And the Survey Says . . .

And the survey says, “It’s all about leadership!”

  • Gallup’s famous research, highlighted by Buckingham and Coffman in First Break All the Rules suggest that the front line manager is the key factor in determining whether employee’s answers to the 12 questions are positive and affirmative. They further demonstrate that affirmative answers to those 12 questions have a statistically significant impact on profits, productivity, retention and satisfaction.
  • Jim Collins’ research in Good to Great demonstrates that right leadership doing the right things is what it takes to turn companies around to achieve good to great results for 15 years running.
  • Wiseman and McKeown’s research highlighted in Multipliers demonstrates Multipliers actually increase the intelligence and capabilities of those they lead, getting more from them than even the employees themselves even believed possible.
  • Dick Thompson, Ph.D. in his book The Stress Effect suggests that people actually do take their emotional cues from their boss. And we know that employee emotions have a significant impact on their performance, productivity, engagement and satisfaction at work.

The recently released 2011 Maritz Research on Employee Engagement indicates that we, as leaders, have a huge opportunity. Maritz found that the American workforce is less engaged with its employers than it was in 2010 and that trust in leadership is eroding.

Some of the findings are sobering:

  • Just 14 percent of respondents said they believe that their company’s leaders are ethical and honest.
  • Only 12 percent believe their employer genuinely listens to and cares about its employees.
  • Ten percent of employees said they trust management to make the right decision in times of uncertainty.

And just 7 percent said that senior management’s actions are consistent with their words.

I am stunned by these findings. Whether you have been (or believe you have been) a part of the digging of this hole is irrelevant. The reality is that as a leader, this hole of negative perception is one that you share with those defined as leaders by the people surveyed.

The first step is to acknowledge and own the problem. And that is part of the difficulty. In my May 26th posting, “So you’ve blown it! Now what?” I write about coaching executives who find themselves in a similar situation.Frequently, these executives, even the ones that are open to coaching, have a hard time seeing the damage they have done and do not realize how deep a hole they have dug for themselves. Leaders tend to be optimistic people who believe that anything is achievable with a little effort. They also believe that others will quickly recognize their shift in attitude and behavior, realize their good intentions, and all will be well.I love the optimism, but this is not a problem that a little optimism and a little effort will turn around. The emotional cue that employees receive from such minimal efforts tells them that that their leaders either don’t hear them, or, God forbid, that they really don’t care.

The next steps could be a book in themselves. But we’ll start with reference to another statistic in the Maritz survey:

  • Where employees had greater trust than the year before, nearly a third said their personal values were completely consistent with the values of the company.

In order for that to occur, leaders must be sending the emotional cues that tell the story of the company values, cues of courage, optimism, persistence, compassion and respect. They must care enough to listen to the employees to know what they value and to find stories that help employees see that their values are a match. Awareness, listening and communicating sound like great places to begin if we hope to turn the tide back toward confidence in leadership. Turning the tide is a must, because none of us can build our organizations without the support and engagement of great employees

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