Aug. 27 2008 03:37 PM

I overheard a manager tell his team, When I tell you to jump, I dont want to hear why; I want to hear, how high. How do you think the members of that team felt? Inspired? Motivated to do their best?


A Gallup Management Journal study (October 2006) showed that 71% of employees are not engaged in the workplace and that 15% are actively disengaged. The vast majority of us dont care about work. That is why we hear, Thank God its Friday, and oh my God, its Monday.


It is a shame that we have to spend most of our waking hours in a workplace where we feel disrespected, unappreciated, stressed and unempowered. The irony is that our leaders are rewarded for producing results, and they dont see that their results are directly related to their behavior.


A 20-year research project of over one million individuals by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman showed that the productivity of an individual is determined by the relationship with his or her immediate supervisor. Yet our projects are failing. Major companies in our industry are laying off thousands of people and losing millions of dollars. We are not managing effectively. To elaborate, an August 2007 study by Dynamic Markets Limited of 800 IT managers across eight countries found the following:


62% of organizations experienced IT projects that failed to meet their schedules

49% suffered budget overruns

47% had higher-than-expected maintenance costs, and

41% failed to deliver the expected business value and ROI


The reason for failure is poor leadership and management. There is an adage, The hard stuff is the easy stuff; the easy stuff is the hard stuff. The hard stuff is the technical skills; we have those. The easy stuff is sometimes called the soft skills, like communication.


George Eckes, the primary consultant for General Electric in its Six Sigma Quality Movement and author of The Six Sigma Revolution, says, By far the greatest source of team failures is poor team dynamics and poor facilitative leadership behaviors. Approximately 60% of teams that fail have these as their major reasons. The most common problem areas we have encountered are meeting skills, setting agendas, determining the meetings roles and responsibilities, setting and keeping ground rules and facilitative behaviors.


These are the basics, and the key is facilitative behavior, what author Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence. As studies on learning have demonstrated, we dont learn effectively when we are stressed, anxious or afraid. Threatening people, explicit or implied, simply does not work. We need to create a safe, trusting environment for employees to be productive. After analyzing 181 competence models from 121 organizations worldwide, Goleman concluded, I found that 67% two out of three of the abilities deemed essential for effective performance were emotional competencies. Compared to IQ and expertise, emotional competence mattered twice as much.


Emotional intelligence, in a nutshell, is awareness of your own emotions, self regulation and appropriate expression. For example, when you are angry, instead of yelling at someone or calling them names, you get your anger under control and then have a conversation. It means that instead of barking orders, you make requests. It means saying please and thank you. It is about taking care of the people on the team, as human beings, that have feelings instead of machines. It is also about dignity and respect.


Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, authors of the book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, spent six years in researching visionary companies to determine whats special about them. To get on the list, a company had to be world famous, have a stellar brand image and be at least 50 years old. They concluded, Contrary to business school doctrine, maximizing shareholder wealth or profit maximization has not been the dominant driving force of exceptional companies. Yes, they seek profits, but theyre equally guided by core values and a sense of purpose beyond just making money. Yet paradoxically, the visionary companies make more money than the more purely profit-driven comparison companies.


So the next time someone asks why, tell them. Share your vision and values. Help them to see a sense of purpose. Take care of your relationship. We all really want to make a difference.


Mark A. Taylor, DLP, is the Chief Logistics Officer of RedRoller and the President of TAYLOR Systems Engineering Corporation. Mark can be contacted by phone at 734-420-7447 or via email at