Leaders and organizations need employees who operate from a sense of ownership, stewardship, and accountability. Employees, regardless of their generation, want to feel that their work makes a difference and that their contribution is important for success. More specifically, they don’t want to check their heads at the door and feel as if they are interchangeable parts.
These are not competing priorities so why does their joint realization remain so elusive? For every Southwest Airlines that has turned an engaged workforce into a competitive advantage, there is an American Airlines where poor relationships with its bargaining units and employees has created a wedge that makes profitability a pipe dream.
Paul Simon once wrote, “Every generation throws a hero up the pop charts.”
That has certainly been true with approaches to managing and motivating the people side of the business. In the past thirty years the classic motivational theories of Maslow and Hertzberg have given way to Theory X and Theory Y, Situational Leadership, Management by Objectives, and Management By Walking Around.
One client, in a fit of management principle overload, described her organization’s philosophy as MBBS – Management By Best Seller.
Lately, the management airwaves have been filled with the strains of diversity, teamwork, engagement, and generational differences. And, the push for increased accountability surfaces every few years as attempts at engagement deteriorate into feelings of entitlement and execution suffers.
It is time to stop thinking about new management initiatives and start embracing leadership principles. Programs and initiatives come and go. Principles never end.
There is only one leadership principle you will ever need if your goal is a culture where everyone is committed to consistent results, strong working relationships, and volunteered accountability. I could string you along with case studies such as the telephone company that cut its turnover rate by 50 percent in 90 days; or the public university that hasn’t lost a single EEOC appeal for discriminatory treatment in over 15 years; or the mental health facility that engaged its team to pass full Joint Commission accreditation with no exceptions within two years of its opening. But, those would take time.
Here is the principle – the only one you will ever need as a leader:
When you recognize and treat employees as valued partners you earn the right to expect them to act as valued partners.
Here’s why this principle works:
It requires leaders to recognize, value, and seek to engage the unique differences and talents every individual brings to the workplace.
● It provides employees with the direction, time, tools, and resources to do their jobs.
● It provides recognition for contribution.
● It taps into the law of reciprocity that promotes connection to the organization’s mission, vision, and values.
● It creates a sense of fairness and equity when leaders must confront performance or behavior that doesn’t meet expectations.
Your Mission should you choose to accept it
Draw a line down the center of a page. One the left side, list every action you can think of that demonstrates treating employees as valued partners. On the right side, list every corresponding performance or behavior that you should be able to reasonably expect from employees who are treated in the manner you described.
After your list is completed, ask yourself this question: What could be different in my organization or on my team if I, as the leader, truly earned the right to expect others to act as a valued partner?
My guess is that the outcome would be a transformation in your results, working relationships, and accountability.
Let me know how it goes and how we can help.