During a discussion on engagement and the role of leaders this week, one participant shared a quote attributed to Homer Simpson, “If you don’t like your job… you just go in every day and do it really half-assed.”
So true! What’s the affect?
Disengagement is contagious. As colleagues tune out, more and more people do ‘half-assed’ jobs. As a consequence productivity and service are affected, directly impacting results across the organisation.
What drives organisational commitment?
In the Vital Signs Model, we identify five essential drivers to foster organisational commitment and an engaged climate. One of the most essential is each individual having a clear and compelling understanding of the organisation’s purpose.
By this I don’t mean, “what do we do” but rather, “why do we do it”.
Too often the organisation’s purpose, expressed through its vision, mission and values statements, become mere words, often accompanied by glossy pictures that are pinned to walls or relegated to websites.
You want employees to be committed. What are you asking them to commit to? And are you committed to them, in turn?
Today it’s not enough just to provide jobs; people want a meaningful experience. They want to know that they matter, and that what they do makes a difference.
Yet many organisations have a leadership culture of growing mushrooms — keeping people in the dark. In Mushroom Management, the priority is obedience; “If I want your opinion, I’ll tell you.” In this culture the focus is almost exclusively on task orientation. Employees feel they are interchangeable cogs, because, in fact, that’s how Mushroom Managers treat them.
In this culture, knowledge is power to be wielded over others. Mushroom Managers treat questions as a form of insubordination. If an employee were to have the poor sense to ask, “Why are we doing this?” Supervisors would treat this as an insubordinate attack on authority.
The Power of Why
In contrast, a new “gold standard” of leadership is emerging, a style focused on increasing efficiency by bringing out employee’s best effort. These people-leaders create climate of inclusion, where individuals know and feel that what they do is an essential part of something more. That “something more” is the answer to “Why?” Why are we doing this work? Why should we give our sweat and blood? Just as sunflowers turn toward light, this clarity of purpose creates energy and direction.
In thriving organisations, every leader must be able to articulate the organisation’s vision in such a way that it reaches from their heart to the hearts of others. They have to walk the mission each and every day, and to bring the organisation’s values to life through their actions. Yet too often, when I ask leaders about their organisation’s purpose, there’s a lengthy pause.
The best leaders have a clear sense of purpose and lead from their heart. They are emotionally engaging; their emotions ripple outwards touching employees and customers. It’s contagious. Their commitment and passion shine through. It energises others to follow them. It creates engagement not only internally, but with customers, too.
So pause and reflect: Why does your organisation exist? Sure it makes money to exist, but why does it exist? If your leaders aren’t able to feel and articulate this with passion, then how can others in the organisation find meaning in their work?
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