When a company is just getting started or is ramping up for growth, there is a huge amount of energy created by the founder starting something new and exciting. The people on the bus in these early stages of growth were hired based on their belief in the founder and quite often, their charisma. The vision was exciting for the product or service and everyone simply pitched in and did whatever it took to get the product out the door and deliver quality customer service. It was typically the founder or the CEO in these early stages of growth that provided the vision, passion and energy that kept the organization on a trajectory of growth. This early passion and buy-in kept everyone highly accountable because survival was the main objective.
As the company continues to grow and passes 15 to 20 employees, the dynamics begin to change dramatically. The working environment of the company begins to shift, requiring more process-focus, to take the place of the experimentation and figuring it out as we went. The roles of the employees must become more defined because there is a great need for leadership and management skills beyond the founder or CEO. For many business leaders who have been in charge of every single decision and they have been the go-to person for almost everything, to now having to delegate and reduce their absolute control is very challenging. Many cannot do it. They talk themselves into it, but when the situation arises, they have to grab control again. This stifles growth and kills buy-in. Employees cannot grow to know their value without feeling empowered to help the company grow.
If the CEO can let go, then the challenge becomes communications. This is especially true if systems are not in place that drives how work gets shared and how outcomes become achieved. The job of the CEO now becomes more about choosing the right people, growing and developing them, helping put systems and processes in place, and continuing to paint a clear picture of the future. The ability of the leader to do this shift is absolutely critical for success in this next stage of organizational growth. According to the most recent Gallup poll regarding employee engagement in 2015, 71% of employees are disengaged. That means businesses have lots of employees collecting pay and benefits, roaming the halls discontented and undermining the success of the company.
Even though these figures tell a very unsettling story, the reality is there are businesses that run successfully day after day. The key question then becomes, how much more successful would they be if their employees were more engaged? This all comes back to the primary leader and manager. Engagement is the result of buy-in and buy-in creates accountability. Last week, I posted this on my Facebook page: “Nobody washes a rental car, ownership creates accountability.” Two out of ten disagreed with my post, which aligns fairly close with the Gallup poll. When employees really own their positions and their part of the company, they become more engaged. Coaches in athletics know that when they no longer have to tell their players to go to batting practice or put in extra work in the gym, that player begins to own their spot on the team, they start to push themselves harder than the coach does because they have become accountable to themselves for their performance. They are now owners and no longer renters. When you rent, you call someone else to fix things when problems arise, but when you own, you know you are solely responsible for the fix of the issue.
The working climate in the company of engagement or disengagement gets created over a span of time. If the issue of disengagement is present in an organization, it does not go away quickly. Many dollars have been squandered on things like company parties and team-building retreats trying to solve an issue with an event that was not created by an event, but by the day-to-day behavior of the leader or leaders. The solution is process, not event. The CEO and leaders have to change their own engagement, attitudes and behavior in order to see better results in the organization, not just for the short-term, but long-term for the growth and enhanced engagement for improvement in employee climate and future customer satisfaction.