What Really Matters
So now that the eclipse is over we can focus again. Just kidding, the eclipse was very cool and generated a lot of attention and interest.
There has been a convergence of events lately that have really caused me to be even more pensive that usual.
· The Charlottesville attacks. This disturbed me on many levels. I know there are angry people out there, but I have always thought of Charlottesville as part of the “new” South. It is especially disturbing that people used Robert E. Lee as kind of a flashpoint. He was a noble man. Yes, he fought for the Confederacy, but he did that because of his commitment to the state of Virginia, not some passionate commitment to the institution of slavery.
He recommended against any monuments to any of the symbols of the Confederacy, calling divisive and slowing the healing process.
· The response to Charlottesville. This was an opportunity to demonstrate real leadership and the response from our President was an epic fail. His refusal to accept that, step back and own that failure demonstrates deep character flaws in his leadership ability and capacity to understand viewpoints different from his own and build trust.
· A recent publication from Gallup that indicates that for yet another year we have been unable to move the needle on engagement beyond the 30% level.
As I can only do so much on the first two, I have decided to get back on my pulpit about the last one.
I have had an opportunity to read the results of a recent study in the UK that concluded that age 35 is the point where employees begin to feel disappointed and potentially disengaged from their work. They gave a number of reasons such as the competing stresses of work and personal life, unfulfilled expectations, perceived shrinking career opportunities and other reasons. Misguidance?
That date makes me sad on many levels. The first is that the average person at 35 can expect to spend double the time in the workplace that they have to date. Dragging that bag of pooh for another 30 years is pretty daunting. For employers, these are your “seasoned” workers. At this stage people have likely hit their productive stride and mastered their jobs. Not a good combination.
Since all these people are not likely to be able to find refuge in some entrepreneurial endeavor. They will remain in the workplace. The statistics of what disengagement costs the economy every year are both daunting and irrefutable. Think trillions, not millions or billions.
So why aren’t we moving the needle?
A recent article from Gallup concludes that in large part we are measuring and trying to address the wrong things and points to one critical area, the quality of leadership.
They suggest that employee engagement efforts would be better served to focus on recruitment and selection of those we promote into management and then follow up with appropriate management education and development.
Can I get an amen!
As I have published before multiple studies and surveys have concluded that better than 60% of people seeking leadership roles are primarily interested in making more money, period. No surprise they don’t make great leaders.
I recommend to my client organizations that we recruit and place only leadership candidates that possess the following capabilities:
· Technical competence
· Understanding trust and congruency
· Emotional and social intelligence
· Emotional awareness
· Emotional balance
Apart from “technical competence” I defy you to find these skills or attributes being taught in MBA programs!
Discussing things like trust and congruency are still considered pretty woo woo in most organizations.
Trust occurs on three levels:
· Deterrence (Power or authority)
· Knowledge Based (Education and “qualifications”)
· Identity (shared experiences and mutual investment)
For close to a thousand years we loved the deterrence model. The divine right of kings or religious institutions. Calvinism and scientific management have this concept embedded in their foundations.
We have become very enamored of late with knowledge based trust. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an organization offering credentialing in something. Add that to chasing education and other pseudo solutions that build over confidence in the holder and you understand some of where we are.
Identity based trust is what Simon Sinek and Patrick Lencioni write about. I have also heard it described as thick versus thin relationships.
A thick relationship is where we share values and purpose and a common “why”. Thin relationships are where we refer to employees as human capital look at the employment relationship as transactional. Employment at Will is a thin relationship; “either party can terminate the employment relationship with or without notice for any legal reason”. Doesn’t exactly reek of mutual trust and investment, does it?
Congruency is about alignment between the organization and the individual. It occurs at multiple levels:
· My view of the activity. (positive or negative)
· My view of my ability to perform the activity. (perceived ability or competence)
· The alignment between my personal values and the values of the organization.
· My commitment to do the work. (perform and improve my capabilities)
· My belief in the product, service, or mission.
A few things I have learned in my three decades plus as an HR executive, C level executive, and consultant.
· I can fix some of these things with training and reinforcement, but trying to change someone’s values isn’t just hard, it is wrong.
· People who aren’t congruent on all five of these levels aren’t engaged.
· Less than ten percent of the organizations out there are even having conversations about congruency and trust.
In a perfect world, I tell my clients we should recruit for congruency in every position we hire for at any level. At a minimum, I tell them that in addition to the five skill sets and attributes I mentioned above you better damn sure have congruency in your leadership cohort.
My experience is that when you embrace this model you are building a foundation for engagement. Your employees aren’t likely to become disengaged at 35 because you are recruiting and reinforcing thick rather than transactional relationships.
In short you are hiring and managing whole people.
With the savings, we can recapture from employee disengagement we can fund universal health care, better education systems, and increase organizational productivity and profitability, or we can just keep doing it the same way.
If you can’t embrace congruency as a foundational screen for all your employees, then at least embed it in the hiring, selection, and development of your leadership team. Your organization is only as strong as your weakest leader…….