Monday, October 29, 2012

'Steeling' Workers Sense of Worth

Technology introduces new jobs every day that didn’t exist yesterday. As jobs, government, and economic activity demonstrates that there is no constant, relationships between employer and employees demonstrates just the opposite, the same principles apply today that did in 1892.

1892 marks when one of the first unions was formed by the Homestead steel workers. Two-thousand workers amassed into one voice, demanding that 12-hour / 6-day work weeks to keep up with demand under dangerous conditions was not fair treatment. These demands sat at the feet of Henry Frick. The man who was named Chairman of Carnegie Steel Company and was put in charge of the mills operations by Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist that made an equivalent of $3.5 billion today while expanding the America steel industry.

To understand what mistakes Frick made when mis-communicating to his workers which eventually led to community outrage, we will examine three key principles that still apply today that would have helped Frick turn the tide:

1. Remove the Blinders

Profit-driven. Frisk was focused on making money as all managers still are today, but he chose to ignore all variables that would be negatively impacted by his actions and ramping up production while bringing in unskilled workers to work unreasonable hours. Tip: Human nature always defeats a big idea about how to change human nature. Managers, focus on purpose first and profit second! Employees will work harder and driver higher profits if they understand how they tie into the purpose and have a trust in the employer to act responsibly and honestly.

2. Best Friend Syndrome

Gallup has “A Best Friend at Work” being one of the twelve elements to great managing. I don’t disagree. A best friend can get one excited to go to work because one’s social wellbeing is present at their career. It also aids in withstanding adversity, as a best friend is more likely to see a hazard and step in to help. However, Carnegie and Frick’s friendship provided a mental backing for Frisk to strut his power and motivate through force. For example, Frisk hired the Pinkerton’s to take the mill back from the strikers by force, with it ending in bloodshed. Because of their friendship, Carnegie gave Frick the authority from a far to take the action he felt suitable, believing in his human judgment. Carnegie received news of the unexpected. Carnegie believed in unions and was quoted, “no steel mill was worth a single drop of blood.” Best friends at work can’t read your mind. You still need to communicate….over communicate!

3. Empower Employees to Give Opinions

God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, to do twice as much listening as talking. The front lines generally know best in determining how to combine efforts for the greatest cumulative result. Frick gave instruction without listening. Workers disengage when their thoughts don’t count or feel their work is rewarded/appreciated. This communication was detrimental as Frick ignored the fact that these workers felt like the mill was theirs, not Frick’s. Because he ignored this insight, the human condition was threatened. Empower employees to shape the company and acknowledge their input is considered.

This example in American history is focused on employer-employee relationship but the same principles of nuturing a positive relationships between parties can be carried over to the customer, community, and family/friends. Engagement is highly driven by trust: The art and science of developing and maintaining mutually valuable relationships.

There is a human condition to keep your head above water. And when your life sets sail, there will be countless occurrences to decide whether to engage in certain relationships that will enhance your chances at survival or direct you towards danger.

A valuable relationship is at the core of any engagement whether it is marriage, customer, employee, brand, coach, or other.

This evolution model shows once you get to stage 5, you can continue moving onward and upward.