As an employee for 18 years in Europe as well as here in North America, and having now served over 215 client organizations across 28 states, China, India, Europe and Australia, with staff training and development for the last 12 years, I’ve come to a conclusion. My conclusion is, that all organizations are volunteer organizations.
Employees will choose how much to give of themselves, based on how much they trust the leadership of their organization. We’re living in an imperfect world with imperfect people and most certainly imperfect leaders, yet I’ve noticed the higher the trust in the “leader-ship”, the greater the “follower-ship” of the employees. It’s as if people yearn for someone or something to trust.
Human beings are four dimensional — body, mind, heart and soul (or spirit). The employee brings himself or herself to work — that’s the body, or the physical dimension. Human Resources will soon stop the paycheck if the person doesn’t show up for work. The other three dimensions of a human being though, (the mind, the heart and the soul or the spirit), are volunteered only. The mind, or the mental dimension is someone’s willingness to contribute new ideas — to think of new ways of improving old processes, or the creation of innovative solutions to emerging problems. A fully engaged employee will offer their ideas.
The heart, by design is relational and shows someone’s passion for his or her work. As consumers or colleagues, we can always tell if an employee, cares about what they do. We can feel it. When an employee is treated well by their employer, they will often pass this on to their colleagues and customers — it’s really the hands and feet of the Golden Rule. The soul or the spirit, in a workplace setting could be expressed as someone’s intent to leave a legacy; to make a difference — to lead a life well lived in the workplace.
You can always tell when an employee is firing on all four cylinders — they make great workers; superb colleagues; outstanding service providers and exceptional leaders.
One of the saddest aspects I’ve observed in workplaces around the world is when someone quits…but stays. Did you catch that? They’ve quit on three of the four dimensions but the body still physically comes to work. They don’t contribute their ideas; they have no passion for their work and there’s certainly no little light shining within them, as far as we can tell.
I remember a few years ago, we were asked to conduct a set of interviews with a critically important work team for a client, which wasn’t functioning very well. The first interviewee walked in holding their job description in a stand-up plastic frame. I asked what it represented. The person replied, “If it’s not on here, I don’t do it.” I took a deep breath and suggested I put the kettle on, so we could have a good chat, through this person’s way of seeing the world.
My conclusion from the conversation was that the workplace is a two-way street. The heart of the issue was poor leadership and an employee who’d quit but decided to stay.
It takes two to tango but someone to lead. The leaders of organizations have a noble, honorable responsibility to be people of high character and high competence. Isn’t that really the definition of trust? We seem to trust people when they’re decent human beings and they’re good at what they do. Trust is the commodity leaders deal in.
Employees also have a responsibility though regardless of the quality of leadership — employees have a choice of how much to give of themselves.
I remember my mother and father saying two things to me as a young man, of perhaps 16 years of age about the world of work that always stuck in my mind. The first thing they said was, “Get rid of the mullet!” They were referring to my haircut. My passionate plea, that it was “business up front and party at the back”, fell on deaf ears and so the mullet went. The second thing they said which was a little more profound was, “Whatever you choose to do, do it, to the very best of your ability.” That nugget of wisdom served me well, and years later I came to more deeply understand the foundation on which their principle was based.
I encourage employees to always go the extra mile — to do everything to the very best of their ability. This choice makes work more enjoyable and can positively influence colleagues, customers and even leaders around them. Their choices, like a pebble in a pond can ripple out and make the workplace a better place to be.
Yep, I am convinced all organizations are indeed, volunteer organizations.