People are stuck in place, not particularly happy with the way things are, but staying put because they don’t have any better options. It’s a “quit and stay” mentality that has been hard for leaders to address. The tools they’ve used in the past to motivate performance—pay raises, promotions, etc.—are no longer available. Instead of the usual extrinsic motivators, leaders and managers have been forced to try and find new ways of creating an engaging work environment.
But most leaders don’t know how to create that environment, explains Bob Glaser, a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies. “Many leaders would prefer to deal with what they know instead of taking a risk with what they don’t know. As a result, leaders don’t think outside the box to look at other options. They know things are not where they need to be, but they are not able or willing to deal with it, or move in a new direction.”
The result is sub-optimized performance, says Glaser. “If you don’t have engaged employees, then they are not really going to take care of customers….they just do what they need to do, day to day, and not much more.”
“It’s normal behavior during economic downturns,” shares Glaser. “But it causes people to focus more on protecting their turf as opposed to looking for innovative new ways to contribute to the organization. It’s a self-serving, ‘circle the wagons’ type of attitude that is counterproductive to the organization.”
Breaking the cycle
While you may not be able to influence the organization as a whole at first, most managers have a sphere of influence where they can make decisions and where they can impact results and outcomes. Inside of this team, group, or department, managers can change the environment that will allow employees to be more engaged. For leaders up to that challenge, Glaser recommends a three-step approach.
1. Create a micro-vision. Leaders need to have a vision of what they want their team, their department, or their group to look like when they are performing at a high level of excellence. Focus on both results and the behaviors that will drive the results.
2. Get everyone involved. Next, involve people in shaping that vision for the department, group, or team. When it’s done right, it’s not just the leader’s vision, but it is the collective vision of where the group wants to go. Work together to create solutions where everyone feels that they can contribute, that they can make a difference, and that they are owners of at least that part of the organization.
3. Reward and recognize desired behaviors. Everyone is operating under a huge scarcity mentality. That takes its toll. People are stressed, working hard, and they’re trying to do the right thing, but their efforts just seem to maintain the status quo. Without explicit rewards and recognition to move in a new direction, it’s not going to happen. Be sure that you explicitly define expected behaviors and then measure alignment with the expectations.
Are your people growing—or just trying to survive and get by?
Ready to start growing again? Begin by putting fear on the back burner and focus instead on moving in a positive direction encourages Glaser. “Rally people around an organizational vision and show them how they contribute to the vital work the company is involved in.
“When everyone understands how they contribute and how their work makes the organization better, when leaders can put their own self-interest aside and focus on the needs of others, it can have great impact on morale, engagement, and results.”
You can read more of Glaser’s thoughts in this month’s main article of The Blanchard Companies’ Ignite newsletter. Also check out a free webinar that Glaser is conducting on May 23, Leading from Any Chair in the Organization, courtesy of Cisco WebEx and The Ken Blanchard Companies