Vail Daily column: Learning the value of 51
Years ago, I heard someone say that leadership is about helping people achieve things they would not accomplish on their own. At Think2Perform, we provide leadership and support to individuals and organizations to help tap potential, achieve record-setting performance and reach heights they may not attain without some extra help.
Very often, the path to achieving peak performance begins with leaders changing their behavior. While we know that managing behavior begins with self-awareness, the problem for many is a lack of self-awareness. We simply just don’t pay enough attention to our thoughts, feelings, actions and behavior. While lack of self-awareness has implications for us individually, when you’re a leader, the impact of not paying attention to our behavior grows exponentially as the effects reach those who look to you for leadership. Building on the underlying principle that influence of others, or effective leadership, is a function of the leader managing their own behavior, we use the leader’s actions as the roadmap in our work to optimize overall results.
Why does leadership effectiveness matter?
Based on recent data from Minneapolis-based Modern Survey, a mere 16 percent of the workforce is fully engaged while 22 percent are completely disengaged. Translation: One to two people out of 10 are performing at their best, and almost one of four are wishing they were somewhere else. So, where does that leave a leader? Based on the statistics, the opportunity for a leader lies in impacting the almost 62 percent that hover in the middle and could swing either way.
So what drives people’s engagement? Here are several thoughts that engaged performers have:
1. I have confidence in senior management. Confidence is driven by two factors — character and competence. I trust leadership, and I believe they know what they’re doing.
2. I can grow and develop. Does leadership know the career aspirations of their people? In most cases, people don’t take a job to fail. In fact, our experience at Think2Perform has shown that most people want to do their job better than their company needs them to perform. Yet, leaders rarely ask their employees how good they want to be at their job.
3. I have confidence in the future of my organization. Does your firm have a vision and defined values? A vision is an aspiration and communicates direction. Values are what we stand for, guide behavior and serve as boundaries we use daily to make important business decisions. Is leadership communicating the vision and values regularly?
4. My work gives me personal accomplishment. See point 2 above. Too often leaders don’t take the time to understand the goals, aspirations and values of their people. When leaders take the time to identify these for their people, employees are able to make the connection between their own goals and that of the company. When that connection is made, engagement happens.
5. I’m committed to exceptional customer service. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once wrote, “Excellence is an art won by training and habit. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence but rather we have virtue and excellence because we act rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” Simply stated, leadership sets the tone for excellence.
6. Employees have advancement opportunities. Whether your organization is large or small, what are the opportunities for growth and development? Is leadership giving top performers a chance to take on more responsibility?
Do you see a common theme in the six drivers? Each one of the drivers directly relate to the employee’s relationship and interaction with leadership. It helps us see that employee engagement is a direct correlation to leadership effectiveness. With that, to influence the 62 percent of employees that are in the middle and could tip either way, leaders must pay attention to the drivers and be keenly self-aware of their behavior to push the scale to fully engaged.
You’ll also notice that values were repeatedly mentioned in relationship to driving engagement. In our experience, many companies have stated corporate values they’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars establishing. These values sit on a plaque somewhere in a conference room or may be stated on company newsletters. Yet most employees (including senior leadership), more often than not, can’t name the values. In their research, Modern Survey discovered employees that know and understand their organization’s values are 51 times more likely to be engaged. Yes, an astonishing 51 times!
I’d challenge you to find a better return on investment in your people. There is no training program, coaching or development your firm could offer that will deliver that kind of improvement. Knowing and understanding values shapes our individual and corporate behavior. Positive changes in behavior that are connected to our values lead to improving performance and results.
Chuck Wachendorfer is a partner and president of distribution for Think2Perform, a consulting firm designed to help businesses and individuals achieve sustained optimal performance. He can be reached at 970-926-0841 and firstname.lastname@example.org.