Authenticity matters. However, it also requires vulnerability to achieve. Have the courage to be vulnerable and freely embrace your authentic self.

Quiet quitting is the emerging phenomenon of employee disengagement, essentially quitting on the job. What strategies do high-impact leaders deploy to motivate themselves and those around them to move from quiet quitting to quiet committing? Because, at its core, there is no change without commitment. Commitment to change ideas. Change beliefs. Change perspectives. Change routines, rituals and boundaries. Organizations change one commitment at a time. One leader at a time. As part of our series about “Quiet Committing: The Top Five Commitments High Impact Leaders Make & Keep To Themselves Daily”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Howard.

Chris Howard, CEO at Crossfuze, creates value through strategy and leadership, having spent much of his career leading transformation efforts in a variety of industries. Under Chris’s direction, Crossfuze has become a forerunner in service innovation, with operations across North America, EMEA, and Southeast Asia. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree from Dalhousie University, a master’s degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and certificates from MIT Sloan School of Management and Stanford University.

Thank you for making time for our visit. What was the first job you had, and how did that job shape the leader you are today?

My first job was serving as an account manager in the telecom space — B2B. In today’s world, this job would be seen as a customer success manager. I would say it shaped some of my thinking as it relates to my leadership role. I am more aware of training related to the customer experience. Certainly, it grounded me in customer awareness and understanding the importance of seeking value in the customer relationship.

My employee experience was transactional — secure, but with limited challenge or growth. It didn’t take me long to discover this was not a fit for me. So, from a leadership standpoint, I learned to be clear about your employee value proposition and make sure it is understood so that you find and keep the right people.

We’re talking about quiet quitting in this series. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from a job you decided to quit?

Interestingly, I have had two completely opposite experiences in quitting/leaving different jobs. In the first situation, I left because of my own lack of patience, insight, and experience. I took the effects that these can have on your success and experience at a company with me into my future endeavors.

The second experience gave me the courage to acknowledge a very bad fit that was harmful to my well-being. I left to find something that was more aligned with my career goals.

The greatest lesson I learned from both of these experiences was this: It is crucial to have clarity on what is most important about the relationship you have with your work. The job, company, and people must align with your personal values.

Employee Engagement is top of mind for most organizations. How do you define an engaged employee?

An engaged employee understands what is expected of them and delivers on that expectation consistently. They form friendships with their colleagues, communicate proactively, and can articulate the mission and values of the organization.

Say more about your Employee Engagement portfolio. What’s working? What’s not working? And what are you piloting now to address the Quiet Committing trend?

Employee engagement is a major focus for us now. We strive for an environment in which the work is meaningful, challenging, and varied. Ideally, we execute these dynamics with an eye for maintaining work-life balance. Our goal is to create space for an individual’s personal interest while allowing them to master their skills. Employees are given a level of autonomy in their day-to-day work with a purpose that is meaningful.

This strategy, in general, is seeing good success, but it requires individuals to constantly evolve. It’s hardest to manage change — people generally resist it, often unconsciously. It’s a daily leadership challenge.

Crossfuze leadership takes this challenge to heart. Creating an environment for commitment requires giving constant diligence to core values, testing our assumptions, and listening intently. In the end, each individual needs to make their own choice, and leadership needs to be confident that values, purpose, mission, and strategy all attract and retain the right people. It’s the long game that matters.

As goes the leadership, so goes the team. How do you hold leaders accountable for their own level of engagement?

There are five crucial things we can do to ensure leaders are well equipped to hold themselves accountable:

  1. Set clear expectations: Communicate directly and clearly to leaders what is expected of them in terms of their level of engagement.
  2. Inspect what you expect: Conduct regular assessments of leaders’ engagement levels to determine how well they are meeting expectations. Use tools such as surveys and performance reviews to gather feedback from employees and stakeholders about their perceptions of leaders’ engagement levels.
  3. Provide leaders with regular feedback and coaching to help them improve their engagement levels: Identify specific areas where they need to improve, and provide guidance on how to do so.
  4. Hold leaders accountable for their level of engagement: Set performance goals and metrics that are tied to their engagement levels. Make sure that there are consequences for not meeting those goals or metrics.
  5. Lead by example: Encourage leaders to lead by example and model the behavior that they expect from their team.

By implementing these strategies, organizations can hold leaders accountable for their level of engagement and create a culture of accountability and high performance.

The first phase of the pandemic ushered in the phenomenon called The Great Resignation, where employees left organizations to pursue greater meaning and purpose. Then came The Great Reshuffle, where employees left organizations to pursue promotions, pay, and perks. Now we’ve entered a third phase, Quiet Quitting, where employees are deeply disengaged. What do you believe to be the key drivers of Quiet Quitting?

