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America, We Have a Problem

“America, we have a problem” wrote Andrea Hsu for her NPR broadcast. Recently “the Gallup survey of roughly 67,000 people in 2022 found only 32% of workers are engaged with their work compared with 36% in 2020… and, the share of workers found to be ‘actively disengaged’ has risen since 2020.” According to Jim Harter, chief workplace scientist at Gallup and author of the new report, "there's a growing disconnect between employee and employer which by its nature doesn't lend itself to loyalty or long-term relationships between employees and employers. Workers may feel less motivated to put their best selves forward.” The broadcast went on to say the “employee engagement” situation is only getting worse, that no one has a playbook and that good managers are more important than ever. On this last point, I totally agree. High level managers set direction, establish goals and institute behavioral norms for the organization. Mid-level managers have direct contact with employees and can ascertain the abilities, needs and desires of the individuals they lead. Managers either create trust or demolish it. About the lack of a “playbook,” I disagree. We’ve found that companies that embrace Values-Based Leadership (VBL) throughout their organizations benefit from greater employee engagement and higher levels of trust which together yield better business results. Foundational elements of VBL are:

  1. VBL focuses first on the unique value proposition of individuals, their personal missions, dreams and desires, their aptitudes, and their personalities. VBL helps align who they are with what they do. It builds on individual strengths while identifying and working around weaknesses. It creates an atmosphere for confidence where employees can put their best foot forward. VBL also helps people understand who they are, and perhaps more importantly, who they are not. This understanding illuminates the benefit of appreciating the abilities of others, which helps to create a culture that embraces teamwork and values the contributions of those who bring talents different from our own.

  2. VBL articulates a compelling purpose for the organization, aligning each individuals’ value proposition to work that satisfies and fulfills, to work that matters to them and for which they are individually valued. VBL guides leaders to commit themselves to achieving the purpose and goals of the organization, selflessly raising others up to deliver results for the benefits of clients, customers, and others they serve.

  3. VBL identifies common values that lay foundation for consistent, widely understood behavioral norms, which become the bedrock of the company’s culture, thereby creating an environment where people feel safe, valued and appreciated, and where employees respond with greater work effort and increased loyalty.

Yes America, we do have a problem but, there is way forward. Values-Based Leadership is that way.

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