Joy at work

All of us have unique strengths, abilities and skills. When trained around the places of natural talent in our lives they create a very individual and fulfilling contribution to the world that is simultaneously enjoyed by the giver and the receivers.  The sweet spot of hyper-contribution and personal joy can only be experienced when individual strengths are known and applied effectively within an organization in a way that leads to engagement.

Enter the assertive and dogmatic leader with a clear vision and a detailed action plan for accomplishing that vision. For many Boards this looks like a leader they can trust, a leader they can depend on to get results, a leader that will deliver. After all there is a clear vision and a detailed plan that the Board has vetted. Success is simply a matter of execution. So they empower the leader with a pat on the back and a wink of expectation.

Armed with the endorsement of the Board, a clear vision and a detailed action plan this empowered leader bursts into action firing off commands and detailing actions plans. Granular instructions are driven through managers to the farthest parts of the organization and enforcement begins. The Board is happy because vision is established and measurable action is taking place. The problem is the people who are actually getting the work done, are dying.

Just do what I say.

Although the leader’s intentions are to create a successful result for the Board and/or the shareholders, the chosen path for attaining the results will leave those doing the work empty and disengaged. Ultimately the effort will fail and the vision will collapse because the collective skill and talent of the organization is disengaged from the vision. The labor force’s actions are expected and their compliance is expected – because it is being paid for – but their engagement is lost and ultimately their alignment is lost.  Anybody who is forced to act in a way that does not engage more of who they are and where they are naturally strong, will end up drifting away from the vision and from the organization.

These people have become the collateral damage of a strong leader. They are quite capable. They are definitely talented and they want to function in that organization, but are now damaged and on their way out of the organization because there is no room for them. By scripting every last action – for the sake of accountability and production – the unintentional leader has sent an indirect message to the organization that says: “Only your actions have value. Do as I say, when I say and how I say. Fail to do it and you will be disciplined.” Who they are and what unique contributions they bring to the mix, goes unnoticed.

I feel ignored.

Clear vision is important and so too is a measurable action plan, but when leaders ignore the contributions that engage the workforce – then the very people that are tasked with getting the job done – start to check out. Productivity goes down, morale sinks, deadlines get missed and goals aren’t reached. Don’t be so dogmatic about action plans, that you ignore the single most important element in the organization – your people.

Two questions then:

  • Do you know how to uncover your personnel and even corporate strengths?
  • Is your organization functioning in compliance or are they engaged in their work?