There are plenty of articles and opinions on how to become a better manager and leader, but nearly all of them are blind to the overwhelming evidence that 50-65% of managers don’t give a crap. That may be a generous number. Take a look at Gallup and other studies, and you will find, for over 15 years the average breakdown is, 30% of employees are engaged, 50% are meh, and 20% are actively disengaged. The percentages may tick up or down from year to year, but the stubborn reality persists, a minimum of two, and possibly as many as seven out of ten people are not engaged in their work, i.e. don’t care.
Ponder your personal experiences and a list of possible causes for this will ripen with reflection. The reality, only 20% of those reading these words will do the work and find ways to combat the issue. If you are in that achiever’s group, you have to double down to make a positive difference, because face it, you are outnumbered, either by indifference or malfeasance.
If you are in the group that genuinely cares and you are also responsible for other managers, it is crucial to admit that many of them do not care. They don’t care about their direct reports, the organization that pays them, and they don’t particularly care about you. Like it or not, their behavior and attitude reflect on you. You own it.
You could invest dollars with world-renowned thought leaders, who will provide insight and theory on ways to solicit higher performance, and in some instances that may be beneficial. Though keep in mind, the distribution of engagement hasn’t budged much in 15 years so the real answers may reside with practitioners, more so than theorists.
Do a gut check. Do your managers give a crap? If they don’t, figure out why not and find ways to either remove their obstacles or remove them from management responsibilities, because you may confirm, they are the obstacle.
In short, start giving a crap.
Care – Care about your direct reports, your clients, your boss. If you often find yourself thinking, “I could not care less,” you’re doing it wrong. Decide to either improve or resign from your position.
Recognize – Recognize the efforts of those around you. It is too easy to take people for granted, especially if they make things look effortless. If you cannot make the time to recognize people who are helping you achieve the goals you are responsible for, you had better find ways to return to being an individual contributor, because you’re not demonstrating a basic component of effective leadership.
Accountability – The most difficult person to hold accountable is yourself. You make and break promises to yourself all the time, and then you subconsciously take it out on others. Polish your integrity. Honor your commitments and your mistakes. Instead of passing blame, accept it and fix it. Holding yourself accountable doesn’t come easy for many people. Set your ego aside and ask for help.
Persist – Don’t abdicate your leadership when it gets too hard or uncomfortable. Persist. Don’t succumb to apathy when things don’t immediately go your way. Persist. Know your true north, keep an eye on your moral compass, and continue driving toward what you know is right, despite any obstacles, self-imposed or otherwise.
There are plenty of strong, effective leaders; unfortunately, many of them do not hold positional power. That’s okay. Strong leadership has never needed a title. It is most attracted to those who give a crap.