Greg Gilbert's notes

Entrepreneur, founder of Corporadio

There's a famous Gallup survey on employee engagement. If you are interested in this topic, you have undoubtedly read articles mentioning it.

This study presents a distribution of the average workforce that looks like so:

Employee engagement

10% of employees are engaged at work. Another 71% are not engaged, and 19% are actively disengaged.

Engaged employees are the ones who go the extra mile. They motivate their colleagues and are ambassadors of your company, helping the business and recruiting new people.

Employees within the “not engaged” group trade their time for money. They do their job, but their commitment to your organization's goal is low.

Actively disengaged employees are unhappy working for your company and should seek new opportunities elsewhere.

It can be tempting to spend considerable effort to address the disengagement problem.

How could a leader be satisfied with 19% of the team actively disengaged?

But that would be a mistake, a waste of energy. It takes a lot of effort to swing someone disengaged to a group with a higher level of engagement. Let alone making them properly engaged.

And the time spent on these disengaged individuals is stolen from the rest of the team, who also need leadership guidance.

Great leaders spend most of their effort on the 81% of people who can be motivated and influenced to be more engaged. They use frequent communication to build trust and involve people in their decisions.

They know that the company's global engagement will put systemic pressure on the disengaged people. It will lead them to reconsider their involvement at work or push them to seek a new job.

This is my take on a question asked on a leadership Q&A page.

There is a famous saying that goes:

“People don't leave companies. They leave bad bosses.”

When it comes to finding ways to treat people poorly and lacking tact, we human beings are so innovative that it would take days to write an exhaustive answer.

We, therefore, have to limit ourselves to look at a few patterns. Maybe the most common ones.

I also want to mention that many “bad” managers are so merely because they lack interest, training, or people skills. I believe that almost anyone can learn to be a decent manager. Though for some, it'll require more effort.

Bad managers are cowards. They are quick to throw the blame on someone else. If a team member complains about the pressure, bad managers blame their superior. When their superiors inquire about the lack of results, bad managers quickly point fingers at some of their team members.

Bad managers are selfish. When their teams win, they find ways to tell the success story in a self-aggrandizing way.

Bad managers see people as resources only. They don't care about the individual behind the employee. They don't care about their needs and their wants. They don't even care about their motivation. Bad managers expect the people on their team to do the job they are asked to. Period.

Bad managers are scared. They often know that they are mediocre. It leads them to have little margin to accept errors from others. They are also terrible at absorbing pressure. Consequently, they amplify the pressure put on them, or they behave as pass-throughs. Not cool for their team.

All in all, bad managers don't know about the art and science of management. As a result, they have misconceptions regarding their job. They believe that it is to assign tasks, control the execution and verify outcomes.

Peter Drucker said that managing is:

“to make people capable of joint performance through common goals, common values, the right structure, and the training and development”

And bad managers have no clue how to use these management tools, which often require some solid leadership skills.

Over the past few years, I've seen the name Eisenhower next to the word “matrix” more often than his first name “Dwight.”

Before becoming the 34th President of the USA, Dwight Eisenhower was a five-star general in the army.

He was known to be a very productive man.

One of his secrets to achieving high productivity was discern the important from the non-important and the urgent from the non-urgent.

He famously said:

“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.”

That's where the Eisenhower matrix comes into play.

It's a simple framework to assist someone in thinking about a task. After reflection, the task is assigned to one of four categories.

Each category has a clear direction:

1) Important & urgent: address right away 2) Important & not urgent: schedule it for later 3) Not important & urgent: find the most qualified person for the task 4) Not important & not urgent: do not address at all

Leaders have the responsibility to help put the correct label on tasks.

The Eisenhower matrix is a tool to do just that. It's easy to teach and to use together with a team member.

The goal is to avoid the pernicious feeling that everything is both important and urgent.

This is my take on a question asked on a leadership Q&A page.

What makes this question interesting is that it's asked from a leader's perspective, not a manager's.

So for our answer, we will eliminate every way that uses authority, hierarchy, or implies “do it because it's your job!”

True leaders don't delegate responsibilities they don't want to have. If that's the case, the team member will feel uninspired by the duty.

No. To motivate someone to assume responsibility, leaders communicate the importance of it. They make it clear why they think the individual is the right person for the job.

Leaders understand that delegating to the right individual, a person who's capable, is a formidable opportunity to help them grow.

The team will have a stronger member, energized and fully reengaged.

To maximize involvement, the leader consults with the team member early in the process. They look at the task together to define the scope, metrics, milestones, and desired outcome.

The leader addresses the person's concerns and gives the boost of confidence sometimes required to take on new challenges.

They don't merely drop the news and let the team member figure it out.

To delegate responsibilities as a leader, be strategic about it. Assign duties to the right people at the right moment. Involve the team members early on. Show them that they are capable and that you believe in them. Then make sure they turn the opportunity into a success by assisting them all the way.

Because delegating like a leader is delegating with both the organization's and the team member's successes in mind.

This is my take on a question asked on a leadership Q&A page.

I see two ways to answer this question.

First, because you are standing between your team and your superior, you have to apply leadership to do the transmission part of your job.

You take the vision passed on to you and translate it to your teammates. Because you are closer to them than your superior is, you can find ways and words to increase the impact.

When you do so, you apply the purest form of leadership.

Second, interestingly enough, you can also use the leadership skills applied with your team with your superior.

When you work with your team, you continuously evaluate individuals to acquire a clear picture of their strengths and weaknesses. You probe to understand their context, their stress, and their hopes.

You also ask your teammates:

“How can I help you attain your objectives?”

The same leadership framework can be deployed with your superior.

They have objectives they need to reach. When you inquire how you and your team can help them achieve their goals, you take charge as a leader.

