In a nutshell…
- There is a lot of attention on what it takes to be a leader and manager. However, leaders and managers need good employees.
- There are scores of books and training courses to help us become better leaders and managers. However, there are few books and courses on the subject of being a good employee.
- Employeeship is a TMI concept that addresses the question, “What does it take to be a good employee?”
- Employeeship is about playing for ourselves, our teams and for the organisation to win.
- There are three key Employeeship attributes: Responsibility, Loyalty and Initiative.
There are lots of books on what it takes to be a good leader…but very few on what it takes to be a good employee
There is a heavy burden on the shoulders of leaders and managers. It is commonly believed that this group of people is responsible for almost everything –financial performance, people management, morale, customer satisfaction, systems management, and the list goes on. Organisational performance – from success to failure – is attributed to good or poor management. In response, there is a thriving leadership development industry comprising thousands of books, countless seminars and training programs and scores of gurus that focus on helping people to become better leaders and managers.
But leadership performance is only one part of the organisational success equation. I am sure that you will agree that in addition to great leaders, organisations need to have great employees on their teams. So where are the books, seminars and courses on what it takes to be a great employee? In this article, I am going to introduce you to a TMI concept that focuses on this subject. It’s called Employeeship. Let me explain…
Three key attributes of Employeeship: Responsibility, Loyalty and Initiative
Let’s start with the crucial question: what does it take to be a good employee? TMI has asked this question of top managers, middle managers and staff all over the world. Among the most frequent responses were that good employees are reliable, flexible, organised, motivated, team focused, professionally competent, have a positive attitude, keep their promises, and follow through to achieve goals.
TMI has distilled these responses down to three key attributes – Responsibility, Loyalty and Initiative. We refer to these three attributes to be the cornerstones of Employeeship. They are the cornerstones of employees who play for themselves and for the whole team to win the game of business. The Employeeship attributes apply to everyone in every organisation, from senior management to the most junior employees. We are all employees of the company, irrespective of rank!
Let’s start with the Employeeship attribute of Responsibility.
Where others stand back, complain and blame, responsible employees have a “can-do” attitude and take action. They ‘make things happen’ – for themselves, their teams and the organisation. People who do not display responsible behaviour are spectators who stand by the side-lines, do not take constructive action, and then are quick to blame others. At an organisational or team level, this translates into a “blame culture.”
As a part of the company’s cost-cutting drive, a manager asked one of his team members to develop a plan to cut costs in that department by 5%. The employee submits the plan to the manager on time. So far, so good… He has been a hard working employee. It goes downhill from here.
Blame cultures arise from a lack of Responsibility displayed in the workplace
Seven days later, the manager has not discussed the matter with the employee. What would an employee who displays Responsibility do? And, what would the response be of a person who does not display the attribute of Responsibility? Let’s start with the latter. The employee who does not display the attribute of Responsibility would “lay low” and wait until the manager raises the matter again. This employee typically thinks like this: “If the company’s cost cutting drive is that important, my manager would have spoken to me about the plan that I developed. If things go wrong, it won’t be my fault as I have done my job.” This employee will blame the manager for not following up. How often do we see people in organisations blaming others? Does it happen in your company? If there was a culture of taking ownership, of being responsible, would this level of blame exist?
The employee who displays responsible behaviour in the workplace would follow up with the manager to ask if he had been able to consider the idea. He would push the manager to make it a priority, as this is clearly an important matter.
There might have been lots of reasons for the manager not dealing with the matter, but, ultimately, the job needed to be done. And with this key Employeeship attribute embedded in an organisation we would have managers and employees moving from blaming others to taking action to make things happen.
Employees who display Responsibility are the members of the team who you can rely on when you need to get things done. They “own the problem” and follow through to completion, for their sake, the sake of the team and of the organisation.
Loyalty is the next of the three main attributes of Employeeship. Just to keep things in perspective, those in the same organisation are on the same team. They all benefit when the team wins. They should all be playing for the team to win. Right?
Have you ever heard a manager or an employee in your organisation speak openly and negatively, even destructively, about another person on the team, the team manager or another department of the organisation?
Loyal employees are united in public and have their conflicts in private
I was in a meeting with a group of managers. The team leader was sitting at the head of the table. He asked one of the other team members a question. The team member said that she had no comment. Just as the team leader looked away, the team member rolled her eyes in a very disrespectful way. Her body language clearly showed how she felt about being asked a question by the team leader. This made me and others in the room feel uncomfortable.
There is a saying, “Don’t hang out your dirty linen in public.” In short, in the words of Chris Wilson, MD of T-Systems Malaysia, “Be united in public, keep your conflicts in private.” This is very sound advice that was not adopted by the team member just mentioned.
A loyal employee does not look through life through rose-coloured glasses. This person may make constructive criticism, and may have vigorous debates at team level. But the loyal employee keeps the nature of the debates within the organisation or department. And once team decisions are made, the loyal employee will follow through.
A dis-loyal employee, on the other hand, engages in back-biting discussions about his or her boss, colleagues, other departments or the organisation that pays their wages. These discussions spread negativity. A loyal employee, when faced with this type of conversation, would take a responsible attitude and ask what could be done about the situation.
Initiative is the third element of Employeeship. Initiative is about going from idea to action, from talking to walking, from intention to behaviour. Many people are good at coming up with ideas, with talking, and many have good intentions. Initiative is displayed when the ideas are converted to action, when the talk is backed up by the walk and when the intention is converted to tangible behaviours.
People with Initiative walk the talk, go from ideas to action, go from intention to behaviour
Initiative cannot be achieved without a certain amount of responsibility and loyalty. Initiative is about action and implementation of ideas. People with initiative put their hands up and say, “I will help!” Have you ever been in a team of people who come up with ideas, but when volunteers are sought to implement the ideas, people seem to be too busy? You will find that it is a small group of people who volunteer to follow through.
There are a number of pre-requisites to people and teams displaying Initiative in the workplace. There must be well-known and accepted goals, a willingness to take risks and an acceptance of mistakes, even failures. I have witnessed companies that want to promote an innovative culture, but fear has been a major barrier. A key reason for the fear is the words that are uttered by managers when things go wrong. A fear culture, leading to lack of Initiative and a lack of innovation, is created when the management’s reaction to a mistake is to ask, ”Who is responsible?” Initiative will grow in the organisation if the question was changed to, “How did this happen…and what can I do to help?”
In many organisations, it is still believed that only the managers should take the initiative. In an Employeeship organisation, everybody, both managers and staff, take the initiative. A client of mine told me of a person who showed initiative by suggesting a new job completion checklist that would make it easier for people in the section to deliver a quality service. This person not only came up with the idea, she followed it through. This behaviour is typical of this employee who, clearly, displays Employeeship behaviour in the workplace.
Members of professional sporting teams, e.g., English Premier League football, naturally display Employeeship behaviour. They play for the team to win. The defenders are ready to support the strikers whenever needed. They don’t stop once the ball has been cleared from the opponent’s half. Now replace the colours of that team with your company colours and logo. Just imagine yourself in an Employeeship culture where every employee is playing the game to win for the whole organisation, where everyone is supporting each other to achieve the common goal. Just imagine the impact if every member of the team took responsibility, was loyal to the team and showed initiative. What difference would this make to the performance and culture of your organisation? Just imagine how many more goals this culture would help you score.
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