According to Gallup, the average U.S. organization has only 31.5% of its employees engaged. This is the highest rate of engagement since they started polling in 2000. Whoa. That’s a lot of disengaged associates sitting in cubes, waiting on customers, and collectively poisoning each other at work. The CEO of Great Place to Work, Michael Bush, spoke at a conference I attended and posited, “High trust companies make 3 times as much profit”. So the bottom line to making more money is a high trust environment. As Bush said, “You are either building, eroding or rebuilding trust.”
As the saying goes “People quit bosses, not their jobs.” I bet you have. I know I have. Over a decade ago, I was suddenly working for a new boss. He was a micro manager, which is a polite way of saying he trusted no one. I remember him telling me, or rather ordering me, to start journaling. He thought I would adjust to his management style if I did. That was strange. Like having your manager tell you to start meditating. Journaling is a personal decision. I barely knew this guy and he wanted me to journal. Within six months of this guy taking charge, there was 100% turnover in his direct report ranks. 100%! Including me. I had zero trust in that guy and so did everyone else.
So here are the ideas that Bush had on building trust and thus profits:
• Thank people. Pretty basic, huh? This is programmed into me. I’m not sure why. I thank a server every time they bring something to the table. I thank people who hold the door for me. It’s auto pilot. Just because it’s easy for me doesn’t mean it will be easy for you. Thank your assistant for finishing the project on time. Thank your boss for the raise. Thank your coworker for finishing the report. Be the thanker in your organization.
• Care about people. Do you know the children’s names of your direct reports? Do you know what musical instrument they play on the weekends? Do you ask if everything went well at the dentist appointment? Do you know your co-workers favorite author? Knowing these things shows that you care. I’m not saying you need to know it all. But if they were out yesterday, ask how they are. I heard a speaker say recently that it’s not about work/life balance. It’s life balance because work is everywhere now (on your phone, remote access etc.). So life needs to be brought into the workplace. Show you care.
• Speak to people. This can take a lot of energy for introverts. It’s easier for people who are extroverts. Even a greeting and a smile can work wonders for those around you. Or a wave across the aisle. It’s easy in this day and age of technology to just text, email and message people instead of actually picking up the phone or walking down the hall to talk to someone. So much is lost when you don’t engage verbally with folks. Speak to those that work for you every day.
• Listen to people. Everyone wants to be heard. I think this is the real reason people ask me to coach them. They want to be heard. Deeply heard. As Stephen Covey says “Listen to understand.” It’s not “Listen to rebut” or “Listen to get the last word.” Everyone has an idea of how things should go. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone has frustrations. An engaged employee is one that is being heard and supported in implementing ideas that make sense.
• Inspire people. What is the higher aspiration of your organization? What is the deep purpose of your company? Jeff Diana, CPO from Atlassian spoke at that same conference. Their software is used on Cochlear Implants to help deaf children hear. That is an inspiring message for their employees. I sat there saying to myself, “I want to be a part of that.” Craft a vision that your employees can align with and inspire them. Inspired employees are engaged.
• Trust people. You can’t build trust if you don’t trust. This is not a chicken or egg debate. Trust is always first. I think this is why I left that boss a decade ago. He didn’t trust me; ergo, I didn’t trust him. Trusted employees are engaged employees. Delegate clearly and let go. As Patrick Lencioni defines trust, it’s not predictive trust (I will do what I say I’m going to do) but vulnerability based trust (if I mess up, I will admit it). I think in engaging your workforce, both types of trust are important. A lot of bosses spend a lot of time protecting their flawless image instead of being vulnerable. Trust your people.
Don’t try and take this all on at once. Pick one, or maybe two, and try them on for size. Hopefully you are already doing some of these already. Maybe it’s just keeping track of how many times you thank people during the day or admitting when you are wrong. What’s the first one you want to work on?