This article was based on episode 86 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Get the guest bonus when you become a member at mamieks.com/join.
You might be familiar with the Gallup poll or perhaps you’ve heard the depressing numbers that reflect a growing trend of abysmal employee engagement. While high employee engagement is linked with greater job satisfaction and overall company performance, a majority of employees are either not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. The reality is, corporate programs that are designed to shift these cultures, regardless of the budget or the title that has been applied, have not been working.
Tevis Trower is a pioneer in optimizing corporate cultures. She brings a unique approach to helping organizations enhance their most precious assets: human beings. Known as the “corporate mindfulness guru”, Tevis has a master's degree in international business and has studied and certified with many luminaries. She has served in the areas of business mastery, yoga, mindfulness, meditation, authentic leadership, creativity in business, systems thinking and sustainable success. Her breadth of professional and cultural experience includes dealing with the human element in over 70 markets, and within the corporate environments of Fortune 500 companies such as General Motors, Coca-Cola, IBM, UPS, Google and Viacom. Tevis is convinced that working well and living well are symbiotic.
BEHAVIORS THAT SABOTAGE CULTURE
The extensive surveying and reporting on employee engagement has given birth to a vast industry of employee engagement and wellbeing. A myriad of consultants and firms attempt to cultivate positive culture, promote all types of learning, design systems for praise and rewards, build relationships throughout the organization, offer stress reduction and management, etc.
The problem is, with all the money and attention focused on addressing concerns and solutions for low employee engagement, we’re all missing the boat. We haven’t stopped to consider how employee disengagement is created and sustained in the first place. According to Tevis, the root of employee disengagement can be found in the C-Suite.
Those of us at leadership and managerial levels often don’t realize how our own behaviors don’t align with our espoused values. Tevis describes this as the “inner Oprah” phenomenon: When we discuss human values and cultural perspectives at the organizational level we all “crawl into our inner Oprah.” We nod in agreement when we hear terms like “treat people like human beings,” and “bring your authentic self to work.” We only ostensibly endorse concepts such as collaboration, teamwork, diversity, inclusion and trust.
The danger is that we are only on board conceptually. We are not questioning or modifying our basic underlying convictions and behaviors to bring those ideals to life. In Tevis’s experience, this is often because we’re unwilling to recognize when our actions fail to align with the culture we talk about.
Until leaders embrace this inner change, employees will remain disengaged, feeling unsafe to be their full selves at work.
BEGIN BUILDING SELF-AWARENESS AT THE TOP
The elixir of self-deception can be present whether you are a small business owner, manager or senior leader in a large organization. To gain a more accurate understanding of yourself, Tevis suggests the following activities.
Inventory your interactions.
Make a list of interactions or events at work that didn’t go well over the past 1-5 years. Replay them through your mind as if you’re a neutral third party observer. Imagine you’re watching a movie and looking for how your own behaviors may have contributed to the negative situation. As you look across multiple situations, identify the prevalent themes.
Hire an external voice of wisdom.
While informal mentors and relationships are helpful, it is important to create a formal relationship with a paid professional who can help you gain an objective view of yourself. The formal structure will increase the likelihood that you will take this work seriously. Plus, an independent observer is a better truth-teller as their only allegiance is to the goal of your engagement, your growth.
Ask for feedback.
If you’re comfortable, go ahead with your own diagnostics by asking for feedback directly from your colleagues. To increase the chances of receiving honest responses, use a survey tool that allows for anonymous submissions. Again, look for themes that can inform how you might adjust your behavior.
Only you can take responsibility for your past behaviors and work to change any of the destructive approaches and patterns that have been revealed. Even if you’re working inside a larger organization whose leadership is not on board, you can make positive changes within your team.
EVERYONE MUST OWN THE VALUES AND LIVE UP TO THEM
Most of us, including our leaders, won't speak up to the CEO about existing lack of integrity and its effects. Instead we remain in a fear mode, avoiding power struggles and hurt feelings in favor of unhappy employees and weakened company performance. This cannot be solved by hiring a Chief People Officer or Director of Culture with the aim of off-loading ‘these people problems’ to another senior leader. In order to effectively deal with toxic environments at their source, we must all own our role in creating the current culture and speak hard truths to our leaders.
KEEP UP WITH TEVIS
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This article was based on episode 86 The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.