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“Jurgen”, a very bright engineer, descended upon a manufacturing company after his parent company acquired them. While he had great intentions and high aspirations for dramatically increasing their operational efficiency, he was met with fierce resistance. I was asked to come in and find out why.
Meeting with Jurgen, I found him to be very bright, personable, and an interesting conversationalist. I liked him. However, his team didn’t.
They despised him.
As I interviewed both his direct reports and others who worked with him, I was regaled with stories of arrogance, disrespect, and intimidation. While he had big hopes of inspiring greater productivity and turning the plant around, his behavior laid the foundation for his failure.
Jurgen was about to self-destruct because - like many other brilliant (and some not so brilliant) managers - he was blind to the career stalling and workforce alienating behaviors he was inflicting on others.
Warning! Career Destruction Straight Ahead
In his new book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful!, executive coach Marshal Goldsmith highlights the 20 behaviors that frequently cause the careers of senior executives and high level managers to swerve into head-on traffic.
When I read his book – which is perhaps the best management book I’ve ever read – I found myself reacting to most of the items in his list with: “Yep, I’ve seen that destroy employee morale and commitment time and again,” “Oh yeah… this is definitely one of the classic things that employees despise…”
These 20 behavioral blunders don’t just put a screeching halt on a once meteoric rise to the top, they’re also a Whose Who among:
“Sure Fire Ways to Destroy Employee Motivation, Morale, and Engagement”
Speaking of disengagement, remember Gallup’s research which revealed that 55% of employees are what Gallup labeled ROAD Warriors – Retired on Active Duty? Gallup’s researchers found that the majority of employees are basically “doing time”. Only 26% of those surveyed reported being “highly engaged” – i.e. caring about helping their employer succeed.
Thus, avoiding the behaviors that lead to disengagement should be on every company’s management team’s To Do list.
While Goldsmith identifies 20, I want to focus on the five I see as most damaging when it comes to employee engagement.
Five Managerial Behaviors That Damage Careers and Destroy Employee Motivation
- Needing to Win All the Time – The same drive that leads to high achievement can also destroy relationships and one’s effectiveness. Think of people you know who have to win every argument, have to establish their superiority in every discussion, and always have to be right. Get’s old, doesn’t it? One of the challenges high achievers faces is knowing when they’re winning at the wrong things – i.e. their “win” is really a loss. What to do about this? When you’re poised to pounce and once again land on top, ask: “Is it worth it?”
- Adding Too Much “Value” – When you’re really smart and knowledgeable, it’s hard not to “tweak” your employees’ suggestions so they’re even better. However, the overall effect of such “added value” is often a net negative, according to Goldsmith. While your input might increase the value of a direct report’s idea by 5%, the resulting 50% loss of commitment to executing the idea – because now the idea is yours, not theirs -- is not worth that extra value. Obviously sometimes your added value is important. Learn to discern when the net value is positive, and when it’s not.
- “Let Me Explain Why That Won’t Work” – If you’ve ever had a boss who had this response as a default position, you know what a motivation destroyer this behavior is. Such wet blanket responses lead all but the most persistent – or masochistic – people to give up even bothering to offer their opinions. While the wet blanket person might think they are demonstrating intellectual superiority by shooting down other’s perceptions, others don’t see it that way. In the words of Goldsmith, “They’re annoying. And over time, we treat them as if they’re carrying the avian flu. We avoid them. We stop working with them. We refuse to help them.”
- Not Listening – This is perhaps the most common complaint I hear from employees about their boss. While not as overtly disrespectful as sarcasm, yelling, or other abusive behavior, it conveys both personal and professional disrespect. Not listening also paves the way for never hearing about major employee relations problems until they blow up. Not listening is also a great way to create a listless, disinterested, “Yeah, whatever…” workforce.
- Failing to Express Gratitude – Besides being just plain bad manners, not saying “Thank you” or expressing appreciation is a huge employee motivation destroyer. It’s also rampant in the work world. Think of how many times you’ve gone the extra mile for a boss, perhaps subordinating your personal life to get a project done, and never receiving a simple “Thank you.” Conversely, think of bosses you’ve had who express appreciation, and how willing you are to go above and beyond for them. Decades of research show that feeling appreciated is one of the greatest sources of employee motivation.
An Unhappy Ending… and a Fresh New Start
Back to Jurgen. Unfortunately, he was never willing to look in the mirror and acknowledge he doing things that were alienating his team—and leading to many of the problems that frustrated him. It was all their fault; not his.
After a few years of frustration, he was gone.
Don’t be like Jurgen.
- Get What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful! and find out all 20 behaviors.
- Ask yourself which ones you might be doing.
- Get feedback – preferably of the 360 kind. I can guarantee, others see you differently than you do.
- Seek out a coach.
If you do, you’ll be doing your career, your employer, and your team a favor.
To Get a Current List of David Lee's Programs, click here to email: David@HumanNatureAtWork.com