Imagine the coolest racing car ever built. And you are the one in charge.You are ambitiously leading the construction team. You have a vivid image of how the finished car will be. It will be unique, something new to the world, and you feel really proud being a part of this project.

You have been assigned a skilled team, and you work around the clock.Every night when you head home you are feeling eager. You can not wait to get up the next morning, continuing to approach the finish line. You do, however, wonder why you are not proceeding in the pace you think you should. Things you thought was long ago fixed still need a lot of work. What is happening? Is someone sabotaging the project?

I hate saying it, but there is a sad truth about the workplace.As stated in Harvard Business Review “Just 30% of employees are actively committed to doing a good job. According to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report, 50% of employees merely put their time in, while the remaining 20% act out their discontent in counterproductive ways, negatively influencing their coworkers, missing days on the job, and driving customers away through poor service. Gallup estimates that the 20% group alone costs the U.S. economy around half a trillion dollars each year.” (Blue Ocean Leadership, HBR May 2014).

European corporations might sigh of relief thinking this is not relevant for them, given this being an American study, but – sorry folks – the international Towers Watson Global Workforce Study from 2013 which covers Europe also supports these numbers.

There are numerous interesting aspects here, and a topic we in Brainwells are WAY above average interested in, but first this:

When your employees are not committed, someone even being ACTIVELY disengaged, this means that when your team is busy developing something, for instance the awesome racing car, you need to know what is going on: While some committed individuals are working their butt off, others are just hanging around, free-riding the project, and there’s even a few actually tearing down what you just built. This might be done consciously or not, but the result is that everyone have to spend way more resources and energy on a project than what should be expected. And that is a problem. Of course it is.

We work with executives and leaders on a daily basis. What we see is that there are two kinds of leaders: There are leaders who acknowledge the fact that this is a problem and act accordingly, and there are leaders who either ignore it or are not conscious about this fact, and thereby do not take any action to avoid it.

According to the Gallup report, poor leadership IS a key factor to a poorly engaged working force. Leaders who understand that the challenges in today’s working life require different thinking and different leadership skills will be the winners in tomorrow’s corporate race. It’s all about maximizing the potential of your employees, and this happens through engagement.

If you have ambitions to be a leaders for the future, you should make sure that you master this: How do you as a leader engage your team, your entire team?
If you do not know this, or try to do it in a way that does not work – it might seem like a tough decision to ask for help, but it might be even harder to wake up some years into the future and figure it is too late.

Questions to reflect upon:
Here’s a few questions that you might find valuable to reflect upon. (And please feel free to comment. Remember that together we are a well of knowledge, and your input is valuable for all.)

  • If you are part of a team, whatever size, do you know who is engaged and who is not?
  • Do you ever think about what impact the disengaged ones have on the ones engaged? What is the culture in your team when it comes to allowing the disengaged ones to infect their negative attitude to the ones who are engaged?
  • If you are a leader, are you conscious about your direct impact engagement?
  • If you are an employee, do you reflect upon your own engagement now and then?

(This post was originally posted in the blog