Effective LeadershipGuest Post by Eddie Coulson

There are thousands of organizations across the globe that have mediocre or poor leadership, and many of them survive day-to-day, month-to-month and year-to-year. These organizations – from schools to software development firms to financial institutions and beyond – simply rely on people getting their work done. Whether an employee is engaged or active is of no real concern to the organization.

Moving Beyond Survival

Some organizations, however, not only survive, they thrive. Why?

Some organizations believe they have a responsibility for their employee’s quality of life, not just providing a fair paycheck. Employees in these work environments are much more likely to be committed to, and involved with, their work than those organizations that simply trudge along from day-to-day.

The research Daniel Pink highlights and the research conducted by Gallup point to a few conclusions that should drive leaders in their work. In fact, it is very clear, yet not quickly or easily done, how to get employees engaged or active in their work.

Quick insights from Gallup and Daniel Pink:

“Currently, 13% of employees across 142 countries worldwide are engaged in their jobs — that is, they are emotionally invested in and focused on creating value for their organizations every day.” State of the Global Workforce Report 2013, Gallup

“While the overall organization may set lofty goals for engagement, leaders must make these objectives meaningful to employees’ day-to-day experience to bring engagement to life.” State of the Global Workforce Report 2013, Gallup

“…it’s bad business strategy. These supposedly hard-headed businesses who claim to value facts and evidence are actually in many ways abiding by folklore about what really motivates people. What’s at stake is whether business decides to run by folklore or science. I’ll take science. The continued overuse of carrots and sticks puts businesses on a path that is extraordinarily dangerous.” Daniel Pink, How to Stay Motivated — and Get That Bonus, WSJ

Emotionally Connected, Purpose Engaged

Employees must be emotionally connected to their work. And, here’s the thing, employees don’t get emotionally connected to their work simply because you tell them to do so. An emotional connection to work speaks to the fact that employees must understand and connect to WHY they are doing what they are doing.

As Gallup puts it, “Great managers help employees understand how every role in the organization connects to the customer through the company’s mission and purpose.”

Employees who don’t see the opportunity to see a bigger purpose will, most likely, be those that trudge along day in and day out. A company full of “trudgers” is a place of “trudgery” to work.

I love this image! The person signing all the students’ yearbooks in this picture is not the principal or the PE coach. It’s the custodian of the school. Why? Because the custodian understands that his purpose is to make a contribution to the lives of the students, not just clean the school.

An accounts payable clerk that simply believes his/her job is to pay the bills will not be engaged or active in their work; they will simply be doing their job. A leader has to connect the product being manufactured or the service provided to a purpose beyond the actual work of developing good or providing services.

Why Engagement Matters

Why does being engaged or active in work matter? Gallup estimates that billions of dollars are lost each year to employees that are not engaged or active in their work. And, besides, it just makes sense that organizations should be concerned about the quality of life of their people.

An organization that doesn’t want their employee’s lives to be fulfilled is missing the whole point of life, I think. Life should be a fulfilling adventure both inside and outside work.

What are successful organizations doing to activate this fulfilling adventure?

Note: Eddie’s post was in response to my earlier one entitled “Why Leaders Get Employee Engagement Wrong.” Thank you, Eddie, for adding to the conversation.

Guest Author

Eddie CoulsonDr. Eddie Coulson is a partner in the consulting firm N2 Learning. Eddie has a passion for developing leaders who are driven by their heart, their mind and their expertise. He works with organizations to identify how leaders can transform their organizations to get employees active and excited about their work.

Connect with Eddie via Twitter @ekcoulson and @n2learning and through email at eddie.coulson@n2learning.org.