We've all seen the signs in our organizations. Employees who aren't giving 100 percent of their effort, and who seem to be more enthusiastic about who was on last night's reality TV show than they are about their jobs. Workers who are more loyal to their brand of toothpaste than they are to the companies that pay the salaries that allow them to buy the homes, the cars, and the college educations for their kids. People who consider their customers more as problems than opportunities.
As a leader, you can have a tremendous effect on the effort the members of your team bring with them to their jobs.
To be effective today, leaders must be master energizers. They must create supportive work environments that encourage desired employee behaviors and outcomes. They need to create energy--first in themselves, and then in their people.
There are three main areas where any leader can have a tremendous impact on getting the best out of his or her people: by energizing individuals, teams, and organizations.
1. Energize individuals
The trust, respect, and consideration that leaders show team members in one-on-one relationships each and every day of the week is the foundation of an energized organization. This trust and respect is reflected in each employee interaction.
At the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, one manager found a way to dramatically strengthen relationships with her employees, and at the same time improve their involvement and productivity. Once a month, the manager asked her team, "What one thing can I do better for you?" After listening to and acknowledging their ideas, she then told them one thing that they could do better for her that month. This approach built energy and communication between employees while generating new ideas to improve the organization.
2. Energize teams
Organizations are making widespread use of all sorts of teams--from ad hoc teams, to cross-functional teams, to self-directed work teams, and many others. Unfortunately, in many cases, team members continue to take their orders from management and have precious few opportunities to act autonomously and independently. Highly effective leaders recognize the need to empower teams to act independently of management and to decide what needs to be done and how to do it.
The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, chartered a Quality Circle team that met once a month to discuss opportunities for improvement throughout the hotel--everything from the quality of the employee cafeteria, to ideas for providing stellar guest service. According to the hotel's training manager, "If the team really wants to get the attention of the 600+ employees, they'll do a skit or make a movie to be shown at a quarterly all-employee meeting."
3. Energize organizations
An organization can be flexible--providing alternatives, resources, and tools to its employees--or it can be bureaucratic and policy-bound, creating an environment that erodes the confidence, self-esteem, and energy of its employees. The best leaders constantly seek ways to break down the organizational walls and barriers that stand in the way of employee initiative and energy.
For those who believe that streamlining policies and procedures is an impossible dream for long-established, policy-bound organizations, there is hope. A few years before it merged with United Airlines, Continental Airlines in Houston, Texas, symbolically burned its legalistic, several-hundred page policies and procedures manual and replaced it with a relatively short document titled "Working Together Guidelines." The new guidelines relied on "the judgment of the people who really run this airline," that is, line employees. The change encouraged management and workers to work together to confront problems and to pursue their common interests.