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Employee Engagement 21 May 2012

Concerned about employee disengagement?

Do you walk the middle path?

Leaders today are more overworked than I have ever seen in the past twenty years and are expected to perform at increasingly high levels, day in and day out...

They are faced with crises and difficult situations on a regular basis including an alarming trend noted by the recent Gallup poll: rising employee disengagement. The poll said, “Seventy-one percent of American workers are ‘not engaged’ or ‘actively disengaged’ in their work, meaning they are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and are less likely to be productive”.

For each of us every day can be what Joseph Campbell described as the Hero’s Journey: apparent stability, crisis, self-reflection and learning. In his interview with Bill Moyer some years ago Campbell talks about the ultimate aim of the Hero's quest "must be neither the release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and power to serve others".

For those in leadership positions this quote reflects one of the most important issues that face them today: How do they effectively respond to the onslaught of issues and challenges and not lose sight of the core purpose of leadership: Being of service to the organization, to customers, key stakeholders, and the members of their team.

Will they build a positive reputation and behave in such a way that brings out their highest values and encourages the same in others? Or do they find themselves using unproductive patterns of behavior that leave people feeling beat up, micro managed, unsupported and disengaged?

 

How to respond in the 'middle path' manner

My experience coaching many leaders over the past few years is that under pressure most tend to lean on what comes naturally to them: If they have a preference for being aggressive they tend to be brutally honest, wearing their heart on their sleeve as they like to say.

If they tend to be more passive they often hold back an essential part of their deeper truth and deliver cosmetically acceptable feedback that skirts the real issue but keeps things pleasant. Neither extreme is effective in creating employee engagement and an organization that can have long term sustainable success. 

The key is to respond in a balanced, “middle path” manner that honors the positive aspects being aggressive or passive and integrates them into effective leadership behaviors.  For example, a balanced approach when delivering tough feedback to an employee integrates a positive aspect of being aggressive (directness), with a positive aspect of being passive (respect). 

Here are some other examples of leadership attitudes and behaviors that are balanced and those that are not:

 

Aggressive

Balanced

Passive

Arrogance 
Blame others
Goals in lieu of values
Brutally honest 
Advocate only 
Setting unilateral expectations 
Foolhardiness
Business first

Humility
Mutual Accountability
Goals and Values Aligned 
Honest and respectful
Dialogue
Developing mutual accountability
Courage
Integrated socio-technical system

Deferent
Blame Self
Values No Goals
Respectful
Inquire Only
Saying Yes Unconditionally
Cowardice
People First


The concept of balance is also a key principle deeply imbedded in the four color energies. Take Fiery Red Energy for example: The aspects of being competitive, demanding, and purposeful when displayed in their most positive form are very effective in creating results.

When they are overused or underused they can become liabilities as shown below:

 

Aggressive

Balanced

Passive

Being overly directive and dismissive of others opinions

Determining direction and initiating key actions

Trying to please everyone and not taking a stand

 

Can you be a hero when faced with a challenge?

Each of us is a “hero” in our own journey. When we are faced with a challenge, a crisis, or a tough situation the question is: How will we respond? Can we maintain our balance and manifest the most positive dimension of the color energy best suited for that response? Or will we become too aggressive or too passive? The more aware we are of our own tendencies, patterns, strengths and weaknesses the more likely we are to walk the “middle path” and face the challenges with an ultimate focus of service to others.

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