Friday, April 29, 2011

Servant Leadership Practice--Treat Them Like Owners

Skeptics can discount recent surveys that show a majority of people want to change employers. However, there's a lot of discontent out there (in your own company?). Owners, CEO's and others bemoan the lack of engagement and loyalty evident from the troops. In the trenches, most will say there's little engagement and loyalty because "the company" or "they" (the executives) are not loyal to them, or engaged with them.

If a person has committed to giving you time, in exchange for a paycheck, they could be engaged. They're already in a "dating" relationship. Of course, if there's no reciprocation of trust and loyalty (exclusiveness), then employees will be free to go to (date) another company. How do you win over a person to be your significant other? You woo them. You make them feel important. You share something of yourself and are as vulnerable and open as you can afford to be.

Many companies are practicing open book management. One company that's spearheaded this effort--Springfield Remanufacturing Company--has had tremendous growth. Their stock value not only leaves the Standard and Poor 500 behind, but they make Warren Buffet's holding company (Berkshire Hathaway) look like amateurs at increasing shareholder value. SRC treats their employees like adults. They share the books and educate everyone on how they can improve results and increase the enterprise value.

Even if employees don't have ownership shares, they want security. One survey I've done with employees asked them to trade one benefit for another. Job security was the least traded away aspect of the employment package. One of the surest ways to increase job security is to have growth and increased value. Getting all of them engaged is the best way to create alignment. Engaging them gets them engaged. (The key lesson of the famous Hawthorne Works experiments in productivity was that it improved because people were involved and it appeared to them that management cared enough to ask their opinion.)

You may have to go first. Engage them, in order for them to engage back. Someone has to propose, you know, in order for a wedding to be planned. Otherwise, it's just a perpetual dating relationship with no commitment, no stakes, no chance for growth. They've already invested some "sweat equity" by staying with you and working hard. Invest something back into the relationship.

A profit-sharing program sweetens the deal too.

Today, find a way to share some of the financial results. Trust them enough to know your company's good points and its weak points (the blemishes). Not everyone will understand right away. It will take repetitive "investments" in the relationship to teach them how to understand the information and how they influence it.

For C12 and Truth@Work members, we know a lot about our spiritual forefathers. In fact, some wits claim the first five books (Pentateuch, Torah) were written by a female because the male protagonists were such dunderheads, making many mistakes and looking like idiots at times. Yet, they are our role models. Similarly, employees will appreciate knowing what and who they're involved with.

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