How do we lead for employee engagement?
My colleague, Jean-Francois Hivon from Shared Visions wrote the following distillation of 5 myths of leadership presented by Margaret Wheatley at the Saskatchewan Leadership Conference 2011.
Dr. Margaret Wheatley gave an inspiring and energizing keynote to open the University of Saskatchewan Leadership Conference. Through listening and engaging in conversations throughout the day, I can say that her message created positive energy, a sense of hope and some meaningful actions we can take. One of the paradigm shifting thoughts Dr. Wheatley shared with us was the 5 Myths of Leadership:
Myth #1 – Leaders Know What They Are Doing.
They don’t. I have heard many leaders (including myself) reluctantly share that they hope nobody finds out they’re faking it. Giving voice to our role as leader is a bit of a leap of faith. It can come attached with a sense of responsibility to others and requires that we get comfortable with not knowing and being open to experimentation and learning. Maybe it’s time we detach from the hierarchical view of “leader” and focus on leadership as simply “helping others”. In that sense, we’re all leaders.
Myth #2 – In high risk situations you have to take control
False. Studies of airline crashes have suggested that the difference between successfully landing a plane in crisis and a crash that is potentially fatal is conversation. Not a 30-minute discussion amounting to no action, and not a directive. But a quick opportunity to create meaning and decide on actions. As they say “two heads are always better than one.” Remember, if you don’t invest time up front, you’ll spend it in the end fixing what didn’t work.
Myth #3 – Traditional Hierarchy is the way to organize
The way work gets done is entirely different than how we structure our organizations. The paradigm shift that is needed is one of equality. Regardless of our knowledge, experience, degrees, position (etc.), we are hopefully on the bus for the same destination. We’ll each play a role in getting their and no one role will be more important than the other – the integration of our efforts is what will pave the way. One core issue why we find silence (lack of dialogue) in organizations is a fear of power. When we can break down the walls of power, we can grease the engine of success with more candid and authentic dialogue.
Myth #4 – People do what they are told
False. People do what they care about, what they’re interested in and what will keep them employed. People are way more capable and innovative than we give them credit for. Continuing to tell people what to do will stifle their willingness to contribute, their energy to engage and takes away from their own power to make a difference. If we want everyone to be a leader and to release the latent energy in our organizations, we need to create the environment and conditions where people can lead and contribute.
Myht #5 – Fear is a good way to motivate
If you remove the word GOOD, then it’s true. Fear is a way to strip people of their own inner energy, the desire to make a difference, their sense of direction and their commitment. If that is what you’re looking for, then fear based motivation is for you. If you’re looking to create results by tapping into the latent energy in your organization, then consider engaging people in conversations about what matters to them. It’s time we let go of being the hero (or villain), and become the host.
How tied are you to these myths? Are willing to shift your paradigm and move from hero to host?
How can you overcome these myths that may debilitate employee engagement in your organization? What does it mean to you to become the host of employee engagement?
David Zinger is a global employee engagement expert who founded the 3800 member employee engagement network. Contact David at www.davidzinger.com to request his workshop, presentations, or consulting.