Employee engagement, management engagement, leadership, passion in the workplace. . .
These rallying cries fill books, blogs, and backroom banter. The real issue: "How can we get done what needs to get done and create a sense of "we're in this together" at the same time?
It's actually quite simple:
To Get Something Done, Ask for Help
There is nothing that sparks the human spirit--and thus adds meaning to a task--than the satisfaction of providing help to someone who needs it.
Yet my experience--at least in many western cultures--is that it is somehow viewed as "weak" to ask for help. After all, if I'm a guy who gets things done, I don't want people to think that I can't get things done.
I know you already see the fallacy in this. Most textbook definitions of management include some version of: "Management--getting things done through others."
Hmm. As a manager that means, by definition, I need your help.
What Actually Happens Vs. The Simplicity of Help
See if this isn't a little closer to the norm:
Manager: "Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. You supervise the customer service reps. You need to be able to support that. Make it happen."
Now, that 's not too bad a directive at all in the grand scheme of things. (For those who only respond to warm and fuzzy, it's probably not). It's fairly specific, understandable, and has an action attached. However, we've got an entire generation of management research that everyone has been exposed to through workshops and reading. The essence of that research is that people want to be respected,involved in solutions, and have a sense of meaning in what they do.
So, I suggest:
Manager: Andrew, our sales goals are up by 8%. I need help. (Shut up).
Note to managers: Really, you do need help. You're getting paid to make the 8% happen--through other people.
Andrew: How can I help?
Honestly, if the manager & Andrew have a decent relationship, "helping" is about as meaningful as life can get at that moment.
Manager: You supervise the customer service reps. We need to be able to support that 8% bump. How would you go about doing that with your people?
- Statement one: Places next level of responsibility where it belongs.
- Statement two: Specifies the issue.
- Statement three: Involvement and more meaning. (In the event that Andrew struggles a bit, this is the "teachable moment" for coaching).
What will you do?
What someone does for a living is part of the working agreement. How they do it is why they--as individuals--were (hopefully) hired in the first place. When you allow someone to exercise the personalhow, you have created the intersection of individual meaning and engagement .
Are you strong enough to ask for help today?
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