A recent conversation with one of my associates reminded me again why I encourage leaders to hire and manage whole people and how far we have to go.

She had just finished a fairly massive training roll out for a client that wasn’t experiencing the engagement and productivity they were hoping for after rolling out self -directed teams a while back. As she shared the comments from her various cohorts some personal truths came back to me.

·         There are fundamentally three levels of trust. Deterrence, which comes from formal authority; Knowledge-based, which comes from professional capabilities, qualifications, and experience and; Identity-based, which comes from shared experienced and mutual investment.

Identity based trust is not an entitlement based on your position, certifications, or education. You have to earn it and it is way more powerful and valuable than the other two. It is a gift that is earned.

·         Engagement is about clarity and alignment between organizational and individual goals and values.

 It is not about happy, family, or morale. It is true that if have are poorly aligned those other things won’t be present, but engagement is about performance individually and collectively.

·         90% plus of performance issues are caused by or exacerbated by congruency issues. There are multiple levels of congruency; my view of the activity, my view of my ability to do the activity, my willingness to do the work to be proficient, my belief in the product or service we offer, and perhaps most importantly whether or not the activity is aligned with my personal values.

Addressing congruency issues with discipline or corrective action if we are being politically correct doesn’t work, ever!

·         Training and engagement surveys are tactics and tools in addressing the issues I highlighted above, but they are not the solution. You actually have to do the work to build the trust, create and sustain engagement, and build in congruency.

The other thing the group shared with her was that a significant group of their employees were unengaged and only interested in performing the minimum necessary to keep their jobs.

That is an epic management fail in one of two areas. Either your hiring and selection is poor (tip: hiring people who are naturally congruent is way easier than trying to fix them, they aren’t broken); or your performance management system is lousy.

If you are retaining people over 90 days who aren’t meeting your performance expectations then you as the manager own that!

I was a working HR practitioner for over 20 years. IF you set clear expectations, give constructive feedback, take appropriate corrective action and the employee STILL can’t or won’t perform we WILL let you terminate them. You must do the work.

Why would we keep people who can’t or won’t engage with us? It sucks for them and the organization. The key is don’t bring them onboard in the first place, but if you do act decisively and quickly.

·         People and teams operate at different levels and there is a best practice management style for each stage. You get the performance you manage/lead for by your actions.

 If you micro manage a high performing team they will comply and wait for direction. If you throw a bunch of newbies together with T shirts and hats and declare them a team they will flounder. Would you take your brand new teenage driver onto the freeway pull over and instruct them to “just drive”? Meet people and teams where they live!

·         Training is not always the solution.

Occasionally my colleagues and I are invited into organizations to do training. I like to ask “why do you want us to do training?” Their typical response “our employees aren’t doing what we want.”

Guess what. If your issues are stemming from values congruency or flat unwillingness to do the work, belief in your product or service, or fundamental trust issues training ain’t going to fix them!

Having engaged employees is fundamentally better, the statistics prove it. The tough part is that engagement is systemic; you have to do all the work not just part of it.

The emerging millennial generation takes a lot of heat, but here are a couple of “truths”-

·         They will soon be the dominant generation in the workforce; you may be working for one soon!

·         The big difference between them and previous generations is that they come into the workplace expecting you to earn their identity based trust and they take the whole congruency thing really seriously.

Loyalty still has a significant place in all our relationships; it just needs to be recalibrated.

·         You shouldn’t expect loyalty without being loyal in return.

·         Loyalty should be defined in terms of alignment and contribution not tenure.

·         If you are trying to create loyalty without trust and congruency you are peeing in the wind!

Frederick Taylor’s scientific management model and managing human capital are as obsolete as eight track tapes!

Manage and lead people…it works.



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