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Why 18% of Your Team May Be Disengaged

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

There’s a very old proverb about putting the cart before the horse. No matter how outdated this saying is; the premise is still valid — don’t do it backwards, or you’ll make everything more difficult. I’m not talking about evading innovation, but rather avoiding the reinvention of the wheel. Too many companies are focused on the cart end, the burden of the equation rather than making sure they’ve got happy, secure and confident horses to pull those carts. A shocking number of CEOs are worrying about the rules and methods first and foremost. Those things are important, of course. But, they’re the cart. The horse, incited by company philosophy, has to come first.

There’s simply no point in developing rules and regulations to achieve a bottom line if the team (the horses) is not connected with what they do and the company that they do it for. A startling 18% of employees are disengaged. These people are the opposite of engaged. They are so unhappy with their jobs that they may be dissuading colleagues and customers from their own engagement. Not to mention, chances are that their own productivity and performance are severely lacking, taking away from that bottom line.

What’s missing? Probably not the rules and regulations. These team members are disengaged because there is no company culture that helps them connect with purpose and meaning, which keeps them motivated to participate in group success, and that signals the lack of an underlying philosophy. In this case, there’s a cart, but no horse. Although, there may be a couple of asses trying to push a cart uphill.

On the other hand, there’s plenty of research to suggest that companies with engaged employees produce more, innovate more, and earn more money. It happens naturally because employees understand their intrinsic value – and so does the company they work for. When a company takes the time to understand the true value of it’s team members, a funny thing happens. Its people in turn feel valued, and when they feel valued, they actually become more valuable.

Obviously, more money is exactly what the business wants. But, rather than motivating people to achieve targets, they develop a mind numbing amount of required policies and procedures that must be followed just so people can do their job, making it far more difficult for people to hit the mark.

Tactics and practices, rules and regulations; these are easily measurable. It’s far easier to see that Max achieved (or didn’t achieve) his sales target than it is to understand the impact of decision making that upholds the corporate philosophy. I get that. But, as many of the most successful companies demonstrate, it’s not always about the sales. People need to know why they’re working and be empowered to make decisions that uphold core philosophy and values. This makes everything more efficient. It engages employees at a higher level and avoids the mediocrity and cynicism that accompanies an archaic, authoritarian, red tape driven organization.

Do you have a company philosophy? Do you know what it is? Do you think it, speak it and live it daily? Or are you the CEO of a cart, but no horses?

Company philosophy doesn’t come from the masses. It’s a direct extension of the core values and beliefs of the organization. At the highest levels — from the Big Chief, to top executives, to management at all levels — it must be lived and breathed, becoming the driving force behind everything you think, say and do each and everyday. Every single employment decision made should be in line with this philosophy. That’s how companies create an unrelenting workforce that consistently creates, executes innovation and exceeds bottom line targets. Without the philosophical fit, the result is always a disengaged employee.

Perhaps its time to rethink why you are in business, why you have a team, and your responsibility to those team members?

So, if you’re looking around wondering why you can’t get the cart up the hill, consider that your business needs to start with the horse. Always, always, always take really good care of your horses.

Because no one else can pull the cart.

Giddy up!

Nathan Eland is the Founder and CEO of Legends Leadership Concepts. A company that helps organizations create thriving cultures with heart and soul.

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