In one of my last blogs I talked a bit about how to not be a bad bass. Really, that conversation was about leadership and probably should have been phrased as such, but I digress. To me, leadership is exactly what makes us not bad bosses. I don’t want to preface that statement with good leadership, because honestly, I wouldn’t consider it leadership if you are not being effective, at that point it’s just managing. I know that many of us want to be good leaders, but whether it be the desire to see our own gains, our overarching ambition, our desire to make everyone happy, or whatever, many of us fall short of being real leaders. I believe that a leader is not just the person who shows up to work with the agenda and ensures you follow it, a leader is the person who shows up to help you be a better version of yourself.
This conversation always seems to converge at the point of employee engagement. It seems in business there is a split in the ideology that employees are responsible for their own engagement versus that of employers being tasked with providing a culture that encourages engagement. As a Project Manager for the past few years and more recently a “manager,” I always tend towards the latter. My belief stems from Lewin’s equation which states that a person’s behavior is a function of their personality and their environment. Seeing as I am an engineer by trade, I look at this as a mathematical equation . That said, the only way to change a person’s behavior is to change their personality or their environment. As “bosses” or “managers” we are never able to change anyone’s personality, so we have to focus on their environment. This leads to the definition that employee engagement – which is expressed as a behavior – is a direct resultant of the work environment that you create.
Previously, I know I have shared this TED talk from Dan Pink about engagement and the power of incentives, but I think it fits in here again. Creating the right environment is going to be a challenge and you probably won’t make many changes in one day, it’s a process, but creating a system based on incentives and rewards is not the right way to build culture. Instead, look for opportunities to allow your employees to test their skills, try to create an environment that rewards people for their hard work, but not with financial gains. A healthy environment is one that breeds teamwork, collaboration, and the health of the department, rather than the individual. It may not be an easy task, but if your employees can believe they are a part of something bigger then themselves, overall engagement will skyrocket.
“Companies that increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition” (Gallup)
I know that we will never be able to create the perfect environment, but as leaders, we need to stop thinking about the personality of our employees, and focus on the environment we are creating. Stop worrying about carrots and sticks, stop worrying about what everyone else in the company may be doing, focus on your team. Every day I show up with the mentality of “how can I make those around me better.” Remember it’s not about the individual, it’s about the power of the team – that goes for everyone in the team, leaders included. So the next time you think about pointing the finger at an employee’s behavior, take some time to evaluate your culture and yourself, you might be surprised what you find.