What Happens When Leaders Forget to Focus on Their Teams?

When Employees Lose Their Mojo

I wanted to share this little anecdote with you because I feel that it nicely demonstrates what happens when leadership doesn’t keep a sharp focus on the team.

At the time, I was a regional manager at a large hospitality company here in Thailand. My department was currently in the middle of an office move. We were moving into a newer and more modern room that was closer to the action. We were, in fact, taking over the room from another department that had recently made their own move to new premises.

Since we were taking over a room that had been occupied and fully operational right up until a few days before, all its features were still in place. Specifically, ethernet cables still trailed around the room, waiting for the room’s new occupants (us) to plug in our laptops.

I contacted the in-house service department to ask for a quote for a few items. Service the air-conditioning unit, fix the door lock. Things like that. When the quote came back, they wanted to charge for all-new ethernet cables.

“Is that really necessary?” I asked. “The other department only moved out a couple of days ago and everything was working fine when they left. I don’t want to pay for something that’s not required.”

“Why do you care? It’s not your own money.”

Those last two sentences uttered by the office manager still annoy me, twelve years later.

Loyalty Goes Both Ways

Before I became self-employed, I treated every job I had as if it were my own company. For example, I never wanted to waste company money.

After all, that company chose me over someone else and chose to pay me a fair salary each month. Without that job, I would be struggling to pay my bills. Employers do us a favour by giving us a chance and employing us. They don’t have to. They deserve that we care about their interests and the bottom line.

That’s true up to a point of course.

We all know how it goes though. We might start off keen and do our utmost for the benefit of the company. But when the company’s leadership continually demonstrates a lack of appreciation for our efforts, we lose our mojo. We lose heart.

Recent research reports that 79% of employees who quit their jobs claim that a lack of appreciation was a major factor in their decision. 65% of workers report that they weren’t recognised at all within the last year.

I believe this is what had happened to Miss. A. She’d lost her mojo and maintained the attitude that since her employer did not care about her, she would not care about their interests. She questioned why I did care. And, frankly, who could blame her if it were true that her employer did not show any appreciation for her efforts?

It’s a common enough scenario. One that repeats itself in offices around the world every day.

In many cases, the person who has lost their enthusiasm gets fed up, resigns and heads off to pastures new. Then, someone with even less enthusiasm is promoted from within to fill the space and the vicious cycle spirals dangerously downwards into the depths of teamwork hell. Dynamic team members are slowly driven away while mediocre employees reap the benefits and move up into positions of greater power and influence. It’s called Peter’s Principle and I’ll be discussing it in more detail another time.

Leadership Is a Way of Life

I’m not going to end this little story with a few bullet points of techniques to try. It’s not that black and white. Leadership is a way of life. It needs to happen all day every day in our workplaces. If you get it wrong, you’ll lose your most valuable assets. The high performers will walk out the door in a cloud of disappointment and frustration.

Meanwhile, you will cultivate an environment of mediocrity in which team members simply don’t care. They’ll do their jobs (just) in order to collect their pay cheque. Nothing more.

I’m sure we all love to have our backs scratched. It’s insanely pleasurable right? Stay with me here on this analogy…..

As a leader, your employees are scratching your back on a daily basis. They’re doing the jobs that you can’t or won’t do and you benefit from that in terms of business or department success. Just remember to turn around and scratch their backs too. Everyone needs a good back scratch.