“Of course, no-one likes change” How often have you heard that? It is a statement that is so frequently made that you would think it is a universal truth. But is it?
They say you should never answer a question with a question. Yet, sometimes, there is no better way of providing an answer. You are likely familiar with the apocryphal story of the executive who asked, “What if I train my employees and they just leave?” And, who apparently received the answer, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”
What a classic riposte. Oh to have the same wisdom and wit! I increasingly feel that is the perfect way to answer a question I am often asked. So from now on when people ask me, “What happens when I value my employees?” I am going to respond by saying. “I don’t know! But what happens when you don’t?”
The great management paradox is that it is common for executives to say “Our people are our greatest asset!” Hell some might even sincerely mean it! Yet convention insists that we account for, manage and treat employees solely as costs. How then can you expect your employees to be engaged if the subliminal message they keep getting is that they don’t really matter?
“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” That quote from Simon Sinek caught my attention this week. It seems so obvious. Yet the majority of our customer experience tells us that it an extremely rare phenomenon. You don’t need any employee engagement statistics to tell you that the vast majority of people either do not love their jobs or the organisation they work for.
That is why a great customer experience stands out brighter than a comet flashing across the night sky. Let me share a story about what I mean.
Where do you fit on the chart below?
I see a time when people will no longer allow work to be a four-letter word and something to balance with life, but will value it as a vital, integral part of their life.
I see a world where work is not a bind but an opportunity for every person to celebrate the uniqueness of their being and the way they express who they are.
I see that each and every person will recognise their work as their contribution to humankind and make it a focal point of their lives. And that, as they do so, they will strive to maximise what they give and, in the process, optimise who they are.
I see that, as people recognise work as part of life and not an adjunct to it, they will regard their work as their business and do everything in their power to make it a successful business that blesses the people it serves as well as themselves.
I see people treating work as part and parcel of what they have to do, not out of compulsion, but simply to be the best they can possibly be; in order that, when their time is up, they can look back with pride.
And I envisage workplaces that recognises people for who they are; that sustain, nurture, encourage and enable them to be their best.
I see workplaces that cease to manage people as a resource and instead improve efficiency by encouraging, enabling and endorsing self-management. I see workplaces that acknowledge people for the assets they are, giving them back their independence and pride, and basking in the better results this brings.
I see workplaces where command is dead and control is a collective responsibility rather than an imposition: where organisations pursue purpose rather than profits at any price.
I see workplaces operating as single teams, where people do not compete, but work to support one another for the common good; of individual, business and the wider world.
I see this new outlook bringing a new enthusiasm and creating a zeal that makes it all a joy. I see reduced conflict and greater co-operation that makes the world a better place and enhances its chances of survival.
I see you helping to make it happen!
(With acknowledgement to Martin Luther King)
Bay is the founder and director of Zealise, a company created to help larger small to large business organisations to properly value their people and thereby inspire them to optimise their self-worth and so engage them that they transform organisational performance and bottom-line results. Bay is also the author of several books, including “Lean Organisations Need FAT People” and “The 7 Deadly Toxins of Employee Engagement.”
“We JUST need to engage our heads and our hearts in a leadership process that validates the worth of every individual. Where everybody matters.” (My emphasis) What do you make of that statement? Do you agree?
You will not be surprised that I do. It comes from a Bob Chapman TedTalk that I found incredibly inspiring and I thoroughly recommend that you take 22 minutes to listen for yourself. Here is the link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njn-lIEv1LU&feature=youtu.be A key takeaway is the phrase, “Everybody Matters.”
The conviction that people matter is the distinguishing characteristic of most truly great leaders and “people matter” should be the mantra for all aspiring leaders. Perhaps that is what is wrong with modern leaders. They focus on measurements, with money as the key measure, and not on people.
“The goal of leadership is producing servants.” What do you make of that statement – a recent article headline? Do you agree?
For me it encapsulates everything that is wrong with our approach to leadership. Let me explain why.
Are you familiar with the “War for Talent”? Worse still; are you caught up in it? Recruiting and retaining people with the right skills to ensure, maintain and sustain the success of their business may be the number one concern of many CEOs. Only last week I read a headline, “70% of CEOs say they cannot find the right talent.” Don’t you be drawn into this ‘phoney’ war.
The term “War for Talent” was coined by Steve Hankin of McKinsey and Company in 1997, which means it has been around for nearly 20 years now. That is certainly testament to the catchy headline it makes. Yet it referred only to a likelihood of an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining people as employees. So what you need to ask is, “How likely is this scenario?”
Purpose is fundamental to stainability and success, but is all too often neglected. It never should be. Let’s take a closer look and see why.
How much do you take things for granted?
Something that helps keeps me on guard against this is an unforgettable experience I had when in the army. For safety reasons we had to move a powerful sangoma (witch-doctor) from his rural village in Zimbabwe to the nearest town. The situation had been explained to him and agreed and we were sent in a helicopter to fetch him. This man left his grass-and-mud hut and climbed into the helicopter with no hesitation whatsoever, as if it was an everyday occurrence. Yet, once we got him to town, we had to explain to him how to use a tap (faucet) to get water, and he then spent the entire remainder of the day simply turning the tap on and off – absolutely fascinated.
Perhaps you have something that affects you like that? For me it remains the fax – putting a piece of paper in a machine at one side of the world and knowing someone at the other side of the world is printing it out. (And this despite the fact it is already outdated technology!)
The thing is, taking things for granted is entirely natural. Often there is no harm in it. The problem comes when we start to take people for granted. That’s not so good, but, regrettably, we all tend to do it. So we constantly need reminders not to. Like the one in a TED Talk I watched this week.