Make the competitive advantage work for you

Wednesday - 8/11/2010, 4:00pm EDT

Michael Lee Stallard and Jason Pankau, E Pluribus Partners

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This week, Federal News Radio brings you the Best of the DorobekInsider. This interview originally aired on July 23, 2010.

Michael Lee Stallard and Jason Pankau ofE Pluribus Partners say the most important tool for motivating workers is creating real connections between leaders and the led.

Stallard and Pankau explain how you can create this type of environment for your agency.

Their approach has three major components:

  • Vision
  • Value
  • Voice

Vision, they explain, means creating a mission statement that isn't just hung on the office walls, but is instead actively lived out by leaders and their employees.

"We believe that that exists in an organization when everybody's motivated by the mission, united by the values, and proud of the reputation."

Value requires learning to treat coworkers with deep levels of care and respect. It is based on not just valuing their outputs, but also them as people.

"At epidemic proportions, we're functionally relating to one another like 'human doings.' We treat each other in a quid pro quo way. I will relate to you, I will care about you, I will invest in you, as long as I'm getting something from you. When I stop getting something from you, you stop mattering to me," Pankau says.

He says this creates "a toxic environment" full of "isolated people who don't thrive."

Good leaders, Pankau says, "understand this and create connections that transcend work."

The last component, voice, is perhaps the most difficult to grasp. But Pankau says it goes back to the very origin of America. Voice means giving everyone involved the chance to be heard and represented throughout a process.

"It's a very disrespectful thing to not want to hear what another thinks about something. It puts them down and makes them feel unvalued," Pankau says.

A useful flow of knowledge is only possible in an organization, he says, when people actively seek out one another's ideas and opinions, and share them in an honest, respectful way.

Stallard and Pankau say leadership "really is an art more than a science."

They say, however, that their method comes from their study of great leaders throughout history. Each great leader, they say, shared the ability to connect with people that underlies the E Pluribus method.

"The thing that sets the true great leaders that we've studied apart from those that were average or even failed leaders, is that they're also what we call great connectors. They had a relational excellence about them that helped them connect with people. They understood that people aren't just human doings, they're human beings."

Stallard and Pankau cite former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vernon Clark and rock band U2 front-man Bono as diverse examples of this kind of leadership technique.

Rachel Stevens is an intern with Federal News Radio.