The other day, as I was sitting beside the river, just a way down from the local rowing sheds, I witnessed the most peculiar thing.
A boat with six rowers was struggling to make its way downstream.
The first rower was clearly trying her best – even from where I was perched, I could see the huge amount of effort she was putting in.
The next four rowers were also rowing, but with such minimal effort, I was surprised their oars were even breaking the water’s surface.
At the rear of the boat, it looked as though the rower was actively trying to sink it! She was interfering with the oars of the rower in front of her and even deliberately rocking the boat from side to side!
I was so astounded by what I saw that I decided to follow the boat back to the shed and see if I could speak with the boat’s cox to find out what was going on.
Fortunately for me, the was boat moving so haphazardly, I easily beat them back to the shed and managed to have a brief conversation with the cox.
When I asked her about what was going on with the girl at the rear of the boat, the cox replied, “Yes. She’s a bit of a trouble-maker, but I can’t get rid of her. If I do, her friends will go too, and then I’ll have no crew to coach!”
According to the Gallup’s 2017 State of the Global Workplace report, only a mere 14% of employees in Australia and New Zealand are engaged at work.
“Engaged employees are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. They are psychological “owners,” drive performance and innovation, and move the organization forward.” – Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workplace, p.22
The rest of the workforce are either Disengaged (71%) or Actively Disengaged (15%).
“Disengaged Employees are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Because their engagement needs are not being fully met, they’re putting time — but not energy or passion — into their work.” – Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workplace, p.22
“Actively Disengaged Employees aren’t just unhappy at work — they are resentful that their needs aren’t being met and are acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.” – Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workplace, p.23
This collective disenfranchisement has an enormous impact on both the PRODUCTIVITY and the PROFITABILITY of a business.
In fact, according to the Gallup report, businesses with high levels of employee engagement experienced 21% HIGER PROFITABILITY and 17% HIGHER PRODUCTIVITY than their competitors with low levels of engagement. (Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workplace, p.38)
When you combine those percentages with significantly lower rates of absenteeism, employee turnover, safety incidents and quality incidents, you have a business which outperforms its competitors in every conceivable metric.
You can see why Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast…”.
So clearly, the boat I witnessed on the river did not have a high-performing culture. From my years of work with business owners, my assessment is that the boat’s culture is a direct result of the Cox’s poor leadership. She was not demonstrating the behaviours of a leader who creates a high-performing environment.
Rule 1: Engagement begins at the top.
As the business owner, you set the tone for the rest of your organisation. If you’re not passionate about and committed to the values and beliefs which drive your company, then how could you possibly expect it from your employees?
Rule 2: Employee engagement happens at the workgroup level.
Your managers are the most important people in your organisation when it comes to team culture. A 2018 survey of 35,000 leaders from more than 120 countries and 900 companies shockingly discovered that 35% of employees would willingly forgo a pay rise to see their manager fired.
Whilst the owner is responsible for the values and beliefs of the company, it’s managers’ responsibility to ensure these values are actually lived out in the company. Typically, this is expressed in a Code of Conduct, collaboratively created by the manager and their team.
Great companies ensure that their managers have access to ongoing training and coaching to ensure they’re able to create the maximum amount of engagement with their teams.
Rule 3: Managers are held accountable for outcomes.
As Peter Drucker also famously said, “What gets measured gets managed”.
When we’re working with our clients’ managers, our 100% focus is on making sure their managers know exactly what they need to be measuring to ensure they’re on track to achieve the agreed outcomes. We then work with the owners to make sure they’re holding their managers accountable to those outcomes.
When owners don’t hold their managers accountable, this behaviour filters down the entire business, resulting in a culture where blame and unaccountability are the norm.
Rule 4: Hire right
It’s much easier to build a great culture when you have a group of people in alignment. This alignment can and should be addressed at the hiring stage. I covered what you need to do when hiring in this blog.
If you follow the process I outline there, you’ve got a much greater chance of ensuring the person you’re bringing into the business is the right person, at the right time and in the right role.
Imagine the boat I saw on the river that day is your business. For every 6-7 people you employ, on average, ONE of them will be actively trying to undermine your business. The next four are just turning up for a paycheck. Only one will be there, going above and beyond for the company.
With the economic landscape shifting so rapidly, more than ever before, businesses need to ensure they are maximising every opportunity. Your people are your biggest opportunity – and your biggest threat – to your success.
If you’d like to have a confidential chat with us to discuss your team and to what extent they’re serving your business goals, reach out. Rob and I have been getting the best out of teams for more than 30 years. We’d love to help you achieve the business you deserve for you and your family.
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