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.
Each one of us has our own primary or preferred style of communication, and this is something that affects how we show up in pretty much every area of our lives. This is obviously the case in how we speak, write, or behave towards others, but how we occur to ourselves is also subtly influenced by our preferred style of communication. Whether this primary style is rooted in our temperament and natural inclination to be and show up a certain way, or whether it is reinforced and consciously cultivated by the successes we have had using it, we are attached to our preferred style, for better or worse. In the absence of intentional effort to be and show up differently, our default tendencies will always take us back to our familiar mode of operation, even if it may not be the most effective way of conveying our message. This is an important distinction in general, but it is one that it is especially pertinent for speakers to understand and put into action.
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.
The title of this post has probably already driven some people away and it may have some of you who decided to check it out wondering, “What does love got to do with leadership?” My answer is, of course, “Everything!” That may sound way too “kumbaya,” but I’m not going to apologize for it because it’s the truth. The bottom line is that if you do not love your people, you will fall short in leading them and you will most certainly not serve them to the best of your ability.
I’m going to let you in on a secret about me: I hate discipline! Not only do I hate it myself, I can’t even fathom why and how someone could like it at all. I mean, I understand that there is a lot of good stuff produced by exercising maturity and having the discipline to do what you don’t want to do in the present so that you get to have what you want to have in the future. I have personally experienced the joy of having accomplished a few things in my life that would not have been possible if I just did what I felt like at the time, but that doesn’t mean I like discipline. It just means that I like what discipline produces.