LEADERSHIP: Are you a genius or an idiot? Just ask your employees

September 25, 2006

Do me a favor.

Take out a piece of paper and draw a line across the middle from left to right. On the far left side of the line, put the letter "I," and on the far right side of the line, place the letter "G."

Now set this piece of paper aside for just a minute and let's address one of the biggest challenges facing leaders today-getting the most out of every member of your team.

Regardless of where you are in your leadership journey, each of you has employees who spend time complaining about their job, or working at half speed to get back at their employer for unfair treatment. These employees aren't fully committed and loyal to the company and its leadership.

Why? There are thousands of reasons, many of which have been addressed in my past columns. However, this piece isn't going to deal with any of them. Instead, in this space I am going to focus on getting these employees to make a choice about how they behave at work.

Now, please refer back to the "I-G" line you just sketched. I call this figure "The Loyalty Spectrum" and argue that the employees who complain frequently and who work at far less than their capacity are stuck in the middle of this spectrum.

Here's how it works: The Loyalty Spectrum has two extremes. On the far left, here you see an "I," which stands for "Idiot." The employee who falls on this end of the spectrum has the following opinions about leadership at the company (in other words, "Our leaders are idiots"):

They pay me far less than I am worth.

They don't care at all about the growth of my career.

They are making bad decisions and running the company into the ground.

They are dishonest, have bad character and no integrity.

On the far right, you see a "G," which stands for "Genius." The employee on this side of the spectrum has the following opinions about leadership at the company (in other words, "Our leaders are geniuses"):

They pay me at or above my market value.

They are completely dedicated to the growth of my career.

They are making the right decisions and helping the company to grow profitably.

They are honest, have impeccable character and their integrity is never in question.

The problem is that most employees fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. If their bosses just gave them a raise or implemented one of their suggestions, then leadership is viewed as geniuses. On the other hand, if they just received a memo indicating a change with which they disagree, then they believe the company is run by a bunch of idiots.

Obviously, it is difficult to get consistent support and productivity out of employees whose work attitude and behavior is tied to ever-changing circumstances.

As a leader, you must get your employees to choose one end of the Loyalty Spectrum. Staying in the middle is no longer acceptable. As a result, if they aren't close to the "G" (far right) they need to quit and get another job, because this isn't the right place for them to work.

Now, before you criticize this line of thinking, let me be clear-positioning themselves near the "G" doesn't mean that an employee agrees with every decision that is made by leadership. In fact, you should encourage your team to provide constant feedback, no matter how critical it may be.

However, by placing themselves near the "G," they are showing trust that leadership is taking the company in the right direction and providing the employee with a fair wage and an opportunity to grow.

Before you post this diagram in the break room and tell your staff to pencil in their name somewhere on the spectrum, let me warn you that employing this tool is difficult. It will result in many uncomfortable conversations and people will leave.

However, if you want to get the most out of your team, increase productivity and improve morale, give this process some consideration. When you're ready, insist that your employees pick a side, far left (I) or far right (G). It will help you get rid of the dead weight so that you can really begin to pick up speed.

Remember, there is no more living in the middle.



McClanahan is a business coach and inspirational speaker with ReachMore Strategies. He can be reached at 576-8492 or cjm@goreachmore.com.
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