January 19, 2019

Who Do You Want To Be?



I attended a retreat with the Mayor and the City of Aurora Executive Team yesterday. This has become an annual event under Mayor Irvin’s leadership, and the purpose is for all department heads to come together and recap our collective achievements and chronicle our challenges from the previous year. It allows us to get in sync and develop a roadmap to progress in the year ahead.

I love this event because it is a reminder to me that the police department is not the center of the solar system (a fact of which I frequently need a reminder). All city departments are aligned to the Mayor’s goals, and it’s so productive to understand how we all work in synergy to elevate our entire city.

But what really captured my attention was when facilitator Marianne Renner talked about engaged employees. It was interesting to learn the categories of employee engagement and where we all fit in. As she described the levels of engagement, I found myself assigning identities to each. Here is the breakdown:

34% of you are actively engaged. You are the people who are loyal and committed. You are always working towards goals, and you contribute to the progress of your organization. You show up to events, you come up with new and ideas and new initiatives, and you get involved.

Photo by Sgt. Ed Corral

53% of you are productive and generally satisfied. You come to work and do your job, but you’re not really invested in anything beyond that. You are the silent majority that doesn’t complain but really doesn’t care beyond your 8-hour shift.

13% of you are actively disengaged. You are the malcontents. You know who you are. Every decision is stupid, and you find something to complain about no matter what the situation. You are unhappy and let that unhappiness show in words, attitudes, and actions. You undermine the performance of others by continually voicing your displeasure.

I guess what surprised me about the study is that those in the 53% category can transition to the actively engaged group with some effort. Marianne said, “You can’t change people; you can only attempt to influence them.” I started thinking about how I could try and inspire and motivate this group in my organization to become actively engaged. The police department leadership seeks to create opportunities for career advancement and specialization. We do our best to acknowledge good work. We have strived to create an environment where communication trumps notification. So why do we have so many people in the middle category?

I thought about that hard, and I decided this might be out of my control. Maybe it’s your job to motivate you — just as it’s my job to motivate me.

Motivation is tricky. To be inspired, you have to be motivated to seek and receive inspiration. If I read a book or an article, I’m influenced by it (positively or negatively depending upon the content). But I have to seek out those sources or read them if they are provided to me. It’s still my job to take the step. People inspire me. Some inspire me to be better by doing the opposite of what they do. Others inspire me through their excellent work and actions. During our retreat, our Mayor inspired me by sharing his vision for our city and how we fit into his vision. He is so passionate about progress, and his excitement renewed my energy and enthusiasm.

Passion persuades people. So maybe we surround ourselves with people who inspire us.

If you are one of the 34% who is actively engaged in the place that you are, congratulations. Your organization’s success is because of you. Your enthusiasm is the thing that sets you apart from the disengaged, and you are likely a happier person both at work and at home. You are inspired, and you inspire others. You are winning at life, and you are the people that I want to hang around because that stuff is contagious. Amy Poehler said it best:

“I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people anymore that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.”

If you are one of the sad 13%, I would love to tell you not to come to work. I would like to say to you that all you have to do is pick up your paycheck every 2 weeks. But even then, you’d probably get mad that we aren’t mailing it to you. I wish I could find a way to inspire you to be at the very least, mediocre. But you’ll resist. And when you do leave, it will be addition by subtraction. But until then, we can’t ignore you because you whine pretty loud. But if I’ve learned one thing, it’s this:

“Don’t try and win over the haters; you are not a jackass whisperer.”

If you are the silent majority of the 53%, you are just okay. You are going through the motions doing the minimum, and you are utterly mediocre. When you leave your organization, people will say, “that fella was ‘meh.’”

I want more for you than mediocre. I want you to wake something up within you, so you feel a spark of excitement for something. I want you to feel the pride of devising a solution to a problem or creating something out of nothing. I want to bring you over to the “engaged” group not just for our organization, but for you. Because you have no business accepting just okay. And when you get tired of being mediocre and become more than that, everyone around you gets better as a result.

Maybe this is your moment to acknowledge where you are and commit to breaking the chains of apathy.

Here is what I know. You can’t sit around waiting to be motivated or inspired by someone or something. You have to seek out inspiration. You have to move towards it.

Who do you want to be?

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