Thomas Edison once quipped that “We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present.” In our organizations today are our team members looking for ways to make things better independently from management? What is being communicated and what is being withheld? What does the pulse of the team environment tell you? An organization is an organism of wants, survival and change that requires care and feeding to extract the best from all, and for all.
How often do the ‘A’ players get away from us creating new competition and sources of wealth? Maybe these star performers are being squelched, maybe they are not being challenged or maybe, just maybe, we are managing these seemingly unengaged, improbable leaders to keep our status quo intact. If so, Jack Welch (former CEO of General Electric) reminds us… “When you were made a leader you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.”
Scott Adams left his career outright to “talk” about his career experiences and insight in the world famous Dilbert cartoons mocking office politics and happenings. Walt Disney it is said, was fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination yet he formed the Disney conglomerate. Bernard Marcus and Arthur Blank were fired from a home improvement company only to form Home Depot and become billionaires in the process. Sara Blakely got tired of selling fax machines door-to-door so on a shoestring budget she built an enterprise that has rendered her the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire with Spanx.™
Intellectual capital is king in the 21st century. It is an intangible asset that can build cash flow and wealth from an ethereal idea. Companies are taking note adopting tried & true strategies of various forms that empower employees. In 1948 for example, 3M implemented the 15 percent program, which gave willing employees an opportunity to pursue ideas on their own without interfering with their regularly assigned work; as a result of this management paradigm, today you have probably used one of 3M’s nearly 23,000-patented ideas such as the Post-It note that was borne from this program. Google implemented a similar “20 percent time” program that is reported to have given birth to Gmail, Google Earth, and Gmail Labs. Apple’s program today is called Blue Sky and LinkedIn calls theirs InCubator.
In these economic times where too much work and underpaid overdue sentiments abound there are individuals looking for greener pastures. The investment that the company has made in the individuals, in both recruitment and training dollars, may soon be a lost asset. But greener pastures can be found if you “bring your own bucket of water” into the mix to nourish, and replenish, the psyche of the team. Take a pause. Engage your employees. Listen with intent. Provide them with the accolades they deserve, the opportunity to spread their wings and the ability to take charge.
Are your employees motivated to make your company, their company, moving it to the next level? Are there individuals willing to go the ‘extra mile’ because they believe in the mission and vision of the company? Does management allow disruptive innovation and encourage strategic thinking? If your employees feel that they are stuck in the “same thing, another day” routine with layoffs, unemployment or furloughs in the background… rework, turnover and mediocrity takes hold. If managers do not monitor the pulse of the organization and take timely constructive action to sustain or enhance sentiments you may find that the next best kept secret in the marketplace could be a former employee.
Activate the Research & Development (R&D) arm embedded within every organization. Flexibility is key. Sympathy is a desired attribute. Understanding is paramount. Whether you invest 15 minutes a week with your employees exploring possibilities or you have the luxury to implement a variation of a 20% program… your employees can help spur your company’s growth. Of course, not all employees will take up the offer but the few that do will help change the milieu of the organization creating a more productive, energizing team environment that is sure to permeate across the halls and spark some ideas. Economic growth is needed worldwide; just try to keep the growth within your own fold today!
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