The Most Important Thing

by  Chris Edmonds  |  Leadership Development
The Most Important Thing

What is the most important thing to you as a leader? Is it results? Is it service? Is it engagement?

Those are all very good things to have happening regularly in your work environment.

Yet too few bosses focus on all three – nor do many leaders focus on the one that generates the greatest benefit, and boosts the other two.

Think about your own bosses, throughout your career. What did they primarily pay attention to, among these three?

What did your bosses, over the years, measure, monitor, and reward, consistently and regularly? What metrics were watched closely? Which of these three things, when you delivered them, received the most positive reaction from your boss?

If you’re like many of us humans, your answer was confident and immediate. Your bosses focused on results.

They may have periodically recognized great service. They may have periodically expressed how valuable a player was that proactively solved problems or took pride in their work. Those are reliable indicators of employee engagement.

But they likely paid the greatest attention to results. They probably couldn’t help themselves. It’s all they knew. It’s what their bosses role modeled to them. It’s what the culture expected. So, they did it, thoroughly and consistently.

The challenge is that your bosses – past and present – are powerful role models. Their behavior may significantly influence how you lead, today.

Another challenge is your organization’s culture. Does it value results more than service or engagement? Are there more dashboards that provide you with performance metrics than dashboards that present you with service ratings or employee engagement scores? That’s a heavy influence, too.

Don’t get me wrong. Results are a good thing! Delivering on performance expectations means you and your team are making “good” on the promises and commitments that have been made.

Consistent results generally deliver better financial impact. Every organization wants to be ahead of financial projections. In my 15 years of non-profit management, my bosses and volunteer board members were very interested in our business delivering on budgeted nets every month. Non-profits and even government agencies have budgeted commitments they must meet.

The problem lies when results are the only metric that gets measured, monitored, and rewarded.

That dynamic frequently causes players to shift to a self-serving mode (“I win, you lose”) to survive the battle each day. I withhold information. I don’t cooperate for our success. I embrace the competitive playing field and beat you – and my colleagues – at whatever cost.

In that environment, I may contribute to the team’s failure at production and service. So long as I’m ahead, I’ve won the game this month.

There is a better way. By adding an equal focus upon service and engagement to your results focus, you can create a work environment that treats every person with trust, respect, and dignity.

When people feel valued, their engagement level rises. When people feel trusted, they serve others – inside and outside their organization – with respect. When people feel trusted, they proactively solve problems, without waiting to be asked.

The reality is that, today, our organizations don’t seem to treat employees with trust, respect, and dignity.

TinyHR’s 2014engagement and culture survey found that 49% of employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor. More than 1-in-4 report they don’t have the tools to be successful in their jobs. Only 21% of employees report they feel strongly valued at work.

The most important thing? Employee engagement. By building an environment in your team or department or company that consistently values employees, gives them credit, gives them meaningful work, and trusts them to do the right thing, engagement grows.

As engagement grows, employees serve each other and customers more graciously and willingly. As engagement grows, people produce more. That’s a very good thing.

When has trust made a difference for you?
Photo Credit: Morguefiile

About The Author

Articles By chris-edmonds
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, thought leader, author, and executive consultant. He writes books. He blogs and podcasts. He’s a working musician on the side.  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Page Cole  |  03 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Last year we hired a company to call 10% of our our clients and our staff each month to measure the metrics you’ve discussed. I’m thankful that they are asking questions that give us feedback on engagement and customer service, as well as the metrics on results that we were already measuring.

I can honestly say I don’t want to be remembered as someone who made money. I want my life, my company and my family to be remembered as “difference makers”… I want to be a dad, husband and boss that engages, that listens and that invests in others.

Thanks for the reminders and the encouragement!

John Smith  |  03 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Chris – good post about an important aspect of leadership – if a leader turns around and nobody is following (disengagement), they are just taking a walk.

You identified three important elements of building a culture of mutual trust: Trust, Respect, and Dignity between the leader and the employee:

Trust – Both feel that the other will keep their word. Honesty and credibility need be present.

Respect – Both see the other as a fellow human being, worthy of being listened to and heard. You do not have agree, but you have to listen and try to understand the other’s view.

Dignity – Both give the other the right to be part of the whole. Different roles and responsibilities do not alter the basic equality that should exist between people.

As Page indicated in his response, you have to be willing to hear “bad news” through actually asking the hard questions, listening to the responses, and doing something about things that need to change. Do this consistently and you will build trust, respect, and dignity.

Appreciate your articulate and useful thinking:)


Jane Anderson  |  03 Apr 2015  |  Reply

Of these three results, service, engagement I agree that the only word I remember hearing very often was results. In fact until the last few years, I don’t think I ever heard the word engagement. I remember one boss telling us every time we reported a status, “Show me. I’m from Missouri”. I could never figure out why he said that until I, just by chance, saw a Missouri license plate that had “The Show Me State” along the bottom edge. Huh! Now I get it. Communication was not his forte. Getting back to the article though, results are tangible and as you pointed out results can be measured, monitored and rewarded.

You’re right that only using results as an indicator of status can introduce competition and a winner/loser culture. One thing I see happening today is the customer survey. What was once a tool for measuring customer satisfaction is now potentially flawed as far as encouraging and inspiring the workforce. I know of several organizations where employee raises are based on how many surveys are returned from customers. They also use the ratings, but we all know that the surveys coming back are often the ones where a complaint, whether valid or not, are reported.

To put a reliable focus on service and engagement, we need solutionzs that include the full cycle and scale of engagement, service, results, and a way to accurately assess what’s really going on. The culture of the workplace will improve when that happens because people will trust their employer and the employer will trust the employees.

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