I choose to continue this week based on the frightening results of Gallup’s recurring poll. If your organisation is like the average Swedish organisation, you have 14% of your employees driving the business forward. They take initiative and want to develop.
They are the gold standard for a sustainable business where people thrive and develop, and of course you satisfy your customers (whatever you call them).
The rest; disengaged or resisting
Then you have 74% who are disengaged. Yes, you read that right, it’s a whopping 74%. According to Gallup’s definition, they only do the bare minimum to avoid being subjected to too much criticism.
For them, not doing wrong is more important than actually doing right.
And then comes the 12% I highlighted in last week’s letter. They are saboteurs and do what they can to sabotage the business in one clever way or another.
Counterparts are not stupid
A mistake as a leader is to think that these counter-workers are unintelligent and clumsy in their sabotage. What if, they are as smart as the rest of the organization. Unfortunately, they only use their intelligence to sabotage.
I worked with a healthcare business quite a few years ago. There were many doctors involved who are obviously intelligent and well-trained. It takes many years of hard study to work in healthcare in various positions, both for doctors and nurses.
Unfortunately, some of those who were counter-workers acted out of self-interest. What was good for the whole, i.e. the whole business and all employees, they did not think was good for them as individuals.
Their plan to sabotage was one of the more well planned I have seen and torpedoed the leader and the whole improvement initiative. Diabolical almost in its precision. The welfare of patients was held up as an argument to the outside world, although we who had insight saw that it was just pawns in a vicious game. What most saw as a good bet turned into a disaster with well-planned torpedoes below the waterline.
Identifying who is who
As a leader, it’s incredibly important to be able to identify who are among the 14% who drive the business forward and who are among the 12% who are saboteurs. That is, who is with and who is against. Jack Welsh, former CEO of General Electric, highlights this in his book Winning.
It’s not always that easy. The 14% who are engaged are pretty easy to see. They want to be seen and they make a difference by coming up with good ideas and pushing for improvement.
But the 12% counterparts are more difficult. They can camouflage themselves in well. Don’t forget that they are as smart as anyone in the organisation. Don’t underestimate them. They also like to hide in the shadows.
Action plan is a must
Once you have identified them, the next step is to have an action plan for how to deal with them.
Those involved need to be highlighted and given attention and recognition for a job well done. Here, you need to work actively with them to provide support. Could you ask them to present their ideas through different channels, assign them key positions that drive the work forward, or encourage them in some other way?
What suggestions do you have for uplifting your engaged individuals in your business?
What would you do with a couple of extra committed people?
They will be good role models for the 74% who are disengaged. What if, by highlighting the good work that the committed do, you can get one of the uncommitted to get a little more involved. What would that mean for you and your business?
Imagine if you could increase that 14% to 16%, or maybe 18%. It would do wonders for any business. How would you feel if you had a couple more dedicated employees in your organization?
Meet the opponents
How you meet the 12% of counterparts also needs to follow an action plan.
For example, you should:
- Openly demonstrate your commitment to improvement.
- Keep a straight course towards the goal, repeating almost like a parrot what it is you are going to achieve. Don’t bend an inch, don’t swerve, but stay the course.
- Let employees know that you see them and that you know what they are doing. Counter-workers like to work in the shadows, so bringing them out into the daylight is a bit like bringing vampires out into the sunlight.
If you don’t get to grips with the counter-workers, there is a risk that they will have the power to succeed in completely sabotaging what the 14% committed are working so hard for.
And if you as a leader don’t step in and steer the business so that you clearly declare your intention with engagement, then there’s a good chance that some of that 14% will quit and move on.
If you don’t succeed, you lose
Who benefits from the committed leaving? It’s not you, it’s not the business and it’s not the customers. It is the opponent who won. In their joy at the win, they will make life even more miserable for the rest of the organisation.
Those who may have previously intended to move from disengaged to engaged quickly change their minds and remain disengaged. It’s most peaceful that way.
Do you know who is who?
Do you know who in your organisation is committed and who is a counter-worker? If not, sit down for a moment to identify them. Then develop your action plan and act on it.
If you want support in your work, you know how to contact me. It’s not wrong to be able to talk to someone outside the organisation. Otherwise, it can easily become sensitive and there is a risk of bias.
Wishing you a fantastic autumn week. Well, I guess we could say that autumn is here…
And I wish you luck in identifying committed and counter-active people.
PS. I know you can do the math, but I’ve made the simple matrix below just to show how many people are actually behind the percentages I mention above. It’s so easy to just see the % sign and not actually see that there are a number of people in the business who are in each category.
How many do you have in each category?