Four insights from leading thinkers that will transform your employee engagement and performance


Despite heavy investment by organizations to improve their customer experience, customers still complain about inconsistent and unsatisfactory experiences. Moreover, when put to leaders and managers of many organizations they often cite lack of collaboration and communication, silo-ed thinking and the disappointing results of their digital and transformation efforts as some of the main reasons behind their their inability to deliver a consistent and delightful customer experience.

Therefore, to achieve the performance levels that customers and leaders want, something has to change.

And, what better place to start than with leaders and managers themselves.

Four ideas discussed at a recent Thinkers50 event in London provide some clues as to where they should start. Thinkers50 compiles a global ranking of management thinkers and every two years they publish a new ranking and guide to which management thinkers and ideas matter now.

These ideas came from leading management thinkers Tom Peters, Nilofer Merchant, Alex Osterwalder and Liz Wiseman and they were:

1. Stop talking about talent

In a conversation, during the first session of the day, Tom Peters and Nilofer Merchant talked about talent. During their conversation they agreed that they would like to see organisations stop talking about talent and to start talking about people. This was for two main reasons:

  1. They believe that, in a world that is increasingly technical and digital in nature, when we talk about talent there is a danger that it devalues the broad(er) contribution that people can make to a business.
  2. Nilofer Merchant backed this up with a warning where she said that as soon as we start talking about talent, and not people, we start to make assumptions about who is capable of what and that very act limits our view of what is possible and by whom.

2. Embrace MBWA

During the same conversation, Tom Peters lamented that even after writing about it back in 1982 in In Search of Excellence: Lessons From America’s Best-Run Companies, too few managers and leaders have embraced and maintained the practice of MBWA (Managing by Wandering Around).

This is a similar point to one I recently made in Customer Experience Leaders: When Was The Last Time You Went To The Gemba? Now, whilst it is true that modern organization and business culture can mitigate against this sort of behavior, Tom maintains that the absence of MBWA has a direct impact on an organization’s ability to engage its employees, understand productivity and performance issues and drive improvement and innovation. Nilofer drove this point home when she opined that:

“Every single person in your organization has the capacity to contribute. The fact that you cannot access their contribution is your problem”.

Leaders as facilitators

Alex Osterwalder suggested that leaders should see themselves less as decision makers and more like facilitators than anything else. Their role should be, primarily, about identifying and removing obstacles such that they can then get out of the way and let their people do their best work.

4. Find the pockets or real change

Liz Wiseman suggested that, contrary to popular belief, real change tends to happen in pockets in organizations and that real change rarely starts at the top.

Simple enough insights but imagine what could and would happen if you, as a leader or a manager, combined all four of these ideas and incorporated them into your working day.

Imagine the sort of day that you would have if you introduced a significant element of MBWA into your day so that you could meet, listen to, question and start to access your peoples’ collective intellect, insight, ingenuity, resourcefulness and creativity.

Imagine the impact on the level of engagement that would have in your organization.

Imagine if you combined that with looking for those pockets of real change and you focused on helping facilitate that change to the point where you could leverage it to the benefit of the whole organization.

Imagine if you did all of that on a consistent and continuous basis….




This post was originally published on my column here.

Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

2 comments On Four insights from leading thinkers that will transform your employee engagement and performance

  • >stop talking about talent and to start talking about people

    What does this even mean? Are you really suggesting we stop assigning value to people who have things like, say, skill and competence?

    • Hi Shaun, thanks for your comment. The point that was being made was that when we talk about people as ‘talent’ we end up making assumptions about what they can and cannot do and stop ourselves seeing the ‘whole’ person. Hope that makes sense. Adrian

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