Maslow applied to employee engagement

Why Leadership Can Be So Darn Hard

Here’s a confession. I am a millennial is a boomer body. How’s that for stark contrast?

Why do I say this? My chronological age says I’m a boomer. But my corporate and professional history says otherwise. I have spent my whole career bucking trends, adapting technologies, and believing I can make a difference. I love working independently of cubical mazes. Nine to five is a cliche to me.

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When it comes to technology, I love the stuff. Introduce me to anything new. Once I master its use, if I see a benefit, I’m in. Waste my time with a lame idea or an even more poorly developed tech solution and I am gone. I got my first mobile phone in 1987. I brought server based networking to a large, formerly mainframe business in 1990. My LinkedIn profile has been alive since 2004.

My attention span has always been pretty short. OK not ADHD short, but brief. Boredom haunts me regularly. I like seeing things started, handed off, and then I’m ready for the next good thing.

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Because of these and many other reasons, I laugh at the raging debates about the merits of this generation or that. OK, people are struggling trying to connect in the workplace. I get it.

The Big So What

My big “so what” is that managers and leaders must navigate personalities and behavioral patterns in the workplace regardless of the socio-scientific tags put on a person.

At the core of a leader’s challenge is the reality that people come to work with a mixed bag of personal issues influencing their ability to dive right in. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs still rules. While people report for work operating at varying levels of the hierarchy, the ways in which leadership applies their skills to guide and direct forward progress must adapt.

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In true leadership, there is no one-size-fits all. The old “my way or the highway” style is very unappealing to the modern workforce (whoever you are).

My Conundrum

My situation highlights the notion that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Inner thinking, value structure, opinions, insights, worldviews, and other key drivers of behavior in the workplace can come in so many varieties. If you tried to do the math on the infinite combinations of these characteristics, well, you’d need another computer to help your smart phone.

[shareable cite=”Doug Thorpe” ]The modern worker is a complex blend of knowledge, skill, motivation, and circumstance.[/shareable]

Leaders today face a daunting challenge to create a workplace that can thrive. I’m a big fan of common sense solutions. Using Maslow’s hierarchy to understand potential drivers within each employee will go a long way to explain behaviors and build understanding.

book-banne-600x150One point of clarification though. While I advocate a broadened sensitivity to knowing where your people are coming from, there is still the overarching obligation to make things happen at work; i.e. ‘deliver the goods’. Anyone who is simply having a bad day must knuckle down and get the work done. Being a manager in that situation requires the ability to connect with the person who may be having the bad day and get them to understand the need to press forward.

The Conclusion?

How can we continue as business leaders to try to press people into convenient boxes from which we decide the style and approach with which to lead them? Yes, the occasional broad brush can work. For instance you have a whole group of trainees who need to be given material about a particular subject. The subject may be something vital to the core principles of operation for your business. That’s OK.

However, when day-to-day operation and execution are the task, then the significance of the individual personality enters into the equation. Learning your people and knowing something about their individual views of the mission can be a big step toward better performance.

Leaders must realize this and make the effort to learn their team, understand the influences that impact the people, and make decisions accordingly.