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Tuesday, March 18, 2010
Leadership in Action: Become an Undercover Boss with the
Essential Skills of Leadership
The new television show "Undercover Boss" allows the audience to ride along as CEOs pose  as frontline employees to find out what things are really like in their own companies. Through the magic of television editing, we see good people working hard for their companies, although sometimes a procedure breaks down here and there. The real story in organizations, however, could prove to be much different.


Undercover Boss 1
A new Towers Perrin Global Workforce study, "Closing the Engagement Gap: A Road Map for Driving Superior Business Performance," shows the complex nature of what actually goes on in most organizations.


The study reveals that employees do care about their work, and they want to learn and grow. They also want stability and security, and with the right opportunities and resources, they'll commit to a company. Although these are positive, there is a downside: The global workforce is not as engaged as they must be in order to drive results.


The Current State of the Workplace

The Towers Perrin study shows that four out of 10 employees surveyed said they were either "disenchanted" or "disengaged" --- which means they are not working to their true potential because they don't have any motivational connections to the organization.


Gallup polls spanning 1989 to 2009 show that 85 to 94 percent of respondents said they were completely or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. The Conference Board reports workers' job satisfaction dropped sharply from 1987 to 2009:

  • Interest in their work decreased 18.9 percent.
  • Job security decreased 16.5 percent.
  • Interest in the people at work decreased 11.6 percent.
  • Satisfaction with supervisors decreased 9.5 percent.

These results further define the underlying problem growing in the workplace: The growing disconnection for employees and their employer is exacerbated by layoffs, budget cuts and continued uncertainty. Employee confidence in long-term career opportunities has dwindled.


The Towers Perrin study defines engagement as "employees' willingness and ability to contribute to company success" and measures employee engagement based on three dimensions:


  • Rational: How well employees understand their roles and responsibilities
  • Emotional: How much passion and energy employees bring to their work
  • Motivational: How well employees perform in their roles


The engagement gap is the difference between employee effort and the organization's ability to garner this effort from the bulk of the workforce.

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Disengaged leaders stand in the way and are unable to recognize the changes needed to align with emerging workforce circumstances. Turning leadership into action requires focused training of an organization's leaders, so they can develop a culture that cares about the employees while understanding the importance of performance. 


Author Michael Beer, in his book High Commitment, High Performance Management, indicates six leadership barriers: 

  • Unclear strategy, priorities and values
  • Leaders who have a hands-off leadership style
  • Ineffective leadership team that doesn't spend time on strategic and people issues
  • Poor coordination and collaboration for value-creating activities, preventing effective execution
  • Inadequate leadership development
  • Closed vertical communication with employees about values strategies and priorities

Improving the State of Your Organization

Essentially, strong leaders can make a difference in motivating and engaging the workforce. This requires them to go "undercover" to really understand employee's needs, values and motivation, ensuring that they are performing the right tasks in the correct way for the proper business outcomes.


Furthermore, a highly trained and engaged leadership team can shape the work environment and culture aligned with business strategies, goals and priorities. This is what you will find as you close the gap: a better performing organization. Become the undercover boss and train your leaders. Put them in action and close the engagement gap with courses from Vital Learning.


Vital Learning's Essential Skills of Leadership™ online seminar, along with coaching, can help build strong, actionable leaders. Leaders learn to maintain team member self-esteem while managing, evaluating performance, improving work habits and resolving issues. They also learn to listen to employees and involve team members in decision-making and problem-solving to motivate employees.


Join us for a complimentary Webinar - Leadership in Action, on Tuesday, April 13 at 4 pm EDT. This 60 minute session is for all leaders out there that are ready to take action to improve their leadership skills. To register and learn more.


During this Webinar we will announce our new interactive blended learning series for 2010.


Essential Skills of Leadership is a trademark of Vital Learning.

Thought for the Day

"Leaders are change agents who see opportunities and promise where others see only defeat."

                                                                    ---Anthony J. Mayo 
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Melodae Morris

Leadership Matters
Melodae Morris is the founder of Morris Communications. She is a college instructor of human resources, a media writing and magazine editing instructor and course designer for the University of Nebraska at Omaha.


Gilbert, S.J. (Nov. 2009). Come Fly with Me: A History of Airline Leadership.

Essential Skills of Leadership (2010). Vital Learning Corporation

Gurchiek, K. (Feb. 2010). Job Satisfaction: Just How Bad? HR Magazine.

Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study 2007-2008. Closing the Engagement Gap: A Road Map for Driving Superior Business Performance.


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