Illustrator: Ashley Siebels
The numbers are staggering: about 70% of American workers are not engaged and dread Monday mornings, according to an annual poll by the Gallup organization.
Many are quick to blame their organization, the working conditions, or their industry. Many think: “If only I worked for the next Google, that would be exciting.”
But if it were that easy, then why were highly compensated key executives recently bolting from Uber like the building was on fire?
In fact, the leader is often at the center of this problem, and here’s why: people often become demoralized when they conclude that they are showing up on Monday morning in order to enrich and empower the executives.
Consider this simple test: would the average American worker rather work toward a cause or toward the enrichment of their boss?
That’s a no-brainer.
Sadly, it seems that many of America’s leaders think that their mere title and position of power, by itself, is sufficient to earn the following of those in their charge. These leaders think nothing of behaving in ways that signal to their employees that the success of the organization hinges on the leader’s brilliance and raw managerial capacity.
Think of those organizations that operate under the name of the founder or those where the CEO pays himself or herself two, three or, in some cases, more than 10 times more than the others on their team. Think about those meetings where the leader stands in front of the room and dominates the conversation.
While there are successful organizations that operate under this brand of leadership, these leaders run the risk of communicating to their employees that they don’t matter, or worse, that they show up every Monday morning just to enrich the person whose name is on the top of the building. Talk about deflating!
There’s a common theme among organizations that are able to build a culture of impassioned employees: the leaders adopt behaviors that communicate that they were more, or at least equally, committed to the mission of the company, as compared to their own selfish interests.
These leaders actively seek to fuse their employees together in service of a shared mission or a common cause.
Most of us are quick to assert our place on the “right” side of this selfish-ego vs. collective ego dilemma. Yet, when pressed, results show that few leaders take the time to carefully think this through.
So what can we do?
Communicating your commitment to the mission requires a vigilant, conscious awareness of the message you are delivering with each of the daily decisions that tempt your selfish interests.
Ask yourself: Who do you prioritize on your calendar? How much time do you invest with your front line workers? When you conduct a meeting, who emerges as the smartest person in the room? Whose job is it to step-up and serve that particularly challenging customer? When crisis strikes, who takes ownership?
Truly successful leaders learn how to shift their conscious focus and embrace the selfish-ego vs. collective-ego dilemma, recognizing that employee engagement is earned one decision at a time.
Darrell Cavens, founder and CEO of Zulily, said he experienced difficult personal growth as he grew to understand his early career approach to conducting meetings. General Robert Van Antwerp, former chief engineer of the Army Corps of Engineers, didn’t discover one of his most effective leadership tools until challenged by the stress and heat of the Saudi desert and Operation Desert Storm.
These and other iconic national leaders demonstrate that the best technique to diminish the Monday morning slump begins with connecting their workers to the mission and communicating through their daily actions where they prioritize their self-interests relative to the organization’s mission.
Dudley Slater, the co-founder and former CEO of Integra Telecom, is the author, with Steven T. Taylor, of Fusion Leadership: Unleashing the Movement of Monday Morning Enthusiasts.