant year-round negatives
Some items that are heavier positives:
- Sincere apologies
- Concrete actions to correct poor leadership
- Increased valuation of a person
- More voice
- Public praise and apology
- Deferred leadership role, showing trust for your people to showcase their talents
While not an exhaustive list, these examples show the intricacies of how mindful leaders need to be in creating a culture of total engagement.
By gaining more awareness of the correlation of negative and positive weights that get placed on an employee engagement scale, you can create a better leadership style that puts more positive engagement weights and builds a deeper and more committed team in your organization.
Many companies are using employee surveys and other methods to gauge the “temperature” of the company. But how many of them actually take the “temperature” of the individual employees on their teams?
I was privileged to work with an excellent mentor years ago from Britain. Mike was as proper an Englishman as you could come across and was an engaging leader in so many senses of the term. One of his strengths, a practice that I still use to this very day, is what he called a “One-to-One” or, more loosely, a “Temperature Check”. I have used the latter term more commonly over the years, partially as it plays on the daily functions in the hospitality industry, but also in using this as a true indicator of how hot or cold a particular person is in the organization.
The purpose of these checks is to drive down to the core feelings of the team, both individuals, and as a whole. It is a great opportunity to not only find out more of what was happening in the field, but to also build relationships and stronger working bonds that ultimately brings the team more close. To make the most of these checks, we discovered a few guidelines in order to make them most effective:
1. Make “Temperature Checks” informal and light. These are meant to be open communications. Have them in the team members’ area, not your office, or they become nervous and on the defensive that they’re being reprimanded. Have coffee. Ask how their family is doing. Set the tone for casual conversation.
2. Be up front in your expectations. Tell the staff person what you hope to get out of your talk. Let them know they can talk in confidence, with nothing to be held back, even it there is anything negative about you. Let them know your commitment is to make them, the team, and yourself better so work can be both enjoyable and productive.
3. Qualify the 3 F’s – Feelings, Facts, and Fault. You’ll be confronted with all of these in most every temp check. When the person talking says “I feel” or “I’m afraid”, ask them to clarify. Sometimes it’s based on gut rather than objective evidence. When specifics are given, pull out more detail to ensure the facts are accurate. When fault or blame is given, if at all applicable, take it yourself, for the team. This type of responsibility is a breath of fresh air, and will go a long way in bridging any trust gaps between the two of you.
4. Be honest. While it seems so self-explanatory, it’s just good practice. Any lies or embellishment will either be found out then or shortly afterward. If that is the case, you’ve undermined the enitre process, and wasted both of your time.
5. Under-promise and over-deliver. A basic customer service principle that applies just as strongly to this situation – because you are working with your internal customer. Making guarantees to fix something might seem all well and good, until other facts or forces beyond your control hamper you from making the solution happen as you told them. Instead, let them know you will both commit to finding a solution, and to keep them appraised of the steps towards resolving their concerns. Then follow through. By keeping them up to date, they see you are taking their concerns seriously, and respecting their input.
6. Thank them for their efforts. Leave the conversation making sure that the person knows their value to the company, and that you recognize it as well. Lead them to be inspired to better action, attitude, and trust by letting them know you appreciate them and that it’s a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside them.
Temperature checks can be great, informal ways to have a dialogue with your people and get their views on your culture and what’s working, or not. By following the above steps you can transform your culture, deepen employee engagement, and build stronger levels of trust by simply valuing your people’s feelings, thoughts, and skills.
Organizations that operate using a “chain of command” hierarchy are quickly becoming an outdated management model.
A chain of command model takes it’s roots from the military chain of command. It’s the order in which authority and power in an organization is wielded and delegated from top management to every employee at every level of the organization. Instructions flow downward along the chain of command and accountability flows upward.
Proponents of this method feel that the more clear cut the chain of command, the more effective the decision making process and greater the efficiency. Military forces are an example of straight chain of command that extends in unbroken line from the top brass to ranks.
This model of leadership became very prevalent in the mid-20th century but ceases (outside of the military) to have any relevance in today’s organizations, especially those that are looking to have more employee engagement and voice into the overall performance of the company at large.
Where the shortcomings of “chain of command” leadership often happens can be seen in the following simplified example (to which I have seen repeated far too often):
- Employee voices concern to manager based on objective criteria
- Manager makes decision but discounts the validity of employee’s input
- Employee decides to express concern to the manager’s boss
- Manager’s boss says employee needs to follow the “chain of command” and talk to manager
The resulting interactions result in an employee caught in a no-win situation. They walk away feeling disregarded, less valued, and that they cannot voice their concerns if they are not agreed with by their direct boss. As issues continue to come up, and especially with more serious issues, the employee loses more faith in their leadership and will disengage more and more. And any attempt by the employee to circumvent the chain to find a voice for their concerns gets thrown back in the employee’s face for not following the hierarchy.
Where “chain of command” succeeds is enabling poor leadership to manifest, not be bothered by what they don’t feel is important, and keeping leaders at the higher levels less and less accountable for how they engage or value their people.
Where it fails is on all other levels. Leadership accountability, collaborative efforts, shared vision, voice, and values are often minimized or cast aside in favor of the hierarchical “chain”.
This type of leadership also succeeds in defending itself because if it doesn’t fit into the “chain” it will not be recognized.
The most successful and people-oriented engagement models in any organization are those that foster open input from all sources, give avenues for ideas and innovation as well as concerns, and keep upper levels of leadership accountable both from above and below.
Chain of command is a weak leadership mode. Take the time to break it.
(Chain of command definition http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/chain-of-command.html)