How Do You Really Engage Your Managers?

Jan 24, 2019

By Stan Slap

Any manager can appear fully productive and enthusiastic simply because he or she is financially, intellectually, and physically committed. However,  if you’ve ever witnessed a human emotionally committed to a cause, working as if he or she is being paid a million dollars but in fact not being paid a dime, you know there’s a difference and you know it’s big.

It may be big but it’s not easy. The neurobiological source of emotional commitment is the ability to live one’s deepest personal values in a relationship or environment. For managers this means the relationship with their company and the environment at work. Yet, imbedded in the job description of a manager, is the requirement to constantly subordinate or compromise personal values in favor of company priorities. What the company wants done and how it wants it done must regularly take precedence over a manager’s preferences. That’s what it means to be a manager: serve your company first.

I wrote Bury My Heart at Conference Room B backed by a 23-person research team, including Pulitzer-winning investigative journalists and a specialist in psychoneurobiology. However, this was an actual solution, highest rated in a number of the world’s highest-rated companies, before it was a book;  thus, I had the ability to put the contents directly in front of tens of thousands of managers, from executive to entry level, in over seventy countries. Here are three highlights from the research findings:

What Companies Fear Most Is What Will Save Them
Companies can’t get emotional commitment from their managers because the company believes it needs to be the dominant organism in the relationship. But this causes managers to have to repress their own values—and so causes them to detach emotionally from their jobs. In order to really get that emotional commitment, a company would have to reattach managers to their own deep drivers—allow them to live their own values and act according to their own personal codes.

This is the great fear of the corporate organism: If I set you free to pursue your own priorities, you’ll leave me and I’ll die. The problem is, managers are already free. They’re free to detach, which is about as free as one can get. The company may have captured their minds, their bodies, and their pockets, but that doesn’t mean it’s captured their hearts.

It Happens in the Best Companies, Too
Even in a good company, trying to do the right thing for its managers, the crazy-making tension between personal values and company priorities causes emotional detachment. Ten thousand managers in our research in such companies reported their most important personal values as Family and Integrity. The values they were most under pressure to compromise to do their jobs successfully? Family and Integrity.

The New Truth
The cause cannot always be the company; instead, it must also be managers’ pursuit of their own values within the company. This isn’t licensing chaos; it is ensuring control. There is no more reliable way for the company to become the cause than by not always insisting on being the cause.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from Bury My Heart at Conference Room B: The Unbeatable Impact of Truly Committed Managers by Stan Slap. Published by Portfolio Hardcover. Copyright 2010, Stan Slap.

About the Author(s)

Stan Slap is a recognized speaker and author. His book Bury My Heart at Conference Room B is a best-seller.