Much has been written this year on the subject of associate engagement, especially given the historically low numbers that have been emerging from the different data collection agencies. And while the percentage of engaged associates has been trending down over the last few years, I personally remain optimistic that in time we will begin to see some improvements in the numbers. The reason being is that much like any problem we face in business and/or life, the first step toward getting better is to believe you have an issue in the first place. It seems safe to say that our collective awareness of the opportunity is quite high.
As leaders, we may be asking ourselves where to start and how to begin the hard work of re-engaging the heads and hearts of our employees. At Luck Companies, we would say the answer is staring right back at us in the mirror. We underpin this answer with several simple truths, the first being that for anything to change in the organization the leaders have to go first. And the second is our firm belief that the culture (the collective attitudes and behaviors of the associates) is a shadow of the leaders. Back to simple terms, whatever may be occurring in the organization, we need to start by looking up.
In The Leadership Challenge Kouzes and Posner write: “Workplace engagement and commitment are significantly explained by how the leader behaves. Statistical analyses revealed that a leader’s behavior explains the vast majority of constituents’ workplace engagement. A leaders actions contribute more to such factors as commitment, loyalty, motivation, pride, and productivity than does any other single variable.” They go on to say: “The truth is that exemplary leader behavior makes a profoundly positive difference in people’s performance at work.” This fact supports the data that directly links associate engagement with high performing organizations.
Behaviors are foundational to our Values Based Leadership (VBL) model in Luck Companies. The first two of our five VBL competencies are “Highly Self Managed” and “Aligned Values.” We define Highly Self Managed as “developing skills, managing emotions and adapting behaviors to meet the needs of others.” Aligned Values is “aligning behaviors and actions with values; directing individuals and the organization toward a shared purpose.” We truly believe the actions and behaviors of our leaders (in our terms how they show up) have a significant impact on our associates. And while the concept seems so simple, it is far from easy. As such, we work hard everyday to show up well, almost to the point of obsession to get it right; and it still eludes us at times, dare I say daily. This being said, the obsession actually isn’t about us, the leaders, it’s about our associates. And when you hire and develop leaders who have an “Authentic Orientation Toward Others,” our third VBL competency; or as Ken Blanchard said in a recent lecture “sort by others vs. self”, the odds go up that they will get it right more often than not. That they will behave in such a way as to “make a profoundly positive difference in people’s performance at work.”