Leadership lessons come from all sorts of different places. Persons, events, articles, conversations, quotes, scriptures. Some intended as motivational and inspirational, some happenstance and epiphanic.
As a fan of the sci-fi genre, I have spent too much time traveling “where no person has gone before.”
While those hours at first blush may seem like time lost that could have been “sharpening the ax,” there is, however, at least one leadership lesson that can be learned from Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise.
With the immense scope of the universe laid out before them and untold adventures and dangers awaiting them, the crew poised at their posts awaiting the command to go to warp, Captain Picard stands stoically on the bridge and barks out the order, “Engage!”
On Being Indifferent
A recent poll by Gallup describes the incredible challenge that faces business leaders.
According to Gallup:
A majority of American workers are not engaged at work, only 29% of workers polled are engaged at work, 52% are not engaged and 19% are “actively disengaged.”
These results are similar across many demographics, are not influenced by earnings level and have held relatively steady for years.
Years ago I took an executive position at company that had been profitable for years but lacked effective leadership. Within the company I found several persons of influence that had “checked out.”
As I began to connect with them, to understand where the company had been, where it had been successful and get a history of the company; I heard a lot of “whatevers” and “don’t cares.”
On Love and Hate and Passion
Those responses showed the depth of the indifference within the company. These individuals had become disengaged.
“The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is indifference. Indifference is the complete lack of passion.”
Love and hate are both passion words. Both indicate strong emotions or passion regarding the subject. Both can be channeled into positive actions. Indifference can not be controlled or predicted.
“Indifference is a cancer to your organization.”
As leaders we are compelled to engender interest, excitement and passion in the persons within the organization. For the good of the individuals and for the good of the organization.
Curt Rosengren at Passion Catalyst , defines passion as
“The energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.”
On Being Charismatic
The natural question then is this:
What can we do as leaders to engage our people, to engender passion in them, to get them to bring more of themselves into what they do?
The leadership trait best associated with this is charisma.
Charismatic figures almost indescribably draw people to their cause, make people want to follow them, to believe in their purpose, to go beyond normal means to assist.
Fortunately for us mere mortals, charisma is not simply a God-given gift, it is not an angelic stream of light that shines from above illuminating the head and shoulders of the anointed few. Charisma is the ability to:
- Be genuine
- Be caring
- Be communicative
- Be passionate
- Be “other person” centered
- Be committed to a common-good goal
- Be tireless in seeing that all individuals are rewarded equally
In order to do this we must communicate effectively.
For communication to be effective it requires empathic listening.
To Be Engaged
Many times as managers of businesses we cringe at the site of people standing around talking, being unproductive.
Ironically, it is incumbent on us to allow our employee to separate themselves from their tasks long enough that we can talk to the person rather than the employee. Get to understand each individual, what makes them tick, find out what their passions are, find out what their fears are.
“Only by knowing the individual can we hope to discover where and how they fit into the big picture. Only by them knowing that we care that they fit into the big picture, will we be able to engage them in work necessary to achieve.”
As leaders, we owe it to the organization and we owe it to the individuals within organization, to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to be engaged.
A percentage of employees are going to be actively disengaged and there isn’t much we can do about that. These people have decided to move on, for what ever reason. They still deserve our attention and empathy.
We still need to engage those that appear to be lost, if not for the benefit of the employee, then for the benefit of the organization and the leader. We can often learn more from our failures than our successes if we embrace them.
It is the larger group, the ‘not engaged’, that holds the monumental challenge for leadership and the organization. Clearly an organization can not be successful with 50% of the employees not performing at their peak.
The call to leadership requires that we actively communicate, motivate, empower, and facilitate the growth of the individuals with whom we have been entrusted.
Authority is first and foremost responsibility. If we have employees that are not engaged, we, as leaders, are at fault.
It is easy to sit back and say well that person did this or said that and dismiss them. For the good of the organization and the individual, we, as leaders, must make every attempt to get them re-engaged.
Our responsibility to the individual is to listen and understand. We need help them to see the big picture, to make sure that they understand their role in the picture and to help them to achieve their best within their role.
So here is a leadership lesson from the future that we can all learn today. If you want to boldly take your organization where none have gone before; “Engage!”
How can we as leaders get people more engaged? How successful have you been at eliminating indifference from your organization? What can you do as a leader to create the kind of environment where engagement and personal inspiration increases? I would love to hear your comments!
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