I’m presently reading The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career by Jack and Suzy Welch.1 So far, it’s chock full of practical suggestions on how to be a great leader in business, including how to push employee engagement up. And given their track records (Jack began his career with the General Electric Company in 1960, became its eighth chairman and CEO in 1981, and was named “Manager of the Century” by Fortune magazine in 2000. His wife Suzy is a bestselling author, television commentator, and noted business journalist. Her last book, 10-10-10, made the New York Times Best Seller List.) So I’m inclined to give their advice credence.
One thought that really caught my attention is that leaders “Joyfully Demonstrate the ‘Generosity Gene’” They go on to explain that great leaders are generous with the salaries they pay, the bonuses they give, their willingness to invest in employee development, the time they devote to connecting with employees on a personal level, and with the praise that they lavish on their employees for their accomplishments. When they do these things, the changes of employee engagement roar upward.
Perhaps you’ve had the experience of working for someone you consider stingy with any or all of these factors. I call them “pay cheapskates” and/or “praise misers.” They’re always trying to get the most out of their employees for the smallest price. The problem is that you almost always get what you pay for.
Consider Walmart. For years we’ve heard complaints from its employees about the low pay, lack of healthcare coverage, absence of benefits and the unpleasant working conditions. Walmart employees have even demonstrated in mass in front of its stores to make sure the public knows how stingy Walmart is. That’s engagement alright, but not the kind of engagement a company wants. The good news is that Walmart has finally started listening and has begun raising pay and adding benefits. And, of course, is now having to spend enormous amounts of money on TV advertising to convince us, the public that they really do care about their employees and that they have this wonderful working culture. RIGHT????
Meanwhile, Costco has always offered higher pay, better benefits, and a friendlier working environment than Walmart and for some odd reason, Costco never has to spend money on advertising to convince us how much they care about their employees or how great their culture is. They just do it.
It sure confirms for me the wisdom of what Jack and Suzy Welsh offer:
Demonstrating the ‘Generosity Gene Raises Employee Engagement
So, you may be saying to yourself, “That’s all well and good, but I’m just a middle manager in my organization with no power to raise pay, increase benefits or even invest in employee development. What can I do?”
My suggestion would be to run with that over which you have control: your presence; your willingness to spend time developing your employees; your willingness to recognize their good work and help them learn from their mistakes; and most of all, your willingness to acknowledge and praise the good work they do. It’s what great leaders do.
1 Welch, Jack; Welch, Suzy (2015-04-14). The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career (Kindle Location 489). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.