Employees vs. Disciples

Companies don’t want employees.  They want disciples.  Here’s why.

Employees contract labor/skill/time for money.  Seems reasonable.  However, when employees feel abused, put upon, overworked, underappreciated or otherwise maligned, a renegotiation occurs in this contract.  And the tough part is, the leadership isn’t invited to the table.

The employee who is feeling maligned decides that the price for their services has just gone up.  Do they march into the bosses’ office and demand a raise?  No, because they know they wouldn’t get it.  No, the average employee is more cunning than that, and will simply work less effectively. 

Minimal effort for minimal appreciation.  In the employee’s mind, that’s fair.

So what is the result?  Because an employee feels maligned, they strive for bare adequacy.  Just enough that the boss can’t justify punishment.  And the boss knows the employee can do better.  A well-trained monkey could do better in some cases.  But because the work is adequate, attempting to get more out of the employee becomes an incentive/intimidation/carrot/stick game.  Here’s a thought: stop playing games.

The employee isn’t lazy, in almost all cases.  Their pissed/frustrated/upset.  And they will feel justified in working less effectively. 

Study after study shows that money doesn’t solve this problem.  Giving people raises doesn’t solve the interpersonal dynamic between employee and supervisor.

No company in the world can buy happy employees.  They must be made.  

Disciples, on the other hand, willingly volunteer to sacrifice for the cause.  Why?  Because they believe.  They believe that the cause is worth their best efforts.  And so the disciple’s time, energy, creativity! and willingness to sacrifice are all deployed in furthering the cause.  

Notice that money didn’t enter anywhere into the above scenario?  All the best a person has to give cannot be bought with money.  So what’s the price for these golden nuggets of performance?

I learned a very powerful rule when I served on a management team that has served me well since.  I believe it would effectively combat the problem of the merely adequate employee.

When you want somebody to do something for you, make it as easy as possible for them to do it.

For leaders, this means personal sacrifice to make your employee’s day easier.  This means willingness to listen to ANYTHING the employee has going on. This means noticing when an employee coached themselves to better performance and making a big deal out of that.  This means listening intently when the employee says “I’ve been thinking about ways to improve the process.”  If they miss, no problem.  Give them some guidance and encourage them to try again.  You just don’t know when you are staring a future plant manager in the face.

Smooth out road blocks, be aware of interpersonal tension and strive to resolve it where possible.  

People are people, not cogs in a machine.  They have lives that they are connected to 24/7.  Feelings cannot be turned off.  All the influences on an employee have to be taken into account when asking for the very best.  

A breakup text from a long-time significant other WILL affect the production line.  And if it affects the production line, managers, its in your bailiwick.  You don’t have to solve their problem.  Just validate it.  Listen.  If they ask for advice, do your best to share some. 

Have a heart.  Be a human.

You don’t have to baby them to be kind.  They don’t need to have the day/week/month off or some hefty bonus.  They need a sincere word of kindness from you and a 20 minute break to get cleaned up so they aren’t embarrassed or asked unwanted questions.  And an understanding that they may need a day off because they have to move.

That interaction will buy you weeks and weeks of good faith effort from your employee IF your sincerity holds.  That employee is now a disciple, because they believe you actually care.  And they believe it because you have shown a pattern of caring, especially when it mattered most.

That disciples cannot be bought is GOOD news, not bad.  Disciples would be far too expensive if all the best qualities had to be equitably financed.  Disciples are paid in appreciation, respect, and access to growth opportunities.  Disciples are earned, made and kept by intangibles that can’t go on a balance sheet, yet the bottom line will bear the fruit of the seeds leadership plants.

Today’s invite:  Lead compassionately. 

Seek to understand the situation in full before trying to “fix” it.  Brotherly kindness never goes out of style.

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