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Success Versus Significance
By Roy W. Jones
Sep 19, 2002 - 4:38:00 PM

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Post 9/11, many people are re-evaluating their lives, and focusing on the �important� things. Our minds are occupied with family, friends, peace of mind, and concentrating on not leaving any loose ends.

The single largest hope most of us have is that what we have done has been important. We desire to be more than successful. We want to know that what we do is significant. It is the need to know that our lives have really meant something. It is the question of why we are here. That is the true measure of immortality.

The challenge for business is to blend the goals and objectives of the organization with the needs and desires of the individual. Working is not, and has never been, about money but what the money can provide.

We spend so many of our waking hours with our co-workers and supervisors, our customers and bosses, that we need to know the time was spent doing �important� work, work that makes a difference.
Roy Jones

During WWII, soldiers wounded in combat were often returned to the fighting, only to be wounded again. In many cases they were sent back several times until they ended up as a fatality. They were sent back until they were finally used up, like fuel, supplies, or vehicles.

Soldiers competed to be transferred into General George Patton�s 3rd Army, because he had the lowest combat casualty rates in the European Theater. The reason his rates were low was because he would break off an engagement with the enemy, if the objective hadn�t been taken within two hours. His reasoning was that after two hours fatigue would set in, and mistakes would begin to cause a high casualty rate. Supplies would begin to run short and the enemy would begin regrouping. General Patton wouldn�t keep throwing men back into a losing situation and just use them up. He set realistic, achievable objectives, and if the objective wasn�t taken within the specified time, he would withdraw and develop a new approach or plan.

In today�s business environment, most employees have come to expect portability of job skills and training, and only a short tenure before moving on to other opportunities. Employees today, refuse to be continually thrown into a situation that uses them up. They need to know what they do is important. Our challenges as managers and leaders include; growing our business, training and developing our teams, and finding ways to retain them for the long haul.

How do we keep our most valuable resource, our people?

The survival of our businesses, the prosperity of our communities, and the future of our nation, requires that we make full use of each person�s talents, skills, and abilities. People want the time they spend to result in �significance�, not just success. They want to be part of something greater than themselves.

Dr. Scott Simmerman says, �No one ever washes a rental car�. Why is that? Is it because we don�t own any part of it? Because we don�t have a vested interest in the outcome? Most assuredly that is a huge part of the reason. The same could be said for most employees today. They don�t own a piece of the job they perform. They have little or no input into the flow of the work, the layout, or design of their job description. Lack of involvement and lack of ownership are important causes of much of the resistance to change.

A recent study from Yale University, of some firms in Japan, noted that workers could identify and provide workable solutions to production problems 44% of the time. Middle managers could do the same 11% of the time, and senior management could only do so 4% of the time.

It seems that part of the answer to employee motivation and loyalty lies with the employees themselves, and how we utilize what they bring to the table. How do we train, develop and retain, the best and the brightest?

Companies must not merely survive, but they need to be able to thrive in today�s global environment. Here are 14 guidelines to achieve employee �buy-in�.

1. Open the communication.
Talk with them. ASK QUESTIONS. Be sure to listen with both your eyes and ears. Also, if your culture is such that employees are encouraged to come forth with their ideas and you don't listen, you will end up managing a bunch of robots who go through the motions of their job and never put their hearts and souls into their work.

2. Listen to them.
Find out what they already know. You need to get out from behind your desk or cubicle and talk to the people in your company and in the field. Have the courage to seek the truth. The higher you are on the organizational chart, the more difficult it is to discover the truth.

3. Develop employee�s trust.
Have integrity in all things, not just some things. Integrity is not a part time thing. Build a bond of trust. Just as soldiers entrust their well being to military leaders, teammates must be able to do the same with you. Every encounter gives you the chance to make a small deposit in the "trust account" you have set up with them. It's as easy as keeping promises, being punctual, and showing courtesy.

4. Develop them to move up.
It really doesn't matter what we pay for an investment. What's relevant is what we get in return. Invest for the long haul. Is the effective development of your company�s people a luxury? It has to be for the long haul. What we know becomes obsolete within five years. We can�t afford lack of development of our greatest asset, our people.

5. Align company goals with personal goals.
People join and stay with companies where they feel valued and are able to contribute value. It�s a two-way street, giving and getting value. Employees have a life and a destination. If employees cannot align their jobs with the employer and with where they are going in their lives, they will eventually seek a greener pasture. Do your employees see their position as a vehicle to get them to where they want to go in life financially, professionally, and socially or is their job an expedient trade of their time for a paycheck?

6. Empower employees.
You�re the number one reason for employees� loyalty to your company. Are your actions in line with this fact? Do you wake up each day (or at least the majority of them) and say, "How can I serve my team today so that they�re more effective?" Stop� Do you really?

7. Encourage mistakes.
We learn best from them. People learn from experience, not from being told. . They need to experience failure, and success. Thomas Edison was interviewed about his �hundreds of failures� during the development of the light bulb. He said, �I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work�. Failure should not be a roadblock; instead it should be a milestone to mark progress.

8. Become a learning culture.
Encourage learning. An organization is where they are currently, in terms of competence and success, in direct relationship to what they know, and how well they apply what they know. One of the best ways to jeopardize an organization's future in today's world, and increase the probability of troubled times, is to look at becoming a learning culture as a cost, and then pay the price of not encouraging it.

9. Make it a fun place to work.
Humor helps establish communication and rapport. Laughter knows no cultural boundaries. You don't have to speak the same language to laugh together. Humor increases learning and retention, and laughing stimulates both sides of the brain. People get the message quicker and remember it longer.

10. Reveal the �Big Picture�.
Show them where they fit into it. People want and need to feel that they are "insiders", that they are aware of everything that is going on. There is nothing more demoralizing to a staff member than to be kept in the dark about their work, and what is going on in the company. Show them how their attention to detail supports the larger view. People work best when the effort has a tangible result or when the outcome can be seen.

11. Train constantly.
Assuming your staff will eventually "catch-on", or automatically know how to serve customers, is a major mistake. Fail to train people in customer service, leadership, sales, communication, and team skills and your organization's competencies will decline. Encourage professional development and make training a high priority for everyone.

12. Appreciate everyone.
People who work hard want to feel appreciated or recognized for their work. The manager or leader, who believes that people need no recognition and should be content simply to have their jobs, will not get the most out of his or her employees. The simplest, most effective form of appreciation is �Thank You�.

13. Hire slowly, fire fast.
"One bad apple�" can indeed spoil many others. Top performers almost always exceed the performance of average workers by at least 25 percent. It is absolutely critical that your people know what is expected of them. This can save endless grief and expense later down the line.

14. Motivation.
The truth is you can't really motivate anybody, but you can create a self-motivating environment in which your people will yearn to achieve more. The most effective motivations connect with the values of each individual.

Common sense would indicate that organizations, managers, and leaders that focus on customer loyalty via a motivated workforce, will outperform those that aren�t. The benefits to adopt these guidelines include higher profit margins, increased sales, larger market share, greater net income per employee, lower costs, better asset utilization, and increased innovation.

By using these guidelines what have you got to lose? You may find yourself becoming more than merely successful; you just may become significant!

Roy Jones is an international business speaker, trainer, and consultant, who helps his clients outdistance the competition, improve their productivity, and increase their profitability. Contact him at 405-317-9490, [email protected], or visit www.RoyJones.biz. � Copyright 2002 Roy Jones

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