Please – Just Inspire Me!

Posted: February 23, 2014 by Tom Heuer in Culture, People

Tom Heuer, Miami University Center for EntrepreneurshipThese are the words uttered by many employees these days as they trudge (slow, weary depressing walk) into work believing something – somehow, someway – will be different today.  But, their hopes quickly end up being futile thoughts.  “Just another day at the office” is the common, six word theme heard around the dinner table.  So, the conversation moves to other topics more meaningful than work.

Is this prevalent in business today?  The book – The Cynical Americans by Kanter and Mirvis – chronicles the highly cynical environment found in companies today.  In the latest edition, the author’s research finds that almost fifty percent of employees working in corporate America (including start-ups and small businesses) are cynical.  Your issue – how can any company win in the marketplace with half of their workers sensing that their company will not win?

So, why do your “good employees” become cynical?  In our research, we have identified one primary reason – they are being managed not led.  Yes, most employees today still want to make a difference in their work.  But, business owners and managers find themselves buried in all sorts of mundane, non-essential activities and believe that the “easiest” way to deal with an employee is to tell them how to handle a project or communicate with a customer or solve a problem.  Ultimately, the “easy way out”  becomes a company dilemma because employees have been “dummied down” to the point where they are not using their skills/experience to solve problems and/or are not developing any new talents to provide future insights into the company’s on-going success.  The final result is the employee exits the company and moves onto a new role (maybe with a competitor) where the organization encourages them to use their brain on a daily basis.  And you now have “the opportunity” to recruit, hire, orient and train a new “valued” staff member.   Your Lesson – know when to lead and when to manage.

If an individual is capable enough to be hired by you, then inspire them by giving them the opportunity to make a difference every single day.   Now, how might you accomplish this important goal:

  • Know your employees and their capabilities.  Build a relationship with your employees.  Understand who they are, what their skills are and how they can make a valued difference to the future of your start-up or small business.  Give them the right opportunities to grow and contribute to the company’s success.
  • Provide feedback.  An entrepreneur has one important, cost-effective strategy for employee development – timely feedback.  You will inspire your most employees by offering timely, focused feedback.  Why?  They will grow personally and professionally.  Even more important, they will find out that you care about them.
  • Encourage them.  Try to recognize and reward every employee when they achieve excellence (not mediocrity) in their job.  Also, encourage all employees who respond to your feedback/coaching.  If you ignore their hard work, then these employees may decide not to become better at their work.

The Miami University Entrepreneurship Institute is dedicated to developing students who understand leadership and know its importance for start-ups and small businesses.  “Trudging off” to work every day is not the formula for business success and employee engagement.

Let me hear your thoughts – heuertm@miamioh.edu.

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