The power of a vision

If you have any responsibility for running an organization, you might be interested in the latest Gallup poll results released a couple of weeks ago. Gallup examined worker engagement beginning in 2010 and ending in 2012. Gallup found that only 30% of the 100 million people in America who hold full-time jobs are “actively engaged, or involved in, enthusiastic about, and committed to their workplace.” Although that equals the high in engagement since Gallup began studying the issue in 2000, it is overshadowed by the number of workers who aren’t committed to performing at a high level.

Here is the rest of the statistics: 50 million, a full 50% of American workers, are “not engaged” and are going through the motions at work. Then, about 20 million are “actively disengaged,” hate going to work, and undermine their companies with their attitude, according to the report.

Gallup estimates that workers who are actively disengaged cost the U.S. as much as $550 billion in economic activity yearly and that doesn’t even begin to consider what those who are not engaged cost. So, given this reality, I’m going to write a series of articles on why this is the case and what you can start doing immediately to make sure this does not continue in your company because statistically, 7 out of 10 of your workers are not actively engaged.

One of the biggest reasons we find for this phenomenon is that most companies do not have a clearly articulated, inspiring vision that the company employees are aware of. In fact, if you ask the vast majority of employees: what’s the purpose of your company?, the overwhelming response will be: “I guess, to make money.” And then, if you further ask them: “for whom?”, the likely answer will be: the owners, or the stockholders, or somebody other than them. And, in most cases, that would be the correct answer.

Here’s the problem. We have never met anyone who is motivated by making money, for somebody else. So it isn’t surprising that so many workers at not engaged. In fact, it doesn’t surprise us that such a purpose would create enough resentment that people would be actively disengaged.

Want to solve this problem? Have your company be about something other than making money. Now that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with making money. In fact, if you don’t make money, you don’t stay in business. But have making money the result of doing something else that is inspiring to your workers. Create a purpose and a vision that anyone would be proud of being a part of. Get everyone involved in some way in the creation of that vision.

For example, we recently worked with an engineering company in the Southeast that had several locations. The ownership conducted a meeting of all the key people at each of the locations and engaged them in a conversation about where they would like to see the firm go in the future. As the facilitator of the meetings, it was truly inspiring to me that the ownership was willing to take a couple of hours out of everyone’s day to do this and it was equally inspiring listening to the terrific ideas people came up with. Everyone’s ideas were fully considered and what emerged was a vision for the firm that everyone was committed to.

The next step was to create a strategic objective, a picture of how much of the vision the firm was committed to achieving in the next 5 years. This created a practical set of objectives that everyone could understand and be a part of. Whenever we have done this in an organization, and we have done it dozens of times, the result is a group of actively engaged employees. When you have that, the results are always amazing.

The entire process is described in Chapter 19 of Unshackled Leadership. You can get your copy here:

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