Your job is to uncover your superior's personality as you would with a member of your team. Understand who they are, their skills, and their flaws.

With this information, you will be able to communicate and influence more effectively.

One last piece of advice, from one of my favorite management books, “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker:

“Effective executives build on strengths—their own strengths, the strengths of their superiors, colleagues, and subordinates; and on the strengths in the situation, that is, on what they can do. They do not build on weakness.”

All your employee's contracts are expiring at the end of the month. Your biggest competitor wants to poach them all. How will you convince them to stay?

Quite a radical way to think about internal communication, isn't it?

Organizations usually have a much milder approach. Internally, they communicate, but they don't sell.

However, the relationship between an organization and an employee always begins with a sale.

The recruiting organization tries to be desirable. Its ad talks about its strengths, past accomplishments, ambitions, and hopes for the future.

But how do we sell the organization to its current staff? The ones for whom the magic is long gone.

Not because any party has done anything wrong. They just grew accustomed to each other. The flaws became more visible than the qualities.

Some employees start asking themselves if the grass isn't greener elsewhere. Others stay out of habit.

Like any other relationship, the one between your organization and its employees needs to be nurtured.

You should never stop selling your organization to its employees.

In the past, I have written why I believe a good leader ought to talk about risk with their team and how this kind of discussion should happen regularly. I argued that it is a powerful way for the leader to deal with the fear of letting people down.

Of course, there is also an ethical aspect to it; people deserve to know what kind of adventure they embarked on.

There is another important reason why one should be open about complex topics with their team. It's a benefit that ultimately outweighs the threat of creating a wave of panic within the group.

Talking about problems and challenges allow everybody to partake in their resolution, and in the culture. People develop a feeling of ownership as they see the whole picture—a nuanced picture with both good and bad.

Communicating on the positive exclusively makes employees suspicious. People are smart. They often recognize partial or deceitful communication.

Consequently, voluntarily omitting the negative and the sensitive topics can lead individuals to think that the leader has an ulterior motive.

But when the leader openly discusses some of the organization's difficulties and the thought process towards their resolution, then communication becomes a powerful means of engagement.

It chokes the rumors and invites people to build solutions together.

This is my take on a question asked on a leadership Q&A page.

When thinking about an approachable leader, one might hear:

“My door is always open!”

In reality, a leader is approachable because of a series of traits and conducts.

The very first thing that will make you approachable is to be predictable. People will feel safe coming to you if they know what to expect. They somehow know how you will react to the news, good or bad. So be consistent.

I opened this article with the cliché open door policy. If you want to be an approachable leader, you must do the opposite of waiting in your office for people to show up. Instead, you need to go and meet people where they are and create opportunities for them to talk to you.

Some leaders schedule a regular, one-on-one 15-minute chat with their teammates. Others leverage the organization's gatherings to meet and talk to as many people as possibly.

They either initiate the conversation, create the conditions for it to happen, or leverage opportunities.

Plus, allowing people to interrupt you at any time puts you at risk for a moody or inconsistent reaction. And the whole point of being approachable is that people will come to you if they need you. The door opened or closed.

Finally, approachable leaders aren't afraid to appear vulnerable. When you work close to people, they will sometimes share an anecdote with you and instantly regret it. Being able to respond with one of your own stories will strengthen the relationship.

Ultimately, to be an approachable leader, try and be an approachable person. Use informal conversations to build rapport.

Be good, compassionate, open, and respectful, and people will start portraying you as accessible.

The mere fact that you are wondering how to be approachable tells me that you are already on the right path.

How can you participate more enthusiastically in building the culture?

Over 15 years ago, when I was younger and didn't know the first thing about personal development, a friend shared an essay that made a strong impression on me.

It was titled “Showing up.”

The author affirmed that the most important step towards any goal achievement is to show up. Again and again and again.

I have, since then, become a fervent advocate of consistency and observed that whenever I successfully convince myself to engage in something regularly, progress always happens.

As a leader, the very first step towards improving the culture of your team or organization is to show up. 

Deliberately deciding, every single day, that you will enthusiastically participate in building the culture. 

This is how you show up.

Think about something you've known how to do for a long time: driving a car.

You have learned how to coordinate your body to manoeuver this dangerous machine safely.

Most of us would call ourselves good drivers. But if we're honest, we'd have to recognize that we developed a few bad habits over time.

We drive a little above the speed limit, hold the steering with one hand, or don't use the blinkers each time we change lanes.

Experience taught us the bad behaviors we could get away with.

When I started writing this article, my initial thought was about the people sent to work remotely during the pandemic.

I was pondering how one could set up a system to welcome them back to the office.

To ease them back in and acknowledge what just happened.

But I realized that re-onboarding employees should be something an organization regularly does anyway.

Because even the most expert of them have developed their ways to do and think about things.

When these hacks are better than the official system, the latter should be updated.

When they are not, serious problems might be brewing under the surface.

Re-onboarding people allows you to correct bad behaviors, improve their feeling of ownership, and learn about possible process updates.

What is the difference between training and re-onboarding?

Training usually focuses on a specific area or skill of the employee.

A re-onboarding, though, has a more holistic approach:

  • it starts with a dialogue with the direct supervisor,
  • it spends a lot of time on re-aligning the employee to the mission of the organization,
  • it makes sure the employees have the proper context about the company (history, what are different departments, etc.),
  • then, it moves on to the specifics of the job.

Awfully similar to what is done during the onboarding of a new hire, isn't it?

A good onboarding aims at equipping the new employee to enable them to perform at their best in the context of this specific organization. It makes them fully engaged. It makes them care about the organization's goals.

Why not try to renew the strong engagement your employees once felt?

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