Tug of war

I’m sure you’ve read articles and heard stories on the topic of “employee engagement”, a popular term used to describe the level of enthusiasm and commitment employees feel toward their employer. We hear statistics of how many employees are currently “engaged” in their work, with their companies – or not. The numbers are alarmingly low.

We are told that disengaged employees are costing corporations billions of dollars in lost productivity.

The blather seems never ending …the statistics go on and on. Then, the authors of these eye-catching articles go on to provide prescriptive steps companies must take to turn the trend around.

Today, I have a different thought – a different approach. And it involves you, as a leader.

I recently spent a week with the faculty of the John Maxwell Team, and the leadership guru himself, John Maxwell. You may know of John and the dozens of books he has written on the topic of leadership.

One of the best books, in my opinion, for leaders of all skill levels is, The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership. As an aside, I find I get more from re-reading a book I’ve previously read simply because I have grown and increased my awareness since the last time I read it. Therefore, words or thoughts I “didn’t notice” before scream out to me in the later reading. Does this ring true for you also?

One of Maxwell’s laws is the “Law of Addition – Leaders Add Value by Serving Others.” I’d like to discuss a number of points John makes in describing this law.

  • “Contrary to conventional thinking, the bottom line in leadership isn’t how far leaders advance ourselves but how far we advance others. That is achieved by serving others and adding value to their lives. The interaction between every leader and follower is a relationship, and all relationships either add or subtract from a person’s life. There is one critical question: Are you making things better for the people who follow you?”Too many leaders today are in it for what they can get out of it. Maybe this is why we have such large problems across corporate America today. Rare is the leader who intentionally goes out of his or her way to ensure those on the team are learning, growing and maximizing their talents.You can be the exception to this trend. Take some time, have a conversation with each team member and genuinely ask about their aspirations, ask what you can do to help them achieve their goals. This can be the start of a mutually rewarding dialogue and relationship between you both.
  • “90 percent of all people who add value to others do so intentionally… Human beings are naturally selfish and being a leader requires me to get out of my comfort zone every day and think about adding value to others.”You may not want to admit it, but you, like me, are probably selfish in at least a few areas of your life. Don’t think you are? What about the time you scouted the checkout line at the supermarket to see which line was the shortest? If you are like me, you hustled yourself to that line rather than tell someone else of your discovery.The point is, when we do things for other people, it probably doesn’t always come naturally, so we must have intentionality about it or it just might not happen. As my friend Deb Ingino has said, “We as leaders tend to want our teams to commit to us, when the reality is, we have it backwards. If we are not committed to our teams first – if we are not making every person feel valuable to the team – they will not be committed to us or our mission.”
  • “When you add value to people, you lift them up, help them advance, make them a part of something bigger than themselves and assist them in becoming who they were made to be.”I’m currently working with the senior management team of a regional office of a larger organization. Until recently this office had about 100 employees. Over the last year or so, about 24 of those employees left this company.The reasons are varied, yet one thing is clear to me – the leaders were busy performing the functional parts of their responsibilities. In other words, the Controller was busy paying bills, the head of Sales was busy tracking down leads and the head of Engineering was busy designing detailed specifications. By doing all these things, they weren’t adding value to the people on their sub-teams. People naturally want to be in an environment where they believe they matter.

    When a leader lifts them up, helps them advance, gives them exposure to new and challenging opportunities – they believe they matter and will give the leader more than compliance – they will give their commitment.

    When they give their commitment, they are more likely to stay committed and resist the inclinations to pursue other opportunities.

So, what is the call to action for you today? Do you know what the people on your team value? Why not make a list of your team and write what each person values most? Then rate yourself on a scale of 1 (poorly) to 10 (excellently) on how well you relate to that person’s values. If you can’t state their values or score lower than an 8, develop an intentional approach to spend more time with him or her to enhance the value you provide them.

Then, you will have a team that is definitely with you and together you will accomplish far more in your leadership, for them, and ultimately for your company, than you ever thought was possible. That’s the bottom line that makes leadership worth it!

Best regards,
Bill