I once had a friend ask me ” do you have any ideas on how I can get my employees to perform well? They don’t follow directions consistently.” I answered, “I don’t think you can do anything to do anything to get them to perform that’s their choice. What you can do is create an environment where top performers can become excellent employees.”
Trying to create excellent employees is a recipe for frustration. In fact, I’d be willing to bet money that if you expend a lot of energy trying to change employees, you will only end up disappointed. When I was starting managing, I thought that giving directions and asking for compliance rules was all I needed to do to keep my teams running like well-oiled machines.
Fortunately, I learned pretty quickly that things aren’t that simple. You can’t make people perform because organizations are not like machines, they are more like organisms. I never had a great way to articulate this until I saw a presentation by Ken Robinson a few years ago where he said:
People talk about their functions in the organization. Human organizations are not at all like mechanisms. I mean they have hierarchies, responsibilities, and different roles – but a human organization is much more like an organism. What I mean is it’s a living thing. If all the people leave the building, there is no organization left in it. The organization is the people, their relationships, their motivations, their energies, their values, their aspirations or lack of them. It’s a living breathing thing. A successful organization is one that reciprocates with its environment and one that helps to enrich the environment upon which it depends. When that relationship is broken, the organism dies.
If you’ve ever had to take care of a plant or garden you know there is one universal truth: you can fertilize a plant, give it light and water, but you can’t make it grow. Whether or not the plant grows is a function of the conditions.
The same idea applies to work employees. You can compel them to work, and sometimes you have to, but you can’t create excellence. That is a personal choice. All you can do is make sure you have created the conditions in which they can grow and flourish. Here are some 3 steps to take when you want to create an environment where employees are more likely to generate significant results:
Give them something to commit to
Giving employees something to commit to is the first step. Your company is fueled by the vision and direction you set. It’s the objective employees should be working toward bit by bit every day. To be productive employees need to know and understand the vision.
Become a lead blocker for them
I learned a long time ago that I can’t always be the hero. Sometimes my role is the mentor or lead blocker. When you are the lead blocker, your job is to clear the path so that employees can excel in their role. Doing this, along with coaching builds employee self-confidence, and their ability to be proactive and think for themselves. Employees can then make the best decisions because they understand problem-solving, communication, conflict resolution, and time management.
Treat the company as a whole
Every person that works for your company is a part of a whole. When there is lots of division among managers, teams, or divisions the company will struggle to thrive. It might sound cliche, but you cannot divorce yourself from the environment you depend on and expect it to flourish. It just doesn’t work that way.
There is an old saying that says “Generals do not win battles, their soldiers do.” When you don’t give your team the right tools, it has a demotivating effect that can cause people to leave or worse stay and become disengaged.
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