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Creating a You and Me Culture

A business model whose time has come

by Kelly Townsend


Leaders talk about valuing employee engagement in organizations, yet Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report states that 51% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged. The Employee Engagement Institute, in a joint study with The Conference Board, discovered that U.S. companies lose $550 billion each year from disengaged employees.

If the cost is so high for organizations, why is employee engