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.

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