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How Effective are You as a Leader?

Are you keeping your employees energized and engaged?

I read an article on How Leaders Kill Meaning at Work on McKinsey Quarterly that talked about how senior executives “routinely undermine creativity, productivity and commitment” of their employees. The article noted that employees are most happy in their work when they have “inner positive work lives” and inner positive work lives affect the bottom line. Inner positive work lives is defined by the authors as “the constant flow of emotions, motivations, and perceptions that constitute a person’s reactions to the events of the work day.”

While this certainly may seem obvious, it is surprising how many senior leaders within an organization don’t consider how their actions, or inactions, affect their employees. Without happy, committed employees, it’s not possible to have a successful business over the long haul.

The article discusses four traps in particular and how to avoid them. It is well worth reading and referencing.

I’ve been meeting over the last few months with a variety of senior executives from a variety of industries (and I’ll be pointing them to this article.)  I notice that for some of these executives, in the push to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive environment, and, in a few cases, keep business profitable, there seems to be a neglect of the employee – the individual who is actually doing the work. Not an intentional neglect, but in the rush to remain competitive – forgetting that decisions that are made impact everyone in the organization and, in some cases, the ability for them to do their work.

Let me give you one example. One company, a biopharmaceutical firm, had big change ahead of them. They were moving from research to production and were trying to figure out what that meant for them. The entire time they were discussing what it meant, they never bothered to ask the employees or to share information with them. Likely because the leadership themselves were trying to figure it all out! Everyone knew production was the next step for the company – it was obvious. But no one on the leadership team bothered to talk about it. The problem they were creating:  employees who were becoming disengaged and were worried about their jobs. At a time when the company was looking for funding from investors, they were seeing a decline in productivity.

When I went in to meet with a few of the managers to discuss how to better engage the employees and increase productivity; through meetings with employees in small groups and via surveys, I learned that they were, frankly, worried about their jobs. In conversations with management and senior leadership, I learned what you read earlier in this paragraph – employees were way “out of the loop” about what was going on. A few were job hunting and others were just wrapped up in gossip and worry. For the brave few who asked what was happening, they either got blank stares from their direct supervisors or were told “don’t worry about it – it will all work out.”  Hmmm…I don’t know about you but that would get me worrying! A bit difficult to get work done when the focus is everywhere but on the projects that need to get done!

The outcome – in a nutshell – I worked with the executives to outline a communication and engagement plan (starting with an “all hands” meeting led by the CEO) to get employees in the loop and get them involved. Within two months – we saw a marked improvement in productivity. Simple really – the employees were committed to the organization and wanted to be involved. They need to be involved. These are the individuals who make things happen day-after-day.

Think about it. Are you an effective leader? Are you making decisions and taking steps with your employees in mind? Are you getting their thoughts and feedback? Are you enabling them to be successful in their roles which = success in the business? What are your thoughts? What are you seeing? Please share with others in the Comments field below.

By the way – subscribe to The McKinsey Quarterly – great articles and research on a regular basis!