I have made my fair share of mistakes as a manager of people. In my first business out of college, I co-owned a company that managed private and public tennis complexes. One of our key staff members was the head tennis professional who was a leading tennis teacher in the area. He had students lined up to take lessons from him which was great for our business. In my brilliance, I went out and hired another tennis professional without consulting our long time head pro. Within a few months, my long employee left and went to work for a competitor taking all of his students with him. In his exit interview, I learned that he enjoyed being the sole head professional and that he did not get along well with the person I hired. Ouch! This was a painful lesson in managing people and learning to communicate better.
Later in my career, I was apparently not much wiser. I personally don’t like much oversight or micro-management when someone is managing me. Just point me in the right direction and let me go. Therefore, my default is to manage that way as well. Unfortunately, that style does not work for everyone. I had a very talented law clerk that I hired to assist me with my law firm. I would share some big picture ideas with him and turn him loose to work his magic. Unfortunately, when we would reconvene, I would be very disappointed in the work product. After several failed attempts, he finally said, “Could you please just tell me exactly what you are looking for, and I will be glad to do it!” I needed to hear that as a good reminder that many people need clear direction and want more detail in how to accomplish a project.
I have had my occasional good moments as a manager. In one work setting, I shared an assistant with another co-worker. She was a very nice young lady who worked very hard. The colleague I was working with had a very different management style than me. My colleague had a very stern approach and would become very upset if the work product was anything less than perfect. I watched my assistant leave this person’s office many times in tears. I personally believe you “catch more flies with honey than vinegar”, and I tried to be an encourager and challenge my assistant in a positive way to be her best. What I learned from that experience is that my assistant would expend extra effort to get projects done for me, but would do the bare minimum not to get in trouble with my colleague. In other words, she cared enough to give me her discretionary effort. That lesson has stuck with me.
How we lead and inspire others in the workplace matters. Gallup has some very interesting research on our workforce in the United States and the impact of employee engagement versus disengagement. They have been tracking employee engagement since the late 1990’s, and they have administered over 25 million employee surveys to measure employee engagement. In a recent report, they found that only 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work, and the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is roughly 2-to-1. For work groups with engaged employees, the results are phenomenal – “higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings, less turnover and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.” In addition Gallup found that, “Organizations with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher earnings per share (EPS) compared with their competition in 2011-2012.”
However, in contrast those with an average of only 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competition during that same time period. Gallup also estimates that active disengagement costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year. These disengaged employees are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays, and drive customers away.
What I have realized in my journey is that most businesses today are PEOPLE businesses. We either win or lose based on how well we have engaged employees working together to accomplish organizational goals. That is how you build a great brand and create loyal customers. As we continue to distance ourselves from the industrial age into the knowledge economy, it is paramount that we as leaders understand that our employees are not cogs in a machine but living, breathing people who have hopes, desires, dreams, and NEEDS. If we are going to unleash the greatness in our organizations then we have to unleash the greatness of our people.
In my work with organizations, I frequently use personality tests like DISC® or Myers Briggs®; however, my favorite tool is the Birkman® assessment because it helps you understand your “needs” as well. If a person’s needs are not being met then they are unlikely to be a productive employee in an organization. The challenge is that people don’t walk around with their “needs” spelled out on their resumes. They may not even be clearly known by the individual. As a leader, we can learn how to inspire and motivate our team members by understanding what truly motivates them.
In my search for an efficient way to practically apply these principles, I discovered a tool to help streamline this process. Dr. Carl Hicks, a native Mississippian, co-developed with Birkman International a new tool called Understanding My Motivational Drivers. This assessment combines the objective statistical input from millions of people who have taken the Birkman with Dr. Hicks’ practical experience in working as a business consultant for several decades.
The assessment produces a short report which addresses five key topics for individuals:
(1) How to work with me
(2) How to talk to me.
(3) The biggest mistakes you can make with me.
(4) How to incentivize me.
(5) What motivates me.
I asked Dr. Hicks about this tool and he shared, “I believe that being your best requires that others treat you as you want to be treated. This report can serve as the vehicle that permits you to review, confirm, share and discuss your expectations in an objective manner.”
I believe that tools like the ones that Dr. Hicks created are extremely important because they help individuals increase their self-awareness and leaders better understand how to unlock the greatness in their employees. I encouraged leaders to follow the Platinum Rule which means that we treat people in the way that they want and deserve to be treated. The harsh reality in life is that the only person you can truly change is yourself. Therefore, one of the ways that YOU can change is to make sure that you are seeking to understand what motivates your teammates and seeking to be a positive example of how to lead by helping people meet their needs. You may just be the catalyst for helping to take your organization to the next level!