We live in a world in which the vast majority of people are simply tolerating their jobs and we think it’s normal for things to be that way. Very few people are excited about going to work, something that holds true regardless of industry or place on the organizational chart. Although there are some solid statistics that show this is the case, you don’t have to look further than the people around you or your friends—or even in the mirror—to know that most of us aren’t celebrating the opportunity to go to work and participate in making a meaningful contributions to our teams and clients while growing and feeling recognized and rewarded.
When it comes to the outcomes in our personal and professional lives, there is basically no factor more important than the decisions we make, or fail to make. Our decisions are at the root of almost every experience we have, both good and bad. While our starting points may differ, our decisions are what set things in motion and initiate behaviors that will become habits that deliver the results we produce. That being the case, it would make sense for us to approach our decisions as effectively as possibly, but unfortunately, in many organizations especially, that is not the case.
Let’s face it: just about every organization out there is full of opportunities to improve communication. The only real difference between them is that some realize it, and some don’t. For every organization that has acknowledged the issue and is actively working on it, there are many more that either have a case of “deer in the headlights” or are in full-blown denial.
The defining moments of the culture transformation journey are those moments when someone decides to sign up, go beyond compliance, and truly commit to a cause greater than themselves. These moments can come about when someone reads something, hears something, engages in a conversation, or has a certain experience, and suddenly feels a connection to the movement. These defining moments have the possibility of occurring all around us every day, but we can only seize those opportunities by keeping ourselves open to them by keeping ourselves in the right conversations and frame of mind, connecting with the person or groups we are speaking to, and by being on the lookout for reasons to choose to offer up our own genuine commitment to the cause. To convince others to join the cause, they need to know that we are not just interested in going through the motions of implementing programs and checking boxes while skirting the real issues and avoiding the real conversations. Unfortunately, most of these opportunities are squandered while we are too busy talking about them but not really saying and doing anything that makes a real difference. More often than not, it is the corporate leadership that has difficulty conveying and cultivating these defining moments, if for no other reason than the fact that they often take bird’s eye view, while frontline leaders are in the trenches and can quickly tell what works and what doesn’t.
Before I continue with this post, allow me to pre-emptively address some criticism: I know to some people I’m already “cussing in church” when it comes to the title! I am well aware that I’ve already offended those of you who invest so much in the hallowed tradition of making sure that just one of your employees feel special every month. You maybe have clicked on this post just to object! If that is you, then I’d ask you to bear with me. I realize I have a strong opinion about this topic and I’d like to make a case for my opinion. I also respect your strong opinion to the contrary and if you write a post or comment in support of your position, I promise to read and consider it. With that said, let me tell you why your “Employee of the Month” program—and a few other things you do in the name of recognizing your people—may be doing you more harm than good.