It is difficult to pick up a business publication and not read something about corporate culture and how important intentionally driving your culture is for success. Likewise, it is difficult to not see — maybe even daily — information about the importance of having an engaged workforce.
As we talk to businesses around the world that want to attack these two areas — intentionally driving their culture and creating an engaged workforce — we are beginning to see a consistent theme. We are witnessing attempts to create a corporate culture and engage employees by, what I call, “being liked”.
If I have seen one article, I have seen dozens. Cover art of ping-pong tables, foosball tables, pool tables, etc. while the title is teasing something regarding Millennials in the workplace. The titles are usually misleading. And the photographs are definitely misleading. The articles, after all, have nothing to do with pinball!
If you were to simply look at the headline and the artwork, you would conclude that Millennials want to go to an arcade for work. They want to play. They want to have fun. The corporate culture needs to be an amusement park and all of the bosses are “cruise directors”. In order to attract top talent, our offices need to look like Starbucks. And the coffee MUST be free!
None of this is true. We talk about 21st-century leadership and, lately, we have seen a scary shift in management. Too many managers believe that “being liked” is the answer. Many organizations have adopted the exact opposite mentality for what attracts Millennials. They have set their offices up like an arcade and the managers are in a popularity contest.
At Solutions 21, we could not disagree more with this philosophy. Being liked is a bonus. In no way am I advocating trying to be unlikable! What I am advocating is respect.
21st-century leaders need to be respected. Think about leaders in your life who have positively impacted your career. Did you always like them? My guess is, if you are like most folks we work with, there were many times you did not “like” an influential leader from your past. You, however, always respected them.
Millennials are exactly the same. Respect is the first and most important driver. Gratuitous pats on the back, giving a “trophy” for showing up, trying to not hurt someone’s feelings by providing developmental input, and attempting to mask poor leadership with pinball machines are just a few examples of trying to be liked.
Everyone we work with who has these kinds of “extras” in the workplace, along with a great corporate culture, realizes an important truth. These things are just amenities. In many ways, they are the 21st-century water cooler. All of the arcade games in the world cannot take the place of great leadership. In fact, we often hear, “The pool table is nice, but I like the people I work with. My manager is tough but fair. And the projects are meaningful.”
Pinball machines and pool tables are a nice diversion, now and again. However, these amenities will not engage your workforce and create a great culture. Leaders engage people and create cultures.
If you want to attract top talent and help your employees to understand why their project is important, provide them with real-time feedback (both positive and developmental), be consistent, be available, and DO NOT try to be everyone’s friend. Be a boss. Be a leader.