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“People want to be on a team. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be in a situation where they feel that they are doing something for the greater good.” – Mike Krzyzewski, Head Basketball Coach, Duke University

Now if you know me, you know that quoting Mike Krzyzewski is a tough pill to swallow because I am a graduate, and a huge fan, of Michigan State University. But when a guy is right, a guy is right, and I have to give credit where credit is due. What he said applies not just to athletics, but to the workplace as well.

Whenever I interview candidates I want to know what their goals/objectives are for their next position and how the position they are interviewing for might fit those objectives.  Unscientifically, I will tell you that 9 out of 10 times the candidate tells me they want to go to a company where they can grow their career, have stability for their family and feel respected as a person.  This really isn’t rocket science. I am not telling you anything you don’t already know.  People want to be appreciated and feel integral to the business they work for. I think that is common sense.

But somehow, that message gets lost and forgotten when managers go into their management meetings. Managers spend so much time focusing on the metrics important to their roles that they forget about the people who have to deliver the very metrics the management team needs. Are we as employers doing enough to engage them in our culture and goals? Are we providing leadership by providing our employees the opportunity to buy into the objectives of the company, or are we simply managing to numbers? This is not to say that goals and objectives are not important, but rather how we communicate those goals and metrics to the employees’ matters. Coach K has it right, in my opinion, people want to be on a team, they want to contribute, and they want to provide value.

Now please don’t overhear me, this is not a passionate defense of the employee.  There are, without question, employees who don’t care, are unreliable, or simply bad hires. No hiring process is perfect, and there will always be the employee that over performs in the interview but under performs in the work. I have written before that there are employees who seem to think the business revolves around them and not the other way around. But at the same time, I believe some employers can become blind to their real company culture as opposed to the culture they perceive in their head.

In my business, I have never sat down with an owner of a business or a senior level manager and had them tell me that their business is a below average, or even average, place to work. Every time I sit down with a client or prospective client, they will tell me how their business is an incredible place to work. They all go the extra mile in trying to show the employees they are valued. But, do your employees feel the same way as you do?  If you were to ask your employees if they knew how their position directly impacted the success and/or failure of your company, could they answer? Let’s be serious, as much as you are assessing your team on their performance, your employees are assessing you and your management team to determine if they can trust you and follow you.

I will leave you with a quote from Tom Izzo, the Michigan State basketball coach, (I can’t just put Mike Krzyzewski in this) that more managers need to take to heart: “Learn to listen and listen to learn. Your players are always telling you something – good or bad – they are telling you something.”  Do you listen? Do you have the processes in place to hear them? Are you looking beyond your high performers and soliciting feedback from your average employee?

In this market where the job seeker has multiple choices, you really need to start looking more aggressively at what you are doing internally to both keep the high performer and attract other great employees.  To blame the employees for not being committed to your workplace is too easy of an excuse. Inspire your team and show them they matter by working constantly to improve your workplace environment for them. Building an engaged and consistent workforce is usually a great pathway to a better running, and more profitable, business.

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