It's Not All About Cheese: The Missing Component in Employee Development (Part 1)

Julio Quintana
 


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Spencer Johnson really hit a nerve when he wrote Who Moved My Cheese? The book, a best seller still, is a wonderful allegory of the things that drive and motivate us. I personally loved the book, perhaps because I read it in one night. But, I was left wondering if the most important part of the cheese story was ever addressed profoundly enough. I am talking about the idea that it is not all about the cheese!

If the books we are buying are any indication of the change we are seeking, then our ideas for what drives and motivates people are in deed changing. A majority of the “success" books I see on the shelf are significantly different from those a year ago. From trying to become a “Rich Dad" to just being a good dad; from becoming a “One Minute Millionaire" to learning how to go from “Good to Great". The bulldog mentality is giving way to the “Love Cat" lifestyle. The last ten books I purchased have the words accountability, trust, or integrity on the title.

Even books relating to business success in highly competitive markets have changed in focus from “becoming" successful to the “attributes" of successful people; foremost among them, by the way, is integrity. We are longing for more than the traditional learning about leadership or motivation. We are realizing that true leaders (at every level) share traits we would love to package into a mandatory training program for all our employees.

Unfortunately, our existing model for training people has become as segmented as the business strategies we use in our companies. Partly, because of the emphasis we place on identifying the cheese (the environmental and monetary drivers), not the things that drive us to chase after them. In spite of the valuable lessons behind principle-centered and integrity-based leadership, we keep overlooking the overwhelming influence of individual values upon the workplace.

What keeps us from speaking honestly about values is the misguided fear that, if we talk about values at work, we will cross the invisible line where business and personal life should separate. Yet, when you deeply examine what motivates people to do the right things (to support customers, to be accountable to their employers) you find the values that drive them. You find THEM. Businesses that can shift their focus from purely strategic planning, to values-driven mission and vision, build a stronger foundation for long-term success. That foundation also becomes a catalyst for leadership training programs.

Remember that employees are people, and people are ultimately driven by their core values and influenced by yours. You have to make a conscious effort to understand the values of your employees (understanding the values that drive them, you, and your organization; and establishing common ground for communicating and dealing with conflict).

Teach Them How To “Drive"

Building a leadership training program that addresses values will strengthen the core of your company and will help develop employees into leaders. The tough part is doing it. So instead of teaching people how to behave, why not teach them how to drive?

There are many analogies I use to illustrate how people learn and interact with each other. My favorite is something my business partner Troy Darling and I call the “Merge Point Method", or Merge Point. If you have ever driven in a busy city like Miami, you know that driving brings out the best and worse in people. While I am the type of driver that courteously allows others to seamlessly merge into my lane, there are plenty of others who, for their own reasons, will cut me off or drive like maniacs to get ahead of me in traffic.

How we interact with others on the road (and elsewhere) is a direct expression of our values and how we negotiate the “merge points" of life; those places at the end of two merging lanes when both you and the adjacent motorist have to decide who will volunteer the right of way. Merge Points are where we decide how to act, based on our sense of civility and cooperation. At the Merge Point we integrate or disintegrate. And for many of us that means knowing how to make the right choices at the Merge Points of:

  • Mission Based on Goals VS. Mission Based on Values
  • Explained Integrity VS. Exemplified Integrity
  • Responsibility Understood VS. Accountability Chosen
  • Good Service From the Brain VS. Giving Serving From the Heart
  • Expected Trust VS. Earned Trust

    When you evaluate honestly the patterns of behavior and the supporting tactics and strategies that make relationships “stick", you will notice a pattern of conscious choices at these Merge Points. These are the choices that keep marriages together, build life-long friendships, and enable organizations to work cohesively and safely. They are the same enablers that improve the quality of work, and life at work; the patterns that consistently increase productivity, efficiency, and customer care. Find them in individuals and you find genuine and wise people who lead with empathy and trust.

    Take time to evaluate your current leadership training programs. Are they achieving the right results? Are they building leaders? Or are you getting stuck at the Merge Point?

    More about Merge Point in part II of this article.

    Julio Quintana is a writer and speaker based in Weston, Florida. Learn more about his practice and The Merge Point Method at http://www.merge-point.com

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