Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Apathy, Engagement and Deafness

I was doing some research on Asset Based Community Development which is a philosophy and community work coming out of Northwestern University many decades ago. One of the principles I learned while doing this research is that "people care about something". If you are observing apathy, it means you haven't discovered what they care about.

Are your employees apathetic? Then chances are you haven't listened well. You're deaf. You're too busy telling them or selling them on how great your plans are. You haven't found what they care about, dream about, get excited about. It's more than a paycheck.

If you tell them what to do, they're not involved.

If you sell them on the idea, it's not theirs. You're just more persuasive than they are.

If you consult them on what needs to be done, they might be interested. But you're still going to diagnose the problem and administer the cure. It'll only be effective, if you've gleaned all the symptoms and causes.

If you join in the discussion, getting them to share what they know and mutually come up with solutions--they have an equal vote and you have only one vote and no veto power--they'll own the goal, see the vision and they'll no longer be apathetic. They'll be engaged and empowered.

The advice...ask, ask, ask, ask, ask...listen for the stories. Note what strengths, talents, natural drive exists and tap into it. Build a collaborative effort--a coalition per se. Act as if your employees are partners, not hired mercenaries who wait for orders. If you treat them like mercenaries, the paycheck is all you've got to keep them, and they'll quickly go to a higher bidder. If that happens, you've lost your investment in training, internal relationships, customer knowledge and knowledge of supplier capabilities.

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