unity comes with a measure of divisiveness.
When we celebrate Malaysia Day on
16th Sept, we are reminded of our national pride of being a multi-cultural
society. Slogans and depictions of different races living in harmony with each
other represents the utopia of integration and cohesiveness. While these are
all worthwhile images of how things could be, there is a lack
of understanding of how to get there. Unity is a look like body building - we
all aspire to have that "body" but unwilling to go through the
process, effort and sacrifice of "building". Cohesiveness is the
structure of what you see, however there is a more fundamental precursor which
forms the foundation.
tolerance form the foundation of cohesiveness? I beg to humbly differ. In fact,
tolerance by itself leads to an accumulated state of unresolved, unspoken
grievances and misunderstanding which can be triggered some time in the future.
Tolerance will only makes sense if there is something pre-existing which is
deeper. What about love? Surely, love makes the world go round. Yes, love is
important - however, love comes in many shapes an sizes - what is the basis and
foundation by which you define love? What is loving to one person might not be
loving to the other.
Foundation 1: The Courage to Face the
Superficiality is the curse of our age - Richard Foster.
The can be no unity without first
taking a real hard look at our current situation of disunity. The courage to face the truth can be summed up in
one word - honesty. With so many policies being in place by government
leaders around the world to rein in elements of disunity, there is the tendency
to neglect the foundational truth about integrity - honesty is the best policy. In this age of open communication, the constituents of any nation cannot be
easily fooled by superficial policies or slogans. There is a fundamental need
to first come clean on the elements of disunity, then we can begin the task or
obstacle of "coming clean" often lies not with the mind-set of the
followers - it usually resides in the thinking of the leaders. There is the
blind spot of thinking that all is well when the grassroots are feeling
otherwise. It is no wonder then that companies are now churning up their
efforts to survey their employees for the state of engagement and
connectedness. In Gallup's worldwide study of the state of engagement in 2013,
it is revealed that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged. The state of
cohesiveness (or the lack of it) is a serious issue which requires the first
step of honest reflection. When leaders humbly reflect on the real state of the
union, then there is hope.
The false sense of security - thinking
that all is well when it is actually not - is produced when the leaders surround
themselves with advisors who are more concerned with guarding their personal
agenda rather than addressing the real needs of the followers. To put it
figuratively, leaders who are disconnected from their followers seek advisors
who tickle their ears with affirming feedback rather than truthful messages.
If you are committed to face the truth,
here are two courageous steps:
feedback from your followers –
especially the influential ones. Look beyond personality differences and be
open to receive honest comments (knowing that the truth often hurts but if
dealt with objectively, it will have a healing effect).
apologize – people
are inspired by authenticity. Although charisma gets your message across, it is
sincerity that moves people towards cohesiveness. In other words, be humble.
Foundation 2: The Courage to Forge the
Fame is a vapor, popularity an
accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.
Nothing disperses cohesiveness as
quickly as a hypocritical leader. Most organizations spend tremendous effort in
crafting their vision and mission, hoping that correct copywriting would
translate into passionate responses from their employees. Yet, this is not
balanced with an equal emphasis on ensuring that leaders are constantly held
accountable to demonstrate the
mission. How can leaders expect the cohesiveness of walking in common direction
if they themselves do not walk the talk?
In my many client engagements, the most
common request I get is to provide teambuilding solutions. A factory manager
once requested that I produce a two day teambuilding program to “fix” the
morale and cohesiveness of the production team and yet when I inquired about
the participation from the teams’ supervisors – the response was that the
supervisors are too busy to attend, he wanted me as an external consultant to
fix the problem on behalf of the supervisors. In other words, please babysit my
people and “turn them around” in my absence. Leadership is more caught than taught. Please do not expect
integration and cohesiveness from your team members if you don’t even regularly
show up. In fact, research from Gallup indicates that as far as engagement is
concern, a negative manager performs
better than an absent manager.
If you are committed to forge the
truth, here are two courageous steps:
1. Stand up
for your team – it is
common practice that we stand up for our clients and advocate their needs. Why
not we demonstrate the same commitment to protect and advance the needs of our
employees as well?
2. Speak up
against corruption – not just
on issues of bribery or monetary malpractices but also on matters of injustice
and deviations from agreed standards. Cohesiveness is determined not by soliciting popularity but by standing on right
Conclusion – The Divisiveness of Unity
uncomfortable truth is this – in order to
build unity, there must be a clear division between right and wrong. Unless
leaders provides clarity about the current situation (facing the truth,
acknowledging the deviations from right standards) and commitment to lead by
example (forging the truth, demonstrating right behaviour and attitudes), then
we only have an appearance of integration and cohesiveness because it is unity
that is built on shaky grounds. John Maxwell is right – everything rises and falls on leadership.
performance is a simple equation – make sure that the expectations set are
always increasing, never stagnant or decreasing. In all of my coaching and
consulting assignments to date, I have yet to meet a leader who would welcome
in the new year with lower expectation of performing indicators! On the
contrary, the projected performance is almost always on the uptrend, moving further from the past and rallying
everyone to up their game to the next level.
employees really want to or even feel that they are up to it?
key performance indicators is the easy job for managers but firing up the
motivational level of the troops to scale the wall of ever increasing
expectations is quite another challenge. In fact, this is what distinguishes
the good manager from the great manager – the good manager creates
the measurement while the great manager creates the motivation. While the organization is busy thinking about CSR
activities, it will be to its advantage to be considering ESR initiatives as
well – Employee Sustainability Rituals.
projects, employee sustainability is more of a ritual rather than just a set of
loosely crafted activities. The saying is true – if you take care for your
employees, they will then take care of the customers. Your investment into your
clients and even into the community begin by first investing in your employees.