There are many new situations — as well as many long-standing dynamics — that are driving quiet quitting, which is characterized by deep employee disengagement. Here are a few factors I believe to be driving the phenomenon:

  1. Burnout and fatigue: The pandemic has created significant challenges for employees, including long work hours, remote work, and increased job demands. This has led to widespread burnout and fatigue, which can make employees feel disengaged and uninterested in their work.
  2. Lack of connection and support: Remote work has led to a lack of connection and support for many employees as they work across locations. Without regular in-person interaction with colleagues and managers, employees may feel isolated and disconnected from their work and the organization.
  3. Uncertainty and fear: The ongoing uncertainty and fear caused by the pandemic have also contributed to disengagement among employees. Fear of illness, job loss, and economic instability can lead employees to disengage and focus on survival rather than work.
  4. Lack of growth opportunities: Many employees are looking for opportunities to grow and develop professionally. If an organization is not providing these possibilities, employees may become disengaged and seek employment elsewhere.
  5. Cultural misalignment: Employees may become disengaged if they feel that the organization’s values and culture do not align with their own. For example, if an organization’s culture is focused solely on profit and does not prioritize employee well-being or social responsibility, employees may become disenchanted.

Overall, other than the impact of the pandemic, the items on this list aren’t new. In my view, the pandemic opened many people’s eyes to these dynamics. In some cases, it even triggered individuals to quit. We still need to see how that will all work out.

What do you predict will be the next phase in the evolution of the employer / employee landscape?

The evolution of the employer/employee landscape is an ongoing process, and it is difficult to predict with certainty what the next phase will be. However, I believe that we’ll see more of the following in the future:

  1. Hybrid work models: The pandemic accelerated the trend toward remote work, but many organizations are now exploring hybrid work models combining in-person and remote work. This could result in more flexible work arrangements and increased autonomy for employees.
  2. Focus on employee well-being: The pandemic highlighted the importance of employee well-being. As a result, many organizations now prioritize this as a key area of focus. The result could be more support for mental health and well-being, as well as more opportunities for employees to engage in self-care and wellness activities.
  3. Increased use of technology: Technology transforms the way we work. This trend is likely to continue. In the future, we may see more automation and artificial intelligence in the workplace, as well as new tools and platforms that support collaboration and communication.
  4. Purpose-driven work: The Great Resignation and quiet-quitting phenomena suggest many employees are looking for more meaning and purpose in their work. We may see a resulting shift toward purpose-driven work, where employees are motivated by a sense of purpose and impact rather than just financial rewards.
  5. The growing importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion: Organizations increasingly recognize the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. In the future, we may see more emphasis on creating inclusive work environments, addressing systemic biases, and promoting diversity at all levels of the organization.

What leadership behaviors need to evolve to improve employee engagement in a sustainable way?

  1. Empathy and understanding: Leaders must show they care about their employees’ needs and concerns. They should actively listen to feedback and be willing to make changes based on that feedback.
  2. Clarity of purpose and direction: Leaders should clearly communicate the organization’s purpose, vision, and goals to employees, as well as provide them with a sense of direction and meaning in their work.
  3. Autonomy and trust: Leaders should empower employees to take ownership of their work and provide them with the autonomy to make decisions and solve problems. This creates a sense of trust and accountability that can improve engagement and performance.
  4. Recognition and appreciation: Leaders should recognize and appreciate employees’ contributions and achievements. This can be done through formal recognition programs or simply through regular feedback and expressions of gratitude.
  5. Development and growth: Leaders should provide opportunities for employees to learn and grow, both professionally and personally. This can include training and development programs, coaching and mentoring, and exposure to new experiences and challenges.
  6. Inclusivity and fairness: Leaders should promote a culture of inclusivity and fairness, where all employees are valued and respected regardless of their background or identity. This can involve addressing systemic biases and creating policies and practices that promote diversity and inclusion.

Change requires commitment and happens one choice at a time. What are the top five commitments you make and keep to yourself daily that have a material impact on those you lead?

  1. Be aware of my own wellness and how it will impact my engagement at the moment.
  2. Focus on the future. It is easy to get caught looking at past results beyond where the lessons will be effectively learned.
  3. Change is required. Most people don’t like change, but you can help make the change easier through effective communication.
  4. Authenticity matters. However, it also requires vulnerability to achieve. Have the courage to be vulnerable and freely embrace your authentic self.
  5. It’s not about me. Don’t take things seriously. At the end of the day, it’s about how I can help my team and organization thrive to the best of their abilities.

What’s the most effective strategy you’ve discovered to get back on track when you break a commitment you’ve made?

Find a way to take a break, whether it’s for an hour, an afternoon, a day, or a long weekend — whatever it takes to recenter. As I discussed before, I always check in with myself about my holistic well-being. This allows me to stay on track and work hard without burning out.

Thank you for sharing these important insights. How can our readers further follow your work?

Follow me on LinkedIn:

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Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!