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How Much Does Disengagement Cost?

by Mike Sullivan Cubic Health | January 18 2018 | 1 Comment

Over the past decade, I have come to realize that, for me, December and early January have ceased being about New Year resolutions. I always felt demoralized to know that I would stop adhering to my resolutions a few days into January, so I replaced those wasted efforts with something far more interesting, energizing and productive: I focus on team goals. At Cubic Health, December is the time of year we wrap up annual reviews and dive head-first into a January enriched with new ideas that will shape our path forward. I’m reminded at the start of each new year that I’m part of an engaged team that contributes great ideas and is committed to seeing them materialize.

I’m also reminded of one of the important lessons I've learned—one that has helped to build a business from a blank piece of paper on a rented apartment wall to one that has the privilege and good fortune of working with some of the biggest benefit plan sponsors in Canada:

Every meaningful innovation I can think of at Cubic in recent years has come from everyone on the team other than me.

I couldn't be more proud or grateful for that. It’s far more enjoyable than realizing my refined sugar resolution has, once again, died. The quality and impact of the ideas that help create or fine-tune innovations inside of Cubic has nothing to do with seniority or rank. They are simply the by-product of asking our team what we should be doing to achieve our stated goals. I’d like to pass on a few tips to implement this kind of culture in your workplace.

Be Authentic

People see right through superficial employee engagement or efficiency initiatives that look like they have come out of a management team retreat or an overly ambitious manager’s weekend Harvard Business Review binge-reading session. People feel comfortable and empowered to make suggestions when they know their ideas will be thoughtfully considered.

Encourage Idea Generation

It takes time to foster an environment where ideas come unsolicited. Make room in the schedule to reflect and act on ideas that are put forward, give feedback and credit staff appropriately when they do bring their ideas forward. Imagine how many amazing ideas are squashed every day in the minds of Canadians before they are shared because someone didn’t feel it was their place or there is no time to make a suggestion.

Open Up

Thinking back to my childhood, some of my best hockey coaches gave their considerable talent and energy because they were engaged in the role. They found meaning in and were energized by being able to influence their players. There was nothing in it for these coaches—they weren’t paid to be there, there were no scouts in the stands looking for the next great professional coach, there was no glamour—but yet they would be at the rink at 6:00 a.m. every Saturday, sketching new drills, teaching us fundamentals of the game and trying to make a positive difference.

Decades later, it’s clear to me that what was probably driving many of these coaches to go above and beyond, week after week in the season, was the satisfaction of knowing that their ideas could see the light of day. They understood that we, as players, bought in. They could tangibly see the impact of their efforts on the ice each week. So do just that with your teams! Ask for input from everyone on your team and openly communicate ideas, challenges and successes. When we’re all on the same page and understand our goals, it’s much easier to get people to meaningfully contribute to the work.

Dive In

I hope these tips are helpful in creating a culture in your workplace that allows every staff member to share their ideas in the workplace. Engaging all staff encourages healthy discussion and growth as a team.

Mike Sullivan

As president and co-founder of Cubic Health—a leader in benefit plan sustainability management—Mike uses detailed analytics and his background in pharmacy to design more cost effective and robust benefit plans for his clients. Despite his crippling fear of all forms of dance, “Sully,” as he is quite originally called, is the one you want on the floor when you have a truckload of benefit plan usage data to analyze. Because you never really know when that skill will come in handy.

Anna M. ASEBP | January 19 2018 9:11 AM
Great blog post Mike. As a manager who is known to have the occasional "weekend Harvard Business Review binge-reading sessions" (gotta love HBR)and then come in Monday morning with all sorts of crazy new and sometimes overwhelming ideas, this really spoke to me.