Recently, I was puzzled when a senior leader mentioned they saw the most formidable risk to achieve the company’s exponential growth was to successfully re-engage the remote workforce. Having weathered layoffs and a reorganization they were well-positioned for growth. Why did their lens zoom in on this human element as a risk for immediate growth?
I wondered if it might be too little too late for an exhausted workforce that had kept things afloat during a prolonged downturn and why this – and why now?
This often happens during the stress of a business transformation. Leaders shift their attention from human systems that are charged with emotion, to non-human assets where savings and efficiencies can be gained. These are systems such as facilities, finance and technical processes. This immediate focus to help a company survive is necessary. If prolonged however, it can result in tunnel vision at the top. It can distance and disenchant those employees who had less visibility and involvement in the transformation.
In Dan Goleman’s book Working with Emotional Intelligence, he emphasizes the importance of an emotionally intelligent human organization. Goleman recounts the words of Xerox head scientist, J.S. Brown: ‘all work involves webs of participation’. These webs are key to unleash the emotional energy needed for enthusiasm and commitment. They are the gold standard to bolster an organization’s capacity to collaborate, innovate, resource share and risk-take that is needed to quickly gain competitive advantage.
These webs are essential to compete successfully.
What is the senior leaders’ responsibility in re-engaging these potent webs of participation that had been disconnected and disengaged?
How fast could these groups regain trust in their leaders so they believe their input and contributions make a meaningful difference?
“The predicament is an opportunity for leaders to lead through transition without the tunnel-vision that so often risks future growth.”
How to re-inspire and re-engage these populations so the company can grow and succeed?
The gravity of disengagement and its emotional cousin, loneliness, was recently shared in a June 29 HBR article titled: ‘Burnout at Work Isn’t Just About Exhaustion. It’s Also About Loneliness‘ by Emma Seppala and Marissa King The article helps address some of the symptoms of the disengaged workforce. It’s worthy to note that across all organizational levels and industries surveyed, a staggering 50% of the workforce reported feeling exhausted, with loneliness being a key component. The sense of loneliness impacts everything in an organization. It affects work productivity to health issues.
This article is a call to action for executives. They must avoid the tunnel and connect and communicate across all levels of the organization. To recapture the hearts and efforts of employees, Seppala and King offer suggestions which I believe can help reengage those outside the central hub.
Start here: recognize the current emotional state of employees.
Based on Seppala and King’s findings, it’s safe to assume that at least half of any employee group feels exhausted. The authors suggest three commitments that help leaders rebuild resilience in their workforce. When led by the top levels of a company, it’s my experience that these efforts are the most successful.
- Build inclusive communities in which trust, respect and empathy are rewarded in parallel to skills and knowledge.
- Create and reinforce developmental networks. Cross-enterprise and cross-functional integration is ideal.
- Celebrate successes. These are the small daily wins that turn into shared effort towards the big achievements.
Beyond the boardroom and shareholders, leaders are responsible to provide a clear vision, a sense of inclusion and reinforce support for employees. The more geographically spread the workforce, the more critical it is for leaders to harness and embrace technology and time to:
- Over-communicate with regular cadence their positive vision;
- Connect with empathy and support to all locations and levels; and
- Demonstrate that people matter. Listen and offer small and large acknowledgements of their contributions and value.
Leaders that show that their people are the difference – especially during times of stress, change and growth will continue to impact organizations and the world. I’m grateful for my clients who’s learning makes the world a better place.
Leaders being good people, for people – is good for business.
Want to learn more about how to re-engage your team? Let’s connect and schedule a coaching conversation.