Ken Blanchard is at the top of my all time favorites list of business authors. I like him because he knows how to cut through the BS and fluff to get to the practical stuff you need and can learn from. I’ve had many “a-ha” moments over the years reading his books. To follow is a recent article from his newsletter that really resonated with me. If you’ve read my website information and if you’ve spent any time around me in the past few years, you will know why. Written differently, the article expresses the same basic message as mine - to be successful, you have to connect with your Peeps. Enjoy!
The Ken Blanchard Companies
Ignite! Newsletter, April 2010 Article
Leaders, Don’t Take Your People for Granted!
For companies that do a good job of taking care of their people and setting a compelling vision, the future looks promising. For companies that don’t, the future is less certain. The improving economy will make business success a little easier, but the slow rate of recovery will not lift all boats on a rising tide as quickly as it has in the past. In this recovery, organizations are going to have to lift themselves up.
While we’ve seen and survived the worst of the economic crisis, there still remains one very real danger ahead, according to Scott Blanchard, Vice President of Client Relations for The Ken Blanchard Companies. That danger is complacency about meeting the motivational needs of employees.
As Blanchard explains, “I think that there have been some organizations who felt that the recent lack of options for employees let them get away with less than great practices with their people. And so I think that people are at a pretty low level of trust and excitement with many of the organizations they are working for. So the challenge right now is for leaders to build spirit and motivation, energy, commitment, and innovation in their organizations.”
Some Organizations are Overdrawn
Blanchard believes that people are looking to be inspired again, but with a healthy dose of realism. One reason for the skepticism is that many organizations have dipped into their emotional bank accounts with employees over the past two years. Salary cuts, reductions in benefits, layoffs, and fewer growth opportunities have all taken their toll on morale. And in some cases, especially with their best people, there are a number of companies who are probably overdrawn in their relationships.
This has created a renewed need for strong leadership, both in terms of mapping out a successful strategy for the future as well as exceptional day-to-day management practices that provide people with the direction and support they need to succeed.
Blanchard says, “It’s about rebuilding energy and getting everyone moving in a common direction. Last year, leaders needed to focus on dealing with the pervasive fear and anxiety employees were feeling. Now that those feelings have abated, leaders are faced with getting people to recommit themselves and give their all again.”
This means that leaders have to find a way to rekindle employee work passion and win back people’s hearts and minds for what looks like a prolonged, rather than a quick, recovery. The challenge will be in building this motivation without a lot of the traditional financial levers that leaders have been able to pull in the past.
While a sustained recovery is under way, the next two years will continue to be a consumer’s market. Although people are starting to spend again, most industries will not return to pre-crash levels anytime soon. People are looking to get more out of their service providers and are expecting to get products and services at the best possible prices. This is going to limit organizations in their ability to use financial incentives as broadly as they have been used in the past.
The good news is that people will understand the limitations the organization faces. As long as people are treated fairly in terms of compensation and benefits, money will not be a deal-breaker. Compensation is only one aspect of what drives employee performance. As long as it is adequate, and organizations do a good job meeting all of the other needs of their employees, it is very possible to rebuild a strong, cohesive team even within the confines of a limited budget.
Meeting the Needs of Employees
Blanchard recommends a five-point examination for leaders looking to reconnect with their people and help their companies move forward successfully:
- Strategic leadership—Do your people know where the organization is heading and what their role is in helping to get there? People want to be a part of something bigger than themselves and they want to have a meaningful role that they can be proud of. Where is your organization heading? What hill will the company climb next? Does everyone know how they will be contributing?
- Operational leadership—You might not be able to provide raises and bonuses like you have in the past, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go all out on providing other elements of a great place to work. Look at what your leaders can do in terms of providing greater autonomy, recognition for a job well done, and a collaborative work environment. All of these factors help to restore morale and build a stronger team.
- Employee work passion—Also look at what your organization can do to provide growth opportunities and to create a connection between co-workers, direct reports, and immediate supervisors. All of these factors build a camaraderie that shows everyone is in this together.
- Customer devotion—Make sure that your strategic plan and operational practices are geared to serving customers. Don’t let a focus on meeting the needs of employees cause leaders to lose focus on who pays the bills and who everyone in the organization ultimately serves. It will help with the last part of the check-up.
- Organizational vitality—This is the final end-state—a healthy, renewed organization that is growing, profitable, and better able to meet the needs of customers, employees, and shareholders.
Do Some Spring Cleaning
Now is a great time to do a bit of a spring cleaning and take a hard look at your company. Organizations need to find a way to cultivate higher levels of employee work passion and performance in their people. Research has shown that companies that rekindle passion are more profitable, grow more effectively, and provide better customer service.1
Leaders can help to create this type of environment by paying attention to important factors like meaningful work, a work environment that is based on cooperation instead of too high a level of competition, and a renewed commitment to growth. Employees don’t expect their organizations to be perfect but they do expect their organizations to give it their best shot.
As Blanchard explains, “Some organizations grew complacent and were content to just ride along and rise with the tide. Last year, the economic downturn exposed a whole bunch of these companies. As Warren Buffett likes to say, ‘When the tide goes out, you can see who’s wearing a bathing suit and whose naked.’ As business moves forward, there are some companies that are going to stand out and emerge stronger because they are creating strong cultures with strong leadership. Other companies that are making assumptions that they can just slink back to business as usual are making a mistake.”
High levels of employee work passion do not naturally occur in an organization. It occurs through a clear sense of meaning, a shared purpose, and strong leadership practices being used throughout the company. If your company has been putting these positive best practices on the back burner for a while, it’s time to turn up the heat!