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The Truth About Getting the Best from People: You Don't Need the Carrot or the Stick

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This chapter is from the book
With most people, there’s a little gem of engagement potential glowing deep inside. Find that gem, and lead with that. You could find yourself leading a transformed department, and even loving your own job more.

Take a moment, if you will, to imagine the perfect day at work. By the time you arrive, everyone is already there. In fact, you’re the last one to show up, and you’re a half hour early! Other than the sound of fresh coffee brewing in the break room, the only other noise coming from that area is the sound of laughing as two coworkers share the fun of remembering the great day they had yesterday. Another conversation is focused on exploring ways that your team can put more quality, accuracy, functionality, and affordability into your flagship product that has already received every major industry award out there.

You sit down at your desk and log on. After a quick glance at the day’s spreadsheet to confirm that all projects are ahead of schedule and on budget, you check your email. You’re thrilled to see your email Inbox is crammed with messages from exuberant customers (many of the names you recognize from months and years of doing repeat business with them) thanking your department for yet another fantastic job. There are also at least 50 resumes there, all sent from your employees’ friends who want to be considered for the next—rare—opening. And, look at that! An email from the CEO letting you know that you’re in line for this year’s Chairman’s Award for best performance in the company. Again!

You look up from your monitor and around the room at everyone who works with you. You know something meaningful about every one of them. You’re quite sure by the way they’re so dedicated to their work that each one of them must have read What Color Is Your Parachute?, done all the self-assessment exercises, and determined that their mission and purpose in life can be best fulfilled in your company, in your department. They all love their jobs. They are known these days as engaged employees.

Engaged employees are everywhere. And they have these general traits in common:

Engaged employees believe in the mission of their organization.

  • Engaged employees believe in the mission of their organization.
  • Engaged employees love what they do and understand how their jobs serve the bigger picture.
  • Engaged employees don’t need discipline; they need clarity, communication, and consistency.

Engaged employees are a manager’s dream.

  • Engaged employees augment their skill sets with positive attitudes, focus, will, enthusiasm, creativity, and endurance.
  • Engaged employees can be trusted, and they trust each other.
  • Engaged employees respect their managers.
  • Engaged employees know that their managers respect them.
  • Engaged employees are a constant source of great new ideas.
  • Engaged employees will give you their best.

Engaged employees are a manager’s dream. Put them to work on a clearly defined mission or goal and set them free to do what they do best. The hardest part for you is the possibility that you may have to change your mind about your own skills and assumptions as their leader. Engaged employees can smell stupid management tricks a mile away. And nothing will disengage them faster than the experience of being handled. They only need to be lead with inspiration.

Not everyone has the potential of being engaged, of course. Some people still just want to punch in, punch out, and cash their check. But don’t assume you can tell which is which—especially if you’ve spent your past years driving poor performers. With most people, there’s a little gem of engagement potential glowing deep inside. Find that gem, and lead with that. You could find yourself leading a transformed department—and even loving your own job more.

With engaged employees doing their work—and doing it exceedingly well—your biggest problem as manager may end up being what to do with all that extra time.

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