Wasting the Good Will of People

Too many organizational leaders are wasting the good will of people without realizing what a priceless resource that is for the company they manage. Exploring a possible answer behind some of today’s main business challenges.

Over the past year, I have heard so many HR professionals working in different industries complaining about not being able to find the right people, about the great people that “resigned out of the blue”, about juniors with unreasonable expectations, or “seniors with an attitude problem”. I have also met with and listened to the personal stories of my friends, former colleagues or acquaintances that took a leap of faith and left the corporate life.

My personal reality check

That got me thinking and I started looking back at my own professional career choices and the personal experiences I went through when working across various types of organizations. I thought a lot about the challenges I had to overcome as an organizational leader. I reviewed a lot of my personal notes taken from various researches and books about leadership, recruitment, team management and so on. Last, but not least, took into consideration my learnings over the past year as a consultant advising some companies on how to build organizational digital capabilities.

Yes, there are many reasons why people change jobs, choose a totally different career path, start their own business or simply quit to take a break. And yes again, there are clear market problems related to the availability of qualified professionals. And yet, all these variables and contributing factors altogether do not provide a satisfactory answer.

Wasting the good will of people

And one day it hit me! The answer I was looking had been all this time hiding in plain sight. I realized then that there was a common denominator that seemed to transcend all researches, books and professional experiences of all people I had been talking to. Actually, it had something familiar! I just had to read between the lines! Organizations do not lose people. They lose people’s good will and high employee turnover is just one of the consequences they hate dealing with.

Too many to leaders are wasting the good will of people. They ignore the fact that good will in general is what builds a better world. For organizational leaders, employees’ good will translates into trust in the leadership, doing what’s best for the company and/or team every time they make a decision, when dealing with a trouble-maker or when going the extra mile to achieve a greater good etc. I’m positive you can have even more personal examples like these.

A genuine good will towards all is an invaluable and very often ignored resource. Unfortunately, some leaders do not even realize how much this intangible resource that never shows up in the P&L contributes for those many and shiny zeros they love so much.

Taking for granted people’s good will is putting the business itself at risk. Sure, you might get away with it once, twice, or even more, but you won’t get away with it forever. When you consider such recurrent attitude at the leadership level of any business or organization, things get very messy.

Don’t turn off the good will!

The irony I find in this whole situation is that an employee’s good will is something that both the organization and the leader gets for free the moment that a man or a woman walks into the office. Consciously or not, they give it to you. Yes, they give to you unconditionally until one day, when those “little things” that seem unfair, stupid or useless, biased decisions, broken promises to them and start eroding their good will … and one day they leave as they have lost their trust in their leaders. In other words, the organization has lost their good will and respect for good. Consequently, they will not remain your ambassadors, they will not recommend you. Do you remember the old saying, “bad news travels fast”? I am sure you do! Well, there’s so much truth ingrained in it … all sorts of human experiences united throughout centuries.

Turning things around even when you realize your wrong doings is not a piece of cake and that’s a fact. One way of the other I think you’ve all experienced it at your own expense.

A personal story about good will

If you want your people to stick with you through thick and thin, then you must prove yourself worthy of their good will Great leaders understand not just facts and figures, they also understand and appreciate the value of the things they cannot see. They somehow know that good will, like a boomerang, always returns, especially in times of great need.

Good will sometimes is all it takes to overcome even the worst business challenges. I was part of such miracles. They do appear when good will accompanies shared values and beliefs, skills of all sorts, smart decisions, passion for the work, commitment and more. A few years back I was wearing the shoes of the leader believing that things can change for the best even when not even the shareholders had much faith. One just yelled and did nothing. Another left the company and the other took a break from the business for personal reasons. But the miracle did happen! Most people did stick with the company despite the tough times and the hard decisions we had to take. Today that company is a thriving business in a very competitive industry. That would have never been possible without having on our side people’s good will. Truth to be told, making that miracle happen requires more, but that’s a good subject for another blog post.

If you were also part of such miracles, you know  exactly what I am talking about. If not, there are enough suchand more detailed stories about great leaders performing unbelievable business turnarounds. Just Google it!

You can’t legislate good will, but you can cultivate it!

Oh no, no, no, you cannot! That would be such an easy-fix! That’s one on the reason I do believe truly great leaders use their talents to cultivate, develop and nurture people’s good will. But they do know that first it requires a similar endeavor on their part.

Just like reputation, good will is intangible, but they are both the keys to business success. I am not saying good will is the only or the main ingredient for the success recipe of a business. What I am saying is that good will lies at the foundation of any healthy organization.

Finally, I would like to remind you what American entrepreneur Marshall Field once said:

“Good will is the only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy.”

Posted by Ana-Maria Bogdan

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