When pressure mounts at work is usually when leaders speak most of empowerment. In truth they are looking for greater initiative. With high expectations to see an impact on performance, few things rile leaders more than advocating for employee empowerment and seeing little employee initiative in return.
Left frustrated, leaders often rationalize this “apathy” as the sign that something is wrong with employee motivation: disinterest, laziness, stupidity, stubbornness, or the like. In isolated instances character “flaws” could be valid explanations, but if this perceived “apathy” is pervasive, something else is necessarily at work.
Trust — the Missing Link
When I look at situations where employees lack initiative, a strong correlation usually reveals itself with what leaders themselves are doing . Fundamentally a lack of engagement stems from the absence of trust in the leader. Trust builds from many different aspects, but two are critical for leaders: they must be trusted as leader and as a person.
Jack Welch responds to a question on how a leader knows who is being “cut-throat” and who is doing their work. Toxic behaviors need to be handled promptly.
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Viewpoint on Toxic Behaviors
With toxic behaviors present in a group, there is very little chance that people will fully trust each other, speak openly, and work in a collaborative manner. Cut-throat behaviors such as taking credit for work that others have done, backstabbing, gossiping may happen behind a leader’s back so to speak, but the consequences are always visible in the way people talk and act. Toxic behaviors can be detected in the patterns of avoidance in the team’s interactions.
Alan Mullaly explains how the executive team at Ford Motor Company changed to a culture of accountability.
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Viewpoint on Creating a Culture of Accountability
True accountability needs a culture of trust and openness and it is up to the leader to put in place the following necessary conditions: safety, clarity of purpose, trust, and an environment where responsibility is valued. Talking about accountability without such conditions in place will cause people to go into a mode of self-protection rather than initiative.