Why do people downplay their contributions? Something about the modern day rat race has turned many employees (and managers) into habitual preservers of the status quo – nobody wants to rock the boat.
The culture has turned from a focus on innovation to little more than survival mode. Restrictive policy, tough job markets, and the less-than-effective middle management have taught much of the workforce (including those in leadership roles) to simply stay in line, follow instructions, and carry on business as usual.
This type of thinking, of course, destroys creative thinking, and prevents progress and fresh ideas in companies of any industry.
So what can leaders (and really, every employee) do about it?
The first step is to own your impact.
This means seeing your individual involvement in the task at hand, your department, and your entire company. It means owning up to both your accomplishments and your mistakes, and taking full credit for both.
Owning your impact is recognizing the unique contribution you can make to any situation, and understanding that without the bravery to offer up ideas, to propose solutions, or to simply offer constructive feedback on a process or policy, there can never be forward progress.
When people lose sight of their own potential for positive influence, they feel impotent – and when policies reward adherence to the rulebook and restrict open mindedness, employees are placed under a huge burden: it takes every ounce of energy to trudge through outdated processes and not speak out against them.
Without a widespread recognition of individual contribution, employees simply become cogs in a machine. Even if they have brilliant ideas, they’ve been trained to squash them – all because it would disrupt the status quo.
So leaders, no matter what industry you might be a part of, own your impact, and encourage everyone you manage to own theirs as well. Recognizing the insight that each member of a team can bring to the table is the first step in generating great new ideas, and ultimately, making changes that improve company productivity and employee engagement/satisfaction.
Empowered employees are happy and productive employees. Impotent and burdened employees are precisely the opposite. Which would you rather have?
Anil Saxena is the President of Cube 2.14, an organizational development consulting firm that works with clients to increase both customer and employee engagement while decreasing turnover, improving customer retention, and increasing profitability within organizations.
Saxena is a certified High Impact coach and trainer and a Joint Application Design facilitator. He is also certified by both Rush Systems and IBM as a focus group facilitator. He is an inaugural member of Northwestern University’s Learning and Organizational Change program, and he earned his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology.