Could this One Belief be holding back your business?

Picture via Office Space - 1999

Picture via Office Space – 1999

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about employees? Hold that thought…

There’s a lot that goes into successful business growth – you’ve got to have a great product (or service), you have to have good marketing and sales and you have to do a lot of other things right. But perhaps the most important thing for most businesses that want to grow beyond the founder…you have to have great people helping you make things happen.

That’s a hard statement to argue with – on paper at least.

But if everyone really believes that’s true, then how do you explain the huge volume of businesses that have dis-engaged employees?

A recent Gallup Study found that only 13% of employees are actively engaged in their work – 63% are not engaged (just going through the motions) and 24% are actively dis-engaged (trying to disrupt things)!

What’s driving all of that dis-engagement? There are a lot of factors that go into creating a Great Place to Work – an expert from Deloitte, Josh Bersin, wrote a great article on The Five Elements of A ‘Simply Irresistible Organization’ and his assessment was that you need these 5 things:

  • Meaningful Work – which includes autonomy, just enough challenge and being part of something bigger.
  • Great Management – which I would describe more as leadership…how to help people become better
  • Growth Opportunities – people need to be able to expand into new challenges
  • An Inclusive, Flexible, Fun Environment – you spend the bulk of your time working…it’s good to be able to enjoy it
  • Leadership We Can Trust – a focus from the top on making things better for everyone, not just the ownership

It’s a great list to start with (and the article is definitely worth a few minutes to read) but I think you can simplify a lot of these ideas into a root cause…a basic belief that drives how people are treated.

So here’s the question:

Do you believe your employees are collaborative partners who bring diversity, creativity and ideas well beyond what you bring…or do you believe that your employees cannot be trusted and must be tightly managed at all times if you’re going to get anything out of them?

That single belief will dictate how you run your business and in today’s world, it will also dictate how successful you can be – assuming that success is driven by those employees.

The concept of management (and how we traditionally treat employees) was originally developed over 100 years ago by a guy named Frederick Winslow Taylor way back in 1911 when he published The Principles of Scientific Management.  Taylor had a lot of good ideas and he certainly impacted productivity in factories…but a lot of his work was based around the assumptions that employees were lazy and…not very bright and therefore had to be managed tightly if you wanted to get them to actually do the work.

In the sweat shops of 1911, there may have been a lot more credence to his theories then there are today. Most jobs in the US today require a level of creativity and non-linear thinking (most of the linear, simple jobs have been outsourced or automated). That means you need employees who can make decisions, deal with uncertainty, come up with new ideas and handle people. You’re not going to get much of that kind of help if you treat people like they are lazy and stupid.

However…if you treat people like they’re your partners…and you have the right people…imagine what could be accomplished.

It’s not just Touchy Feely Stuff…

The Great Place to Work institute has been studying this idea for quite a while now and they’ve discovered there is a huge financial incentive to creating a workplace that employees want to be part of – check out their statistics that show Great Places to Work outperform the S&P 500 by about 2 to 1!

Do you believe your employees are collaborators or that they must be tightly managed…almost like children?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – share them in the comments below.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach