How do you know when to stop keeping secrets? When it is okay or even ideal to tell the boss what you think she needs to hear? Is it time to tell the employees the truth about what you really need from them? Will your honesty be well-received? What if you change your mind after you tip-toe into the land of honesty – can you safely return to denial land or is it a one-way trip? Which taboo topic should we tackle first?
The best-kept secret at most companies is not as juicy as you think. In fact, it is almost boring unless it is your career on the line (and it may be, by the way). It’s the company goals. That’s right; the boss’s top priorities – what they need most - your purpose for being there in the first place. This is not way beyond my own research. The Harris Polling Group surveyed over 12,000 employees of Fortune 500 companies to learn that 49% of employees said they could name their companies top three priorities. When asked to do so, only 15% could name even one of the company’s top priorities, and most of them could not say how their own work played a role in meeting those priorities.
At the same time, nearly everyone is being pressured to produce more outcomes with fewer resources. The problem is not resources; the problem is direction. When asked to produce more, the employee is afraid to ask “more of what?” The fear is a communication problem.
The boss wonders why the employee needs to know everything –they should be assigned a task and be expected to do it - properly and on time. That is why they are paid. Of course, one motivation for taking this approach is we don’t know another way. Another reason is that the employer does not want to be exposed for not really knowing his or her own goals, which would be embarrassing. If that strikes a nerve, don’t panic. I am not going to ask you to share your goals in front of the class. Besides, you are in good company. Not knowing your own goals is far too common even among very accomplished people. It requires serious time and energy to re-examine our personal and company goals from time to time, lest we wake up one day wasting our lives without purpose. Most of us do not work in factories doing work that a robot or computer could do. Today’s work environment requires human interaction,
creativity and thought. Experts on motivation, such as Daniel Pink, author of Drive – (The gap between what science
knows and what business does), argue that the carrot and stick method of motivation is largely outdated and only works for menial, repetitive tasks where creativity is not required. Science has proven that reward-motivation
tends to diminish results that require any level of cognitive skill. This is not some new-age-hippie-leadership school that only works in California. Leading corporate experts like Peter Drucker, Tom Peters and Stephen Covey have
been warning us about the death of the industrial age leadership model for decades now. Old habits die hard without the tools to replace them with new habits.
My conclusion is most people (the ones you want to keep anyway), are starving for the opportunity to apply themselves in a more meaningful way. People want to be treated like grownups, they want a chance
to get better and excel at their work and they need to know that what they do matters. This will require goal work and communication to identify what is important to both the employer and the employee. Let’s discover what each can
offer the other that results in a win/win relationship. This applies to entry-level retail workers, payroll clerks, laborers and top-level executives. There should be something worthwhile in it for everyone. The big question before you know “what’s in it for you”, is to be able to know what you want from it in the first place. I could recommend a group workshop on goals for your entire team, but for now, I recommend going online and looking for books, webinars and articles on goal setting. You should find vast amounts of resources from very basic to very advanced. If you are ready for personal attention in either goal setting or communications, you know where to find me.