Execs Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

Discussion
Jun 21, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Uninspired and all but retired is how a USA Today report describes many top executives currently running many American businesses.


Research conducted by the Gallup Organization to determine how engaged employees are at work has found that many corner offices are inhabited by people who are simply going through the motions or, in some cases, not even doing that.


According to Gallup, fewer than half (49 percent) of top executives are engaged in their jobs, while nine percent are actively disengaged.


Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently and The One Thing You Need to Know, said Gallup’s research in on target. “You have no idea how dysfunctional most executive teams are,” he said.


Moderator’s Comment: What are the causes of executives becoming disengaged from their work? What can companies do to create (looking for a term here)
a culture of engagement? Are there companies you can point to as fitting this description?


The following lyrics from a great song on the Soul Gravy CD by Cross Canadian Ragweed (not about business executives) came to mind when reading the
USA Today piece. We’ve known more than our fair share of execs who fit the profile:


“Sick and tired of being sick and tired.


Everything around you’s growin’ old.


The days drag on, the nights last forever,


Every day’s tougher just to keep it together.”

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9 Comments on "Execs Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired"


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Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 8 months ago

If the top level executives aren’t engaging within their own corporation, what are they doing with the buying customers of their products/services; and the very important consumer/shopper? They sure don’t believe in face to face situations!

Big problem, and a major reason why consumer engagement and the superior shopping experience are non-events! Hmmmmmmmmmm

Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Cultures of engagement only emerge from relationships predicated on a significant span of time. In a business culture where senior managers are changed as frequently as socks, it’s not too hard to understand why individual leaders have difficulty establishing emotional traction with their jobs. Extend the duration of the average CEO’s tenure and I’m willing to bet you’ll see a parallel increase in engagement.

Ian Percy
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
The train won’t get to the station faster than the engine takes it. This article is right – something is seriously malfunctioning in the leadership engine of our corporations. Ever since someone discovered “motivation,” we’ve all thought that it’s the employees who need motivating and that executives in mahogany row don’t. In my experience, as well as Gallup’s, it’s executives who often are uninspired, who lack a sense of destiny, who resist innovation and change – not so much the people below them. Then we have Peter Drucker’s comment: “We don’t know anything about motivation, all we can do is write books about it.” That said, I think we look at this issue from two perspectives: 1) The failure of our parents, churches, schools (business schools included) and our workplaces to guide people to find and fulfill their life’s calling, their destiny. People are pushed to find jobs, not to find purpose. Can an executive make a boat load of money and be in command of all he/she sees be living a purposeless life? Absolutely… Read more »
Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
15 years 8 months ago

Building on Ryan’s comments, the thought that it is necessary to “go outside” the organization to bring in vitality is also naïve. It is often the “second level” managers who have suffered with the shortcomings of the organization and know where the wheat and the chaff are located. By filling the executive suite from within an organization, not only do you get someone with more than a mere monetary interest, but also someone who has an interest in the company. Supposedly the days of the “Superstar CEO” have passed. I hope so.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
One problem is having executives overseeing people who’s work they do not understand, nor how long their tasks should take, or what goes into a project. I recall at my last corporate job, the company had hired consultants to do a certain market research task involving loyalty card data. They assumed no one in the company was trained to handle the job. It cost them thousands of dollars and several weeks to complete. This project was nothing more than a redundant task I was already doing in a matter of hours, not weeks. So what were these consultants doing? They were just “going through the motions” to justify their big fee. The cost of the consultant’s fee – $30,000. The shocked look on the executive’s faces when I showed them I could do the same thing at no cost in about an hour – priceless. Often I found that I was working on projects and realized my supervisors had no idea how the process was done. I could have taken 6 days to do a… Read more »
Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 8 months ago
Good managers find ways to keep the best employees engaged by continually throwing new challenges at them, keeping them on a learning curve, and rewarding them for their growing importance to the company. But what happens when those people get to the top? The higher you get in an organization, the more the job is about people management and longer-term strategy. The challenges of looming project deadlines and competitive ladder-climbing are largely behind you. The skills it took to get to the top are often different than the ones needed once you are there. So it does not surprise me to hear that executive ennui is common. Executives need to find ways to motivate themselves the way they used to be motivated by their bosses, and it is never too late to find a mentor, within or outside the company. Execs need to set aside time to continue learning, to get more hands-on with a pet project or two, and to find more personal ways to reward themselves for success besides rising stock prices and… Read more »
Laurie Cozart
Guest
Laurie Cozart
15 years 8 months ago
Executives become disengaged for the same reasons other employees become disengaged, poor leadership. It starts at the very top. If executives are uninspired and unaccountable for results, the impact trickles all the way down the corporate structure. Unfortunately, leadership, although talked about frequently, is not a major deciding factor when considering promotions or new hires. Often times people are promoted or hired into a leadership role not for their talents as leaders, but because they have a certain technical skill or because they have tenure. Neither of these attributes ensures great leaders who can manage people, think strategically and execute. Executives become bogged down putting out fires, unsure how to progress to build their own team, frightened of appearing weak, unable to execute corporate directives, unable to motivate or inspire others and happy with the status quo. Frequently, executives strive to be disengaged by building a competent team around them. This gives them the excuse to not monitor daily activities and still have the appearance of success. Unfortunately, these situations are most often short lived.… Read more »
David Lotterer
Guest
David Lotterer
15 years 8 months ago

I’ll offer a different spin on the problem.

I believe that the disengagement stems from the commodity mentality in today’s business. Real innovation, which was the prevalent theme 10 years ago, required risk. Risk is exciting and engaging. Everyone wanted to have the next big thing and fought to be first to market, regardless of the cost or risk.

The frenzy of the dot com era, and the wild speculative stock market that fed on the huge risk/reward relationships, has been killed by cautious investors afraid to get burned again.

The focus has switched to cost reduction and minimizing risk. The cutting edge is now thought to be “the bleeding edge.” Many executives are torn between the direction they wish they could go, and the “prudent path.”

As with all things, the cycle will come full circle, and innovation and risk-taking will be hip again. At that point, the executive wing will wake from its slumber.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

When the reward for executives is the same or greater for being engaged as for producing results, why would they have incentive to be engaged? For example, consider the position that corporations have put themselves in with respect to severance packages. It seems possible that an executive could even do better by doing a poor job and moving on. The reward could be millions that would keep them afloat until they can do the same again at another company.

The reality is, while compensation continues to be unrepresentative of performance, in many cases, the likelihood of disengagement will continue. There is no incentive for it to be otherwise.

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