How can disengaged employees be trusted to help chart the company’s future?

Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne: There will always be some people who are disengaged with no intent to change. These are the people an organization may rightly be cautious to trust. That said, our experience shows that they are the minority, not the majority. Our research has found that most disengaged people in an organization do not want to be disengaged. They would be happy to be engaged, make contributions to the organization and have a successful career for themselves if properly motivated. The purpose of implementing a blue ocean leadership process is precisely to turn disengaged employees into engaged ones by removing major roadblocks to motivation and identifying key pathways to high performance, thereby helping those disengaged people get back on track and succeed at work. Instead of treating disengaged employees as people with low morale, blue ocean leadership sees them as noncustomers to the existing leadership practice. We believe that when people value your leadership practice they ‘buy’ your leadership and are inspired to excel and act with commitment. When they don’t buy your leadership, they disengage, becoming noncustomers of your leadership. The key therefore is to find out from these noncustomers, which acts and activities – good and bad – their leaders spend most of their time on, and which are key to motivation and performance but are neglected by their leaders. The four steps of blue ocean leadership not only offer a robust mechanism to collect and analyze employee input, but also a fair process which builds trust, commitment and voluntary cooperation. By engaging employees in this way, a company may hope to improve their morale during the blue ocean leadership process and create strong support and buy-in for the company’s new leadership practice.

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