The Cure for Fake Harmony

Gallup recently reported that 71% of American workers are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” in their work. Wha? Imagine if only one-third of your team were top performers while the other three-quarters just phoned it in. How would you ever get anything done? Fortunately, there is a cure – and it’s pretty simple. You have to care (like, genuinely) about your team. The remedy to disengagement is it’s opposite – engagement. In other words, get your people talking! 

A few weeks after I started working with Skip Lineberg, my first boss and Effective Immediately coauthor, he scheduled a meeting with me, just to “chat.” He did this with all the new employees and it was a practice he adopted from when he was a management trainee at General Electric (GE). At the time, I came into the meeting a little nervous (and, frankly, wondering if I was being “reevaluated” for my position) but it was soon clear the only thing on Skip’s agenda was to get to know his staff better. We had a great discussion and – 12 years later – I still remember how it felt to have my boss ask me for input and direction.

Skip is the very definition of a coaching leader.  Instead of saying “You did that wrong” he would say, “Let’s think about some different ways that could have been handled.” Once, when I got particularly grumpy with my supervisor, Skip pulled me aside afterwards and casually – like he was asking me to pass the ketchup – said, “Tell me…what kind of impression do you think you’re making  right now?” His plan was to get me talking so I could come to my own conclusion about how out of line I had been…and it worked. The minute I realized I was acting like a total moron I stopped. Just like that. However, if Skip had said, “Look Emily, you’re acting like a total moron” I probably would have pulled out my boxing gloves. See the difference? If you want your team to invest in you, you have to invest in them. And, trust me, they will work harder (way harder) if they can tell you care about them as people beyond the “fake harmony” that’s so prevalent in offices these days.

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