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How To Get Your People As Committed To Their Work As You Are

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By Denise Boudreau-Scott

A recent conversation I had with an executive made it clear how frustrated he was with his team. “No one steps up to the plate. I ask for a volunteer to take on a project and no one offers to help.” It had been going on for months and finally he realized that while he was working day and night his team was running out the door at 5 PM like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight.

Fed up with it all he inquired, “How do I get them to be as committed to their work as I am?”

The holy grail of all leadership questions!

In Good Company

This CEO isn’t alone. Recently I asked readers of my blog to share with me some of their frustrations. One wrote, “We are very frustrated with our nursing assistants not engaging with residents. What I mean is, not wanting to spend some quality time getting to know about the person they are taking care of. There are some who are just not interested.”

In her message this writer acknowledged, “Yes, everyone is busy and stressed.” Yet she didn’t think it should be used as an excuse.  

The easiest, and therefore most common, answer is that education will fix the problem.  

We assume sensitivity training will do the trick. Even better, some fancy customer service training will definitely cure all. But rarely do these flash in the pan programs make a significant dent in the true problem: Some people just don’t seem to care.

Whether you are talking about leading thousands in an entire company or supervising a dozen in one department, the question is probably one that you have struggled with: How do you get people as committed to their work as you are?

It really comes down to one thing: how well you support your employees. How good of a job do you do? On the surface it’s an easy question to answer, “Of course I support my employees, after all they’re our greatest asset.”  

But are you willing to take a hard look at the truth?

After speaking with tens of thousands of staff members, I would be willing to bet that if I asked the nursing assistants in the scenario above if they felt that their supervisors knew something about them as a person, the answer would be a resounding, “No.” Then it should come as no surprise that they in turn don’t really feel obligated to know something personal about the residents they are serving.  

Employees are as committed to their work as you are to them. 

Maybe it’s not the writer’s fault. Maybe as the administrator she’s doing a great job of getting to know her team members and supporting them. But what about the others on her leadership team?

Almost thirty years ago I had a dream of working in aging services. I thought I landed the greatest job in the history of mankind when I was hired to work as a per diem dietary aide in a nursing home in Long Island, NY. My first couple of days on the job I was full of excitement and ambition. Then day three hit. It was 5:00 PM and dinner was being served in the dining room that was filled with sixty residents with various levels of need.  

I had just served three ladies at one table their dinner when their tablemate, Miss Anna came slowly walking over. She was struggling. Instinctively I lent her a hand and put my arm in her arm to guide her around the maze of chairs and walkers that were blocking her way. Just then, my boss Gail, the Director of Dining, approached me. “Denise that is not your job; you are here to serve the residents food, not help them to the table.”  

Later that evening we had a staff meeting in the breakroom. Gail announced, “I want to remind everyone that when we are in the dining room, it’s our job to serve the food. We are not to be assisting residents to their table or at the table. That’s nursing’s job.”

Was she right? Technically. Was she committed to me and, in turn, encouraging my commitment to the job? Hardly.  

I spent the rest of my working days there slapping food on tables and, after my mishap, barely interacting with residents. I went from feeling like I’d make a significant difference in people’s lives to the person described in the email above. The one who is “not engaging with residents”.

Picking up the Rock

Getting people committed to their work takes your willingness as a leader to face the facts. The fact is that in subtle, and not so subtle, ways you are probably discouraging employees from being as committed as you are.  

A person interviewed for Jim Collin’s book “Good to Great” describes it as, “When you turn over rocks and look at all the squiggly things underneath, you can either put the rock down, or you can say, ‘My job is to turn over the rocks and look at the squiggly things’, even if what you see can scare the hell out of you.”

When’s the last time you picked up the rock and:

  • looked at your satisfaction or engagement scores without a defensive stance?  

  • asked employees for their feedback and listened with an open mind?

  • conducted focus groups led by a neutral party?

Looking at the squiggly things that are lurking behind each of these questions awakens you to what you, and your leadership team, can be doing differently as leaders to create a committed workforce.  

It’s the first step in creating a team that is as committed as you are: Knowing that things can, and need to be, different. When people aren’t stepping up to the plate, when they just don’t seem to care, when they are running out the door at 5:00 PM, chances are they are reflecting what they are feeling: A lack of commitment from the organization.  

Commit to them and they’ll commit to you.  

Want to show your team how committed you are to them? Click here to download our free resource with the statements and probing questions that are most linked to high employee engagement. 

Denise specializes in organizational assessments that result in engaged staff and residents, as well as better financial and clinical outcomes.  Find out more at http://www.denisebscott.com

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