There are two principles all managers need to keep in mind to ensure a
respectable “ESR score”.
ESR Principle 1: Fit Before Performance
to Gallup, workers who believe they're a poor fit for their jobs are unlikely
to agree that they have opportunities to do what they do best every day. Hence,
the matter of employee sustainability, whether if they are have that extra
reserve to go the second mile and to remain loyal despite challenging
circumstances really depends on the health of their job fit.
Job fit is
a function of how an employee respond to this question – “In my job, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?” Last
year, Gallup released the latest result of their worldwide employee engagement
survey which stated that only 15% of employees are engaged. Think about it – 85%
of employees come to work, just to work. When
these employees are asked to meet rising expectations, will they come to work
not only with their hands and feet but with their hearts and minds intact as
well? When it comes to sustainability, you need more than just the job
description to keep the employee engaged – think about it – when was the last
time you heard of someone being tremendously motivated just by reading his or
her job description?
Great organizations look beyond job
descriptions to consider the matter of job
fit. Fit is a more delicate and personal ingredient of employee sustainability
because it deals not with what the
employee does but who the employee
is. In other words, what motivates you
as a person (not as an employee)? Gallup reports that an employee who is giving
the opportunity to focus on what he or she does best every day is six times
more engaged (Source: Gallup Worldwide Engagement Survey, 2012). In other
words, leaders and managers today need to create a work environment whereby
there is flexibility in adjusting the job description around a person’s
personal talent and strength. Employees become a mis-fit when they are forced to squeeze their personal strengths
into a job function that they cannot own and resonate with. In other words, the
job is laden with measurements that not integrated with personal motivation.
the two diagnostic questions to ascertain job fit in your company:
1. Do I have a method to identity
my employees’ talents?
2. Do I have a team of managers who
can coach and develop others according to personal strengths?
ESR Principle 2: Consistency After Commitment
It is easy
to commit. It is easy to produce a rah-rah speech and cajole everyone to sign
up for a certain level of commitment. But what will maintain the momentum of
that commitment? Just because the commitment is visible does not mean that it will be valued.
where the practice of consistency
comes in. Consistency has to do with the fundamental response to two basic
scenarios that will send a clear message as to whether we are serious about the
commitments which were made. The two scenarios are:
1. When people do what is right,
are they recognized?
2. When people do what is wrong,
are they reprimanded?
to Gallup, employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely
to say they will leave their company in the next year (Source: 12 Elements of
Great Managing, Gallup). The matter of recognition is such a basic human need
that it has become a major blind-spot for managers as the fast-paced and
gruelling work environment create a tunnel-vision where meeting the bottom line
supercede the human factor of being attentive to the emotional need for
One of the
most effective ways of improving recognition of employees is to discover how
they would like to receive feedback. Here is where an individualized approach is key to a manager’s role is ensuring
sustainability. Not everyone is excited about receiving a certificate of
achievement. A shopping voucher given in an insincere manner might not motivate
consistent performance. Hence, before a manager becomes too quick to hand out
the rewards, he or she need to spend some time to study the personality and
preferences of every individual employee. The great manager is someone who
would first study his team members well before studying the scope of the
performance required. We all have a fundamental desire to be known and
appreciated as unique individuals. When employees do what is right and they
meet expectations of performance or go the extra mile, take effort to recognize
them consistently in a way that matters to them.
sends out a clear, motivating message, we also need the other aspect of
consistency as well – that is the practice of reprimanding when things go
wrong. Human nature is such that people need to see a sense of fairness and
justice in the way that leadership actions are taken in the organization. If an
organization consistently closes a blind eye to wrong doing and ignores
warnings of standards not met, then it is headed towards being a corrupted
culture. History affirms that a corrupted culture is not a sustainable culture.
The right thing to do then is to create a culture of accountability. Herein lies the challenge – accountability cannot
be created in the absence of justified reprimanding of those who do wrong. When
actions are not taken against those who defy the commitment the team, then it
sends a de-motivating message to those who do.
leadership requires that we be comfortable not only in dishing out the rewards
but also in demanding accountability and compliance to what is agreed upon.
Your ability to convey the truth with a genuine attitude of care and concern is
key. Having accountability conversations is never easy but it is more
manageable if we take the following practices into consideration:
Deal with the wrong doing as
soon as it arises. The longer you wait, the offender will interpret your silence as
leniency and acceptance of his or her misbehaviour.
Obtain the testimony of
witnesses. Do not take
any rash or harsh actions on your own. Talk to others and get verification and
supporting evidences because you cannot be perceived as being partial or
vindictive in your approach.
Conclusion: Energy and Expectations
Employee Sustainability Rituals
(ESR) is about
ensuring that the energy level of every employee rises in tandem with the
expectations of high performance. If there are no rituals within your
organization that looks into the issue of job
fit and consistent recognition and
reprimanding, then you might be unconsciously moving in the direction of
having a disengaged culture. As you implement measurements to keep track of
performance, you would do well to consider the matter of employee
sustainability by integrating practices and habits of motivation as well because first and foremost, we are in the people business.