Though I am an external consultant, I often work with clients for many years and this allows me to get to know and understand their leaders and culture. I covet this because the truth is I often miss being a part of a team. So working with clients long-term, nurtures my need to do meaningful work that creates a tangible and positive impact. This type of work, grounded in knowledge and influence, always requires greater relationship and trust whether you are an internal employee or an external consultant.
After transitioning from an interim executive role (I wrote about this in my last blog post), I was struck by the elevated standards that organizations are now setting for leaders and their teams. And truthfully, I see this at most of my clients. It used to be enough to deliver outstanding results, but more than ever organizations are rigorously tracking how this gets done and the impact on their workforce. I see more genuine concern for whether employees are being offered opportunities to develop in a work environment where their leader cares about them.
Beyond all the engagement surveying clients do, I observe this in the myriad other ways. Especially in the conversations I have with leaders. I hear it discussed often in executive team meetings and routinely when working with client boards. There is greater awareness and effort to create working environments where employees can excel both professionally and personally.
But when I talk with the rank and file or review client engagement surveys, it’s clear that most organizations are still working to crack the code and have some disconnect between what they are intending and what is actually experienced by employees. Our work and employers are now more responsible than ever for delivering more of the meaning, learning, development and connection that we human beings want in our lives. This used to be the function of our religious, civic and membership organizations. But fewer of us are joining these.
Companies own (at least) part of this. With technology, we are now almost always available and “on”, no matter where we are. And the metrics for engagement have changed. Work is demanding, whether directly or implied, more of our attention. So it makes sense that we are relying on work to meet more of our human needs.
It’s also creating a new employment contract that goes something like this, “I commit to working way more than I should. You, employer, commit to creating a place where I can do meaningful work that I care about, where I can learn and experience positive relationships and connection, and where I know my manager cares about me as a human being.” It’s a tall order. It’s all doable. But it takes a very intentional and integral, whole systems, approach. And it takes time. There isn’t usually a quick fix or the promised “five simple steps” because each organization is unique. This work is at the core of why my organization development practice exists and I’d like to help more organizations achieve it.
Moira Clarke founded Leadership Consulting Partners 19 years ago to help companies advance their leadership and people systems. If you are reading this to the end, and you find value, please say so and share with others on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you!
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.