Eagles, and Chickens and Employee Engagement

Eagles, and Chickens and Employee Engagement

May 27, 2014

Kelly King, chairman and CEO of BB&T Corp recently gave a keynote address, in which he spoke about the “Five Characteristics of Top Achievers” and offered great insight into what makes an employee an advocate for his or her organization.

The transcript of the speech was published in The American Bankers Association Banking Journal. Mr. King has found that top performers share the following:

  • “They believe absolutely and completely to their toes in what they are trying to accomplish – their purpose.
  • “They commit time, energy and resources to make it happen.
  • “They train themselves so they have better skills than anybody else.
  • “They learn how to enjoy the journey.
  • “[They have] an enthusiastic, positive attitude.”

Top performers, Mr. King states, “Work 10-12 hours a day. When they get home they’re dead tired. But emotionally they’re on a high – they’re pumped up, they’re excited. They get rejuvenated and get up the next morning fired up and ready to go again. That’s enjoying what they’re doing.”

This strong sense of purpose and intense desire for achievement may be innate to some top performers and is often discussed in terms of intrinsic motivation. In his Harvard Business Review article, “Does Money Really Affect Motivation,” Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes, “Employees who are intrinsically motivated are three times more engaged than employees who are extrinsically motivated (such as by money). Quite simply, you’re more likely to like your job if you focus on the work itself, and less likely to enjoy it if you’re focused on money.”

In the field of employee engagement, however, the theory holds that organizations can create the conditions needed to:

  • Support the needs and reduce obstacles for top performers
  • Convert those teetering on the brink of intrinsic motivation
  • Provide guidance, tools, and opportunity for those driven by extrinsic motivation

By setting programs in place that define the purpose of the work, provide information and direction, and recognize achievements, organizations can begin to create a framework that allows employees to excel.

In the closing words of Mr. King, “Look, there’s nothing wrong with being a chicken, if you’re meant to be a chicken. But if you’re meant to be an eagle, and you’re living your life like a chicken, then you are missing the God-given opportunity that you have in life. Don’t blow it!” A thoughtful engagement program can help separate the eagles from the chickens, and provide the greatest opportunity for each to live up to potential.