Dialed In or Checked Out?

hand-977641_640Do you remember your first day on the job?

Do you remember the sense of excitement you felt? Perhaps you felt butterflies in your stomach or the rush of a quickened heartbeat. Every sense was alive as you entered that new environment. Every sight and sound was a fresh experience. You drank in every moment with a heightened sense of expectation.

What was it that excited you that day? Was it the prospect of a new job role? Certainly, the idea of taking on a new set of responsibilities (and possibilities) is an exciting one. Was it the idea of meeting new people? The first few days of feeling out a new team are always filled with anticipation. Or maybe it was something larger – being part of the organization’s larger purpose that fueled your excitement. Being a part of something significant has always been a source of motivation for me.

What about today? How have your feelings about your job changed since that first, possibility laden day? Does the work still excite you? Are you still energized by those around you and the work you accomplishing together?

Or is the thrill gone? Has your excitement given way to apathy? Has the pride in your mission been replaced by a daily feeling of dread? Are you still fueled by a sense of purpose or have you run out of gas? Have you simply quit and forgot to tell anyone?

A recent Gallup poll found that only 30% of American workers are engaged, meaning they work with “passion and feel a connection with their company.” That means seven out of every ten employees have lost their motivation to deliver their best. Of those seven, five (52%) say they have “checked out.” They sleep walk through the day, putting in their time, but not their best effort.  They’re simply going through the motions. Their mind is elsewhere. Their focus is on something other than improving efficiency, satisfying the customer, or growing the business.

The other 18% are what Gallup calls “actively disengaged.” These people aren’t just unhappy. Every day, they work to undermine the progress made by their engaged coworkers. Imagine that for just a moment. For every team of ten people, two are likely to be waging a war of sabotage – moving the opposite direction of everyone else.

How does this happen? How do excited, engaged, purpose-driven employees turn into saboteurs? Where did the passion go? What happened to their motivation?

There are any number of theories about what drives an employee’s motivation, but a lot of it comes down to culture. Culture has been described as the operating system of an organization. During a workshop last year, I asked attendees how they would define “culture.” The best response was the simplest: “It’s how things work around here.”

How’s the culture in your organization? If the members of your team were to answer honestly, how would they describe their level of engagement? Are they filled with passion? Are they checked out? Or are they actively disengaged?

As leaders, we are the keepers of the culture. It falls to us to protect and cultivate the type of work environment that attracts top talent and motivates them to continue performing at their best. It is, in fact, the essence of leadership.[Tweet “Leaders are the keepers of culture.”]

Great cultures are difficult to build. That’s why there are so few around. That’s why studies like the one conducted by Gallup revel such disappointing numbers regarding employee engagement. But the leaders of high performing organizations understand the importance of culture. They believe the struggle is an important one.

So, do you remember your first day on the job? It’s not too late to recapture that magic. Culture is a living, breathing entity. The energy and excitement that once drew people in may simply have gone dormant. Tap into the passion and energy you and your team long to feel and get to work. It may be the only work that matters.


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