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Tinker or Transform?

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I was talking to a group of CEO’s recently about how they can increase employee engagement and at the end of the workshop several of them asked me for examples of actions they could take to get an uptick in engagement.  I gave some examples from the research and our personal experience working with clients.  Later, I wondered if that was really a good idea.  Why?  Because creating a high performance culture in an organization is not simply a series or an accumulation of events or one–off activities.  It is much more successful and sustainable when it is a state of mind held by senior leadership and executed consistently throughout the entire organizational chart.

You can tinker, or you can transform.  Tinkering will deliver results, but they will not have much lasting value.  The impact will be temporary, and without other, regular, and congruent actions, few patterns of behavior “stick”.  If you truly want to transform an organization, the actions need to be part of a plan, a strategy, or at least a long term concerted effort.  Stated more directly, efforts to increase employee engagement are most successful when they are explicitly linked with the company’s culture.

As we work with clients we try to point out how true “transformational” change has to occur at an emotional level.  It has to register more in the “heart” than in the head.  People need to be touched in a way that the impact leaves a lasting impression.  Periodic acknowledgments or inconsistent pats on the back just don’t get the job done.  Tinkering never does.

BEST PRACTICE TIP — Tinkering is not a strategy, and the best of intentions (“I can do a few new things here and there…”) rarely leads to sustained change.  Transform — don’t just tinker!

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