People First

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Do You Agree?

Several reasonably consistent comments, in one form or another, are being made by business leaders. One is, “My employees treat our customers the way we treat our employees.” Another is, “Customers first is wrong. It’s employees first. Then the employees will take good care of our customers.” Also, of course, there’s the ancient mantra still spoken today, “People are our most important asset.”

Talent is Hard to Come By

That’s another comment I frequently hear. Leaders are complaining that the knowledge workers (defined as


employees who use information to solve non-routine problems) they seek are happily employed, and it is costly to get them to move. They are also complaining that bringing in new talent is causing them to raise the payroll costs for many of their existing employees.

Leaders are also aware that their skilled employees are being recruited by the competition just the same as they are pursuing good employees elsewhere. Let’s connect the dots.


The first task, in my mind, is to make sure our employees are happy and engaged. Research shows that 70% of U.S. employees are NOT engaged. Separate research tells us that knowledge workers expect three things to keep them motivated—Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. The reason I give engagement the highest priority is that it feeds two birds with one hand. That is, by making sure our employees are engaged, we have a much better chance of retaining them and a higher probability that they will treat our customers (whether internal or external customers) the way we expect them to.

Further, by building a culture of engagement, our organization will become a highly desirable place to work. Thus, not only will we achieve a high retention rate, we will find it easier to recruit top talent.

Intent-Based Leadership

The question, therefore, is how do we build a culture of Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose. The answer is to fully embrace and implement Intent-Based Leadership. I have found no other consistent way to go through the process of changing an existing command-and-control culture to a new culture that affirms and promotes what knowledge workers seek.

Anecdotally, I have noted that employees in all age groups want the same environment. However, they express those desires differently. Millennials will simply leave. Generation “X” and the Boomers tend to just become more disengaged. They have been taught to not complain and do the work. But they don’t have to be happy about it. Finally, when a recruiter with the right offer contacts them, they leave, and their employer is left wondering why. They weren’t complaining, so everything must have been fine, right?

Bottom Line

If we honestly believe that our employees are our greatest asset, then we will do all that we can to create an environment that engages our employees as well as is a magnet for new talented employees. Since it is well documented what knowledge workers desire in the workplace, the task is straightforward, even as it is a difficult challenge. Instituting an Intent-Base Leadership culture will take the enlightened leader a long way toward building a culture of engagement.

[Please Note: I do not receive any benefit of any kind in recommending IBL. I do so simply because I believe in the program. It works!]