“You can build a much more wonderful company on love than you can on fear.”
–Kip Tindell, The Container Store
The new transparency opens the doors and sheds a spotlight on the behavior of virtually every employer. As a result, pressure is now on organizations to build democratic cultures. Today’s savvy employment candidate knows the back story on the hiring manager, he or she knows what the last person made and they know whether that green initiative is the real thing or smoke and mirrors. Transparency will push employees to become more engaged because we see them. But, this awareness isn’t a one-way street.
We can no longer ask workers to take on more responsibility without demonstrating that responsibility across-the-board. We can’t order people to wake up until all of us commit to waking up. In truth, disengagement has nothing to do with rank or chaste or economic power. If CEOs are just as disengaged as the rest of us, we need a new model that creates a wave of engagement.
Trying to hide the truth is only going to become more difficult with time. Wouldn’t it be healthier to build organizations that have nothing to hide, where progress is led with ethics and with heart? Wouldn’t we get more people to engage if we were fully democratic? In other words, instead of giving development to high potentials, what would happen if we gave everyone an equal opportunity to grow?
In the US Marines leadership development isn’t reserved for the high potentials, it is given to everyone. The Executive Council, Forbes and McKinsey have all named the Marines as the number one leadership organization on the face of the earth. This is because everyone participates and everyone lives by the values of the organization.
I have the great pleasure of working with Mel Spiese, the Major General who led training and development for the US Marines. He prepared over 300,000 soldiers for combat. When I asked Mel about employee engagement at the Marines, he chuckled and said,
“Employee engagement has never been a problem for us.”
I asked Mel if that was because their lives depended on being engaged.
“Sure. But, we give everyone the same training, everyone embraces the same values and because everyone is on the same page, we can trust our lives with the individuals standing next to us.”
Everyone is trained. Everyone is accountable. Everyone “gets it.”
Another great democracy culture is Alcoholics Anonymous. Here is the world’s largest recovery entity with no leaders and little in the form of an organization. And yet, millions of alcoholics and drug addicts have achieved long-term sobriety. It works for two fundamental reasons:
- Like the Marines, AA is a values based program. Everyone that expects to succeed for any length of time is expected to learn and live by the values of sobriety.
- Successful early adopters teach the principles and values of the program. In other words, people that have learned and used “the steps” mentor new people and show them the way.
All organizations have something to learn from the model of the US Marines as well as the “non-organizational” model of AA. Many in the world, especially the business world, are irritated by the loss of privacy. But, that is old news.
The growing transparency will push almost everyone to reevaluate individual and organizational behavior.
Suddenly, we are a small tribe again. Everyone sees you.
And that, my friends, is a good thing.