Data we’ve collected show that in the U.S only 30 percent of people are engaged at work. There’s another 52 percent that are what we’d call not engaged, who do the minimum required but don’t really go above and beyond. And then there’s another 18 percent that are actively disengaged, and these are the people that are working against the organization’s objectives. … One of the core elements of engaging workers is helping them be clear on what’s expected of them at work. Managers have to continually reclarify. “Fix This/Workplace,” Jim Harter Chief scientist, workplace management and well-being, Gallup. Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec 23, 2013.
I saw this a lot in my career, especially in the Air Force. We would have a few people working their tails off and then a fairly substantial group of people doing activities that seemed designed to just keep them busy. I was told we needed to drive our best people as that was how we got the most work done with the greatest control. I, being idealistically contrary, instead worked with those other people and ultimately got them fully engaged. It was amazing how productive a team could be when everyone was working hard.
For an example, see The Leap From Mediocrity To The Exceptional Is Shorter Than We Think
It certainly seems easier to just focus on a few people. Easier in large part because it doesn’t take more than a comment or two to get them madly working on whatever we next saw as critical. This was to become one of the typical bad habits I often encountered in erratically performing organizations. Folks were just sure that this was the only way to do it, by working with our “best” people and ignoring the rest.
So for me, it was never about setting expectations or clarifying, though those are always important. Instead, it was about spending time with those suboptimally performing individuals, knowing that they’ll do well when they are engaged where their strengths lie. Often, just the sincere attention of the manager (i.e., theory Y not X) was more than enough to motivate them. Adding to that the taking of a chance and giving them something seriously important to do for the success of the organization, and it was suddenly amazing how many really good people we had.
What are you doing to ensure all your team members are contributing to their potential?