As a leader, I bet that you can easily categorise the members of your team if I ask you to.
Who are the office heroes, who are the extras and who are the dreaded working dead, the office zombies?
These people are chock-full of passion, energy, ideas and vision. They never give the bare minimum of effort on any project you pass to them; they’ll grab the task with both hands, expand the scope of it and bring you results better than you could have imagined.
They’re also cultural superheroes, the ultimate defenders of team morale. They make a real effort to connect with all of their colleagues, know the name of everyone’s kids and gleefully take on the role of Team Birthday Coordinator. They keep your team running like clockwork when you’re away, and they bring their A-game every single day – almost. After all, they’re still human, right?
Office Extras are much like extras in the movies; they stand around in the background, not bothering anyone much, keeping quiet and doing as they’re told. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not going to cause you any great trouble or stress – but nor are they going to set the corporate world alight.
They’ve probably been in their role for quite a few years, and their enthusiasm has been slowly worn away by bureaucracy, constant change and just, well, the same old-same old that comes with long service. They’re as reliable as a steady old car, but sometimes what you really need is a sporty little number that has flair, style and is capable of hitting top speed when you need it.
These are the Office Extras to the power of a million. Their motivation had a DNR order slapped on it years ago, and now they are going through the motions, doing very little good and a whole lot of bad. For it is the darker side of the Office Zombie that is the real problem; like zombies from all good horror movies, they’re not content to be taken down alone. They’ve got to (metaphorically) bite into the necks of the Heroes and take them over to the dark side too. Not content until they’ve infected the entire team with the poison of their disillusion, they are the real ones to keep a wary eye on.
So, as the leader, how on earth do you get the most from the people in these varying groups?
Meeting the needs of your team
As a leader, I’ve managed very few people who are so demotivated that I would class them as a true Office Zombie. There is a spark that can potentially be reignited in almost everyone and it’s your duty as a leader never to give up on any willing member of your team. Coaching is the key to building brilliant relationships with absolutely everyone in your team, no matter their situation, attitude or potential.
However, should you encounter a true Office Zombie, wish them well if they choose to move on. As a leader, you have to let people shine, and if that’s not going to happen in your organisation, then wave them off into the sunset, hopefully to become the Office Hero of their new adventure.