Most people want to work for a manager who practices the leadership qualities of being genuine, caring, and fair-minded. The majority of us don’t expect to be coddled or to have our mistakes swept under the rug. We don’t need a protector who saves us from the harsh truths of our reality. On the flip side, few want to work for Attila the Hun. We merely want to be treated with respect and in a way that allows us to maintain our dignity, so that we can be the best version of ourselves. This month in FastCompany, Mark Crowley says that “several studies in recent years have shown a remarkable number of people believe they work for a bad boss. As evidence of how deeply this affects engagement, 35% of U.S. workers polled by Parade magazine last summer said they’d willingly forgo a substantial pay raise in exchange for seeing their direct supervisor fired.” Ouch!
Organizations would be wise to hire mangers that are able to balance a drive for results with the ability to be an empathetic developer of people. Without this balance, one side of the equation wins out and employees are left feeling the sting of the harsh critic or the impotence of the care-giver, and neither archetype is capable of supporting people to maximize potential. Maximizing potential may seem “the icing on the cake”, but the frightening truth is that we risk more than the opportunity to experience what is possible. Bad bosses have a significant and meaningful impact on employee disengagement.
Gallup is releasing their newest report his month, and while they “encouragingly note that there’s been a slight improvement to employee engagement since the Great Recession, it’s hard to cheer when you realize 52% of Americans admit to being disengaged in their jobs, and another 18% to being actively disengaged.” According to Jim Harter, one of the main areas of focus to get things back on track: hiring managers that are “deeply caring and capable of seeing, supporting, and adjusting to the differences in people.”
In my leadership development practice, often I notice the struggle is “How do I practice transparency and build confidence?” “How do I hold others accountable and assume greatness?” Balancing between being up-close and engaged and allowing space for exploration requires deep listening to what is needed in every moment. This level of leadership presence can be elusive. Today’s workplace is filled with pressures, distractions, time limitations, and stressors. How does a leader stay connected to both the big picture and his people? How does she drive performance without driving away her most valuable resource?
Engaging others is about connection, but before you can be truly connected to others you must start with your connection to the best version of yourself. When I am my most compelling-self it is because I am less concerned with my ego, and more grounded in my talents, values, purpose, and passion. When the people I work with are the most compelling it is because they know who they are and how to contribute to something bigger. If leaders want to improve workplace engagement, each of us must recover first to the relationship we have with our self. Effective leadership requires continually asking the question: who am I, and what am I uniquely suited to do in this present moment.
When leaders lead from the center, the very core of who they are, then we can truly impact employee engagement by creating authentic and connected relationships with others in the workplace.
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Deb Siverson is a seasoned executive coach, certified as a PCC through the International Coach Federation. If you want to schedule time to discuss how you or your organization can increase engagement by having a different conversation at work, contact us now.