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Leadership, Management and Team Member Engagement: The Challenge and The Opportunity

January 1st, 2013

The late Peter Drucker once wrote “In a few hundred years, when the history of our time is written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time–literally—substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”

Drucker seems to have an uncanny ability to accurately predict the future and on this point I suspect he will again be found to be right.  However, the challenge for businesses leaders and managers, and I suspect this applies to anyone reading this post, will be to proactively change their organization’s performance in relation to team member development and empowerment.

Here’s why I say that …

The Gallup organization has interviewed more than 25 million employees of several decades and one of the facts that has consistently emerged is the majority (consistently in the order of 70%) report that they are either not engaged or they are actively disengaged.

On the assumption that this research closely represents what’s actually going on it would seems that somewhere there has been a disconnect between what managers should be doing in relation to the development of their team members (this is considered to be one of the MOST important factors in driving engagement) and what they are actually doing.

In a recent blog post the Chairman of Gallup, Jim Clifton, noted the following:

Work units in the top 25% of Gallup’s employee engagement database have significantly higher productivity, profitability, and customer ratings; less turnover and absenteeism; and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%. What’s more, companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010-2011 experienced 147% higher earnings per share (EPS) compared with their competition in 2011-2012. In contrast, those with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee experienced 2% lower EPS compared with their competition during that same time period.

Clearly the payoff from team member development is huge. In all industries, but especially in those where knowledge and inter-personal relationships are at the center of the value creation process, those firms that see this and do something about it will lead the performance improvement charge.

Since I started with a Drucker quote I thought I’d end with a bunch of them. I suggest that you review and think about the implications of each of these from the perspective of your business.

Imagine you have just asked Dr. Drucker “what advice could you give me from the lessons you’ve learned?” He leans back in his chair, closes his eyes and offers these thoughts…

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

“The best way to predict your future is to create it”
“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”

“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.”
“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.”

“The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer.”

“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function.

They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”

“Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.”

“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”

“What’s measured improves”

“Business has only two functions — marketing and innovation.”

“Knowledge has to be improved, challenged, and increased constantly, or it vanishes”

“The Purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer”

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”

“Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility.”

“Results are obtained by exploiting opportunities, not by solving problems. ”

“There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.”

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”

“Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you.”

“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers.
The true dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.”

“Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship…the act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth.”

“People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete – the things that should have worked but did not, the things that once were productive and no longer are.”

“Trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. ”

“This defines entrepreneur and entrepreneurship – the entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity.”

“Leadership is not magnetic personality, that can just as well be a glib tongue. It is not “making friends and influencing people”, that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to higher sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

“A manager is responsible for the application and performance of knowledge. ”

“The three most charismatic leaders in this century inflicted more suffering on the human race than almost any trio in history: Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. What matters is not the leader’s charisma. What matters is the leader’s mission.”

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