Talent | The Adaptive Agency

Deep Reasons Employees Don’t Give Their Best (2/3)

by | Jul 23, 2022

Once when I was working for a defense contractor, I saw a process that blew my mind.

It involved 4 teams.

  • Team 1 loaded a database.
  • Team 2 pulled out the data, loaded it to a spreadsheet and modified it.
  • Team 3 got the spreadsheet, modified the data again, and built a report for team 4.

What did Team 4 do with it?

“Nothing. We have no idea why they give us this report.”

3 teams of people didn’t know or care why they had jobs. What kind of work do you think got done in that environment?

Here’s a great way to make sure your employees don’t fall into this trap.

Share Context

Great talent needs to be connected to the outcomes they help produce.

As a leader, that’s how you go from spending money on staffing (cost) to leveraging talent (investment). 

Instead, most employees are used to hearing something more like, “Here’s your task. Do it.”

For people to give their best, they need something to aim at. Something worthwhile to apply their efforts to. Something that gives them a sense of accomplishment.

I mean, look at you. You’ve committed a substantial part of your life and significant resources to starting and growing a business. So, you’re all-in, right?

In the same way, great talent needs their work to matter. They can’t just run in their wheel, waiting for a nut to fall down the chute.

Too many companies only let the “important people” think about the big stuff. They break the outcomes down into projects or tasks, strip away the context, and drop them on the workforce. Then the workforce is just supposed to do their jobs.

Want more people contributing to the big picture?

Here’s a good approach:

  1. Frequently explain what big picture you’re trying to accomplish.
  2. Describe why it’s great, or important, or cool, or relevant.
  3. Show them why their role is so important in achieving it.
  4. Help them understand how their efforts contribute to success. (Make it count.)
  5. Let them swing for the fences.
  6. Stay on message. Don’t let it devolve back into task-taking.


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