Day 17. September 17, 2021.
Employment has been disrupted more in the past 18 months than at any other time in my lifetime. The Pandemic, government economic incentives (or whatever else you’d like to call them), and people migrating from one place to another – it’s all led to major problems for employers all over the country. Perhaps worldwide.
According to commercial real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield, Dallas/Ft. Worth has experienced the largest growth of any metro area in the country. They predict that will continue through 2029 when the DFW may reach 9 million. As of 2018 (the July 2018 census), we were around 7.5 million. It’s estimated there is an average of 200 people moving into the area every day! And we’re not alone in experiencing new citizens.
With remote work becoming more commonplace, many people are leaving larger metro areas opting for smaller cities and towns where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life may be higher. Some small towns are also offering a cash bounty if families will relocate there.
We’re experiencing employment disruption. And it crosses every industry sector. From police officers to medical staffers, to nurses, to school teachers, to engineers, and just about any other role you can think of – employers are struggling to find people. We used to say finding good or great people is tough. Today we’re saying finding people is difficult. Many employers report just needing “warm bodies,” and finding it hard.
I don’t bring all this up to depress you, but to introduce an important topic of establishing a high-performance culture. This is important no matter the landscape or economy. A high-performance culture is always vastly better than the alternatives. Even in times like these, the companies with a high-performance culture – an environment that fosters growth, improvement, and high achievement – have a clear advantage. Why wouldn’t you want to lead your enterprise into being such a culture?
In 1982 I stood before a group of employees and told them, “Who knew being polite would be a competitive advantage? But today, if we’ll be fanatical in saying “please” and “thank you,” “sir” and “ma’am,” then we’ll be vastly ahead of our competition.” It was true then. It’s still true today.
That illustrates how simple it can be to elevate our work. The hard part is first making up your mind to do it, and then, to follow through with execution.
So it is with establishing a high-performance culture. It can help us better lead people.
We’ve been talking about and thinking about story – our narrative. We’ve talked about the importance of crafting our story – figuring out our ideal outcome. Then we talked about writing our story, which is our metaphor for taking full responsibility for the life we live. And then we talked about making sure we tell our story well. Well enough for others to accurately comprehend it, which is how I define understanding.
Today, let’s talk about the story our employees tell themselves. Few things impact all of us more negatively or positively than the story we tell ourselves. As leaders, we have to be mindful of all our employees, individually and collectively.
Leaders must provide a great story for every employee. A story that tells them where they fit in the organization and how they make a positive contribution to the enterprise. If we fail to do that, they will craft a story about those things and it will not be good. People don’t automatically think the best. Most of us think the worst. Leadership must serve people with a great story.
I’m not talking about fables or fiction. This isn’t about patronizing people with something that sounds good but is completely untrue.
High-performing cultures are killed by many things, but there are 2 things in this area of story that contribute greatly to employee dissatisfaction: not knowing how they can make a positive contribution and incongruency (leadership says one thing, but does something different).
Whether you’re leading a very small team within the enterprise or you’re the number 1 leading the entire organization, you can influence the outcome. Start by making up your mind that you’re going to grow and improve as a leader. Make up your mind that you’re going to serve everybody so they too can grow and improve. How do they make a positive difference? Tell them. Show them. Make sure they understand it. From the lowest skills workers to the highest skill workers, people need to wake up each workday knowing that what they do matters. And it does. But if they don’t see that, then it won’t be long before they’ll lose heart. In time, you’ll lose their physical contributions because their heart left long ago. Avoid that by making sure they know and are constantly reminded of where they fit and how their work makes a positive difference!
Don’t be a hypocrite. I’ve preached that sermon before, but we have to keep preaching it because it’s easy to say one thing and do something completely contrary. Some think as long as we say the right things, then it doesn’t matter what we do. Wrong! Our actions and words must be congruent. It’s among the chief reasons why people leave. They can’t make sense of the incongruency. They hear what we say. They see what we do. They pay attention to our actions and decisions. When they don’t match up, people are confused. Worse yet, they lose trust (assuming they ever had it). And when we lose the trust of people, we lose the people.
Be well. Do good. Grow great!