Why It Isn’t Hard to Find Self-Managed Stakeholders

If you believe you can’t…

We regularly highlight companies in every sector with a few dozen to tens of thousands of Stakeholders who all function without managers. How can they find thousands of Stakeholders, when others seem to have trouble finding just a few?

Gallup and some others claim around 20% of the workforce is actively disengaged – you ask them to do X, and they will work hard to do X minus. They also claim around 20-30% of the workforce is actively engaged – they will do X plus, when you only ask for X.

That leaves 50-60% of the workforce that Gallup says aren’t actively engaged or actively disengaged. They call them simply, “not engaged”; bumping along.

So these stats show 70-80% of the workforce is, at best, “not engaged” in their work. Yet our experience is that it is very easy to find actively engaged, fully committed, self-managed Stakeholders who don’t need to be managed, just led. W. L. Gore has 10,000 and Semco has 3,000, both with no managers. Scores of other companies, including our own have a few to tens of thousands, all with nobody managing them. And nobody goofs off. How can that be? Won’t people take advantage of that freedom and turn it into a license to ease off the gas?

No. And here’s why.

LCD Management MAKES People Disengaged
The 50-60% that everyone claims are “not engaged” are followers, and are simply responding to the work world you created for them to live in. If you believe people need to be managed, and don’t have the motivation to take care of their commitments at work, then you will create a workplace structure that is designed to “manage” them into productivity.

LCD Rules vs. HCD Values
This mindset results in a common leadership mistake – LCD Management. Over time (or right away), managers create “lowest common denominator” rules. In response to a few people doing stupid or lazy things, managers create rules to ensure no one can repeat it. The result is a workplace designed around preventing people from being stupid and lazy. People hired into these workplaces work to the lowest common denominator, exactly what you expected of them.

The answer is HCD leadership – decide what would free people up to be as smart, motivated and responsible as possible, and design a workplace to that “highest common denominator”. People hired into that workplace will understand that by being a self-motivated, self-managed adult, they will have ownership over their lives at work, and make more money. It’s motivating to reach up to attain something (HCD Leadership), not to just work a little harder than necessary (LCD Management).

Values, not Rules
An LCD workplace is full of rules to keep people from doing something stupid or lazy. An HCD workplace is nearly void of rules and is instead full of values that guide and drive people to be and do their best when no one else is watching. If your workplace is built around values, you will attract Stakeholders, not employees.

When you build an HCD workplace, you attract the 20-30% of the workforce that wants to be “fully engaged” – natural Stakeholders; AND the 50-60% that will play whatever game is presented, will reach for the stars because that is the game you’re playing.

Attract the 70-80%, not the 20-30%
Build an LCD workplace and you can expect 70-80% to act like employees who need to be managed and told what to do (children). Build an HCD workplace and you’ll find that 70-80% of the workforce will jump right on board. The 20-30% that are fully disengaged will find your workplace uninviting and will either not apply, or will leave.

W. L. Gore found 10,000 Stakeholders and no employees. With HCD Leadership, you should do just as well finding all the Stakeholders you want.

Why Correcting Stakeholders Can Make Things Worse

Mistakes vs. Patterns

Too often we correct or admonish people when we shouldn’t, and plenty of times we let things slide when we should jump right in. Here’s a very simple principle for figuring out when to get involved.

When someone does something we consider close-but-no-cigar, not close, or downright goofy, we usually do one of two things, depending on our own tolerance for confrontation.

1) We jump right in – and either a) walk them gently through the right way, b) blow them up with quick anger, or c) something in between. or

2) We ignore it.

In most cases, the surprisingly right thing to do is #2 – ignore it.

The simple question we forgot to ask ourselves before we jumped in can be one of the most valuable leadership questions we never ask:

“Was this a mistake or a pattern?”

A Mistake
A mistake is something we do once and learn from, so we don’t do it again. The only way we all got to where we could recognize other people’s mistakes is because we made them first.

A Pattern
A pattern is a habit of doing the same lackluster, lame or outrageously stupid thing regularly. We do these things over and over because we’re not learning from them. Every leader has good patterns and bad patterns. And so does every Stakeholder who works in our company.

Know the Difference
Most managers never ask which is which, they just jump in so they can show they “add value” (which is partly why they are managers, not leaders). Great leaders will always ask the question first, “Is this a mistake or a pattern”?

And honestly, if it’s a mistake, does it really help for me to jump in, either gently or angrily, and tell you all about it?

Jump in when…
The ONLY time we should jump in is:
1) if it is blatantly obvious that the person will never be able to figure it out themselves, and wants to, or
2) It is clearly a pattern and they can’t or won’t deal with it.

Patterns of doing things less then great or just plain wrong always need our attention. But mistakes almost always need to be ignored. If you hired right, your Stakeholders want to do great work. And one of the best ways for them to get there is the same way you did, by learning from their mistakes. Beating them up or fawning over them and “coaching” them every time they do something less than great simply makes them feel like children.

Never Ignore The Patterns
Ignore the mistakes until they become patterns. But never ignore the patterns – they will sink the Stakeholder, if not your business.

Managers correct everybody for everything. Leaders take the time to figure out if they are dealing with a one-off mistake or a pattern, and then they help people with the patterns and ignore the mistakes.

Stop managing and be a Leader – ignore the mistakes and address the patterns.