Every once in a while you get exposed to something that just either creates or crystallizes a perspective for you.
For me one of the first of those events was when I saw a demonstration by a man named Monty Roberts the model for the character played by Robert Redford in the Horse Whisperer, demonstrating a completely different way to train horses.
Before Roberts that process had generally been described as breaking them in and as that implies was basically a process of inflicting your will on the horse. He pointed out that a horse is essentially a herd animal and that given the opportunity is naturally inclined to join up with you if offered the invitation.
I saw some pretty clear parallels between that demonstration and my own struggles to communicate a different way of working with people and introducing change as with rather than to people. It framed the creation of my model compliance to Commitment which is my personal spin on what we commonly refer to these days as employee engagement.
Over the last few days a client exposed me to the TED presentations by Simon Sinek and I felt very similarly. His first presentation on How great leaders inspire action from 2009 talks about what he refers to as the golden circle, three concentric circles on how businesses and organizations approach marketing their efforts and do it bass awkwardly. The outer circle is composed of what. What we claim is our product or unique value proposition. The next circle is how, the famous description of features, functions, and benefits. The innermost circle is why. Why do we bring our product or service to market?
His point, reinforced by our capitalistic nature is that the usual reason for why is to provide a return to the stakeholders and is rarely described in any kind of a compelling way.
I find the same thing is missing in much of our employment relationship. We make little or no attempt to create any sense of identity for employees; we see them as human capital. The nasty thing is that many of them are playing by our rules. They see themselves as independent contractors who rent their skills and behaviors to the highest payer.
We have no right to blame them. As evidenced by outsourcing, right sizing, and all kinds of other models to increase profit at the expense of people, we created the model. We had started to make some progress before the 2008 recession, but unfortunately it provided an excuse to return to a lot of nasty habits. Now that the economy is improving I hear a lot of complaining that organizations can’t find or keep the talent they want. Payback is a bitch.
Sinek’s 2014 TED talk, Why good leaders make you feel safe, is equally if not more compelling. He talks about the mutual responsibility and reciprocity of the relationship between team and leader. The most compelling part of that is trust.
As everybody knows I am a huge fan of the trust model outlined by Stephen MR Covey in his book, The Speed of Trust. What I heard Sinek discussing is Covey’s highest level of trust, identity based trust, which doesn’t come from entitlement or even necessarily expertise and credentials, but rather mutual investment and shared experiences.
I also hear Congruency in his model, something that goes beyond the transactional and becomes personal.
This kind of peopley stuff makes a lot of people squirm. It involves emotions and feelings not just facts and figures.
What he is talking about is the cornerstone of true engagement. There have been some criticisms of his perspective when he compares leadership to parenting, but if you listen carefully he isn’t talking adult/child or codependency, but rather developing skills and competency.
Maybe the reason this stuff resonates with me so much is because it parallels my own thinking, but if you haven’t seen it I strongly encourage you to give it a listen.
It may just clarify for you why this engagement thing is so important and why getting there requires different models than we are both teaching and reinforcing……