Can we agree that all good leaders want to optimize employee engagement? Yet, sometimes there are barriers preventing just that. Like a virus in a computer that blocks optimum performance sometimes we have assumptions about people and problems which block our ability to help people. There are certain assumptions about people that act like a leadership virus.
Recently the WIFI on my laptop stopped working. It would fade in and out for no apparent reasons. I tried various fixes on my own with no results. It was so frustrating because it stopped me from being productive and from responding to customers. It was a barrier to my productivity and I needed to work around it. My customers saw poor performance from me but the real root cause was the virus in my lap top.
I found a Best Buy near me (I was traveling on business) and they were very helpful. They did a quick hardware scan and found no issues. The problem was in the software. The tech surmised it was a virus stopping the WIFI from optimum performance and the best course of action was a complete restoration. Sometimes leaders need to consider a restoration of their leadership assumptions to achieve the desired level of employee engagement. Just as the computer damaged my productivity and caused me to spend time to find a way to work around the problem a flawed leadership thought acts like a virus slowing down employees’ ability to perform.
Then biggest virus that is still alive and well is a form of blame. Many leaders first look at who is at fault when a problem occurs. Once employees know they may be blamed for problems they stop putting in extra effort, stop taking risks, and stop communicating their mistakes. Leaders who have this virus and ask “who did this” spread this virus throughout the entire organization. Any question a leader asks will send a message. Do your questions send the message of blame or the message of engagement and trust?
We need systems thinking and Profound Knowledge (W. Edwards Deming) instead. We need leaders to ask, how can we work as a team to improve the process and/or the system. If the leader asks the right questions he/she can build employee engagement. When we adopt systems thinking we stop looking at individuals for answers to problems. Instead we start looking at the system for solutions.
Here are some thoughts that indicate the presence of a debilitating virus and a recommended replacement.
- Improving individual performance will improve organizational performance. Replace this with this healthy thought instead: Improving the system (including processes) will improve organizational performance.
- Managers can fairly, accurately and consistently evaluate employees separate from the contributions of the system and others on their team. Replace this with this healthy thought instead: It is impossible for a supervisor to predictably and consistently remove stereotyping, favoritism, bias, or other errors from the performance appraisal process. Performance is optimized when the individual or team evaluates a process at the end of the process cycle.
Consider a restoration of their leadership assumptions to eliminate a virus in your brain. Look for solutions as a team in your system and not in the individual.