On Newsweek's list of 100 best countries, the USA ranks #11. Ouch. This results, it seems, from our failure to invest in and improve our schools and educational results and our (related) inability to drive our own economy through innovation, manufacturing and service. Wonder where we'll be in 10 . . . or 50 years.
The foundational issue? Some say, and I concur, the lack of motivation we see all around us. Think of the demotivated role models we see nearly every day: students (what's the point?), politicians (out for re-election), workers (they're going to lay us off anyway) and senior leaders (focused on those well-negotiated golden parachutes). And how widespread it is: credit card debt, homes with zero down, six year car leases, fabricated resumes, and so on. For cripes sakes, even American Idol participants who are shocked! outraged! appalled! when they are told they are without talent and will not move forward in the process - despite their complete lack of practice or preparation.
To top it all off, the political discourse in the US is not about solving problems or making measurable progress. Instead, it's "about assigning blame rather than assuming responsibility". Is it surprising then, in the workplace, that we have demotivated workers, wary managers, disenchanted new hires and uncertain executives?
Seems very depressing. And hopeless? No, I don't think so. In fact, I think we all - as leaders in the workforce - have the opportunity to take immediate action to make some simple, quick changes. In fact, leaders can start doing the same thing that we as parents should be doing . . . clarifying expectations, setting clear and challenging goals, recognizing productive effort, and rewarding great results. And all along, providing timely and honest feedback and coaching.
Would that make a difference - even for one employee or one work group or one department? Yes! And the good news is, we don't need any special tools or training or information to start. We just need the self-motivation to get going.