I once asked a manager how many people work for his company. He said, “About half.” After we assessed their organizational culture, we found he was overly optimistic. They had a very large number of disengaged people. It wasn’t hard to see why the organization’s results were poor and getting worse. As someone in a focus group quipped, “The most dangerous place in this organization is at the exit door around quitting time. You’ll get trampled.”
In another organization, I was facilitating a development workshop with a few “prisoners” as participants. Actually, calling them “participants” was generous. They’d been forced to attend and weren’t participating in our discussions. One finally said, “Jim, I think you’re confusing us with people who give a (bleeeeppp).”
More than 90 percent of people surveyed in a Psychology Today study aspired to produce the highest quality work possible. But less than 50 percent said they only work hard enough to keep their jobs. The main reason they gave for this big difference was frustration with management practices.
The day of passion and love — Valentine’s Day — is tomorrow. It’s a good time to reflect on the vital connections of leadership and love. Management is “head work,” and leadership is “heart work.” Leadership is emotional. Leadership deals with feelings. Leadership is about dreams, inspiration, excitement, desire, pride, care, passion, and love.
Passion and love are affairs of the heart, not the head. We aren’t rational creatures. Humans use thinking and reason to solve problems and make plans. But it’s our hearts more than our heads that move us. Most “rational thinking” is justifying actions that start with our feelings. We often make decisions that “feel right,” then start looking for the “facts” to support them.
Clarence Francis, former chairman of General Foods, once observed, “You can buy a person’s time; you can buy his physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of his skilled muscular motions per hour. But you cannot buy enthusiasm… you cannot buy loyalty… you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds, or souls. You must earn these.”
A stronger indicator of management’s ability to energize or enervate team members is absenteeism. When I was a kid, I didn’t enjoy school very much. So, I was sick a lot. Once I found my life work and pursued career choices I loved, my health improved miraculously.
The culture of too many organizations is like the bumper sticker “I am neither for nor against apathy.” There’s a big price for managers’ failure to engage the hearts of people. When we’re excited about our work — when we feel like valued partners and have a commitment to our team and to reaching our goals together — we’re much less likely to call in sick.
When I feel like my boss doesn’t care much about me, if my work is boring and routine, if I am just a pair of hired hands, the group I am part of is not really a team, I don’t know and don’t really care what our organization does or what customers think about our products and services, then I will call in sick at the first sniffle. Not to mention that feeling down lowers my immune system and makes me much more susceptible to whatever bugs are going around.
The author and poet, Samuel Ullman, wrote, “Age may wrinkle the face, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul” (now there’s a scary thought — just imagine the leathery, shriveled souls of apathetic people).
Is your leadership sparking and smothering the flames of passion and commitment in your team? Or maybe you just don’t care…