To Have a Strong Culture, You Need Skilled Leaders

Alex Pollock
June 11, 2019
Strong Culture, Skilled Leaders, Engaged Employees
I applaud the NAEM emphasis on "Skilled Leaders, Strong Culture" as discussed on The Green Tie recently by Paul Robbertz (May 2019). An element of a "strong culture," a sustainable culture, must be flourishing people. It should find employees who consistently deliver high levels of performance, who are emotionally committed to what they do, who show high levels of energy and enthusiasm, who are committed to their company, work group and role.

In their research, Gallup refers to these employees as "engaged." When I first started to follow this research in 2000, I was alarmed that in a typical U.S. workplace, only 26% of employees were engaged. Things improved slightly by 2010 as the number rose to 28%. As the bottom line benefits of an engaged workforce were quantified and published in terms of improved employee retention, customer satisfaction, company profitability and safety performance, I would have thought that corporate efforts to seize these benefits would have been given top priority. Well, in 2018 the number rose again...but only to 34%. This still leaves 66% of employees "not engaged" or "actively disengaged." Why do companies still tolerate so few "engaged" employees? Is this needle so tough to move that companies have ferociously tried, become exhausted and given up? Is the recipe for "engagement" so complex that it's unattainable? I think not. Where there is a will, there is a way.

The latest Gallup research presented in "It's the Manager" (Jim Clifton and Jim Harter, May 2019) confirms that improving your ratio of "great" to "lousy" managers is the most powerful lever to be pulled to trigger workplace transformation. Thinking back on the managers you've worked with, how many of them would you like to work for again? Gallup research suggests that for every 10 managers you've had, only 2 or 3 you'd want to be linked with again...if you are lucky. This is a wake-up call for all managers or would-be managers. Hopefully, you are asking, "how can I improve my effectiveness?" Those traits of "great managers" suggested by Gallup are:

  • Motivation: Inspiring teams to get exceptional work done
  • Work Style: Setting goals and ensuring that resources are available to get desired results
  • Initiation: Influence that overpowers adversity/resistance
  • Collaboration: Building teams with deep bonds
  • Thought Process: Taking an analytical approach to strategy and decision-making

There is an invaluable role for NAEM to play in equipping us to be "skilled leaders" that are passionate about improving the culture of our companies. The upcoming EHS & Sustainability Management Forum will be a great place to advance our capabilities.

Learn more and register for the 2019 Forum at, taking place in Toronto, Ontario, from Oct. 15-18.

About the Author

Alex Pollock
Alex Pollock has been studying leadership effectiveness for more than 30 years. A former leader in environment, health and safety, and public affairs at The Dow Chemical Co., he learned that we all have leadership roles to play. He enjoys discussing new ideas and sharing practical ways we can all become better leaders.

Email Sign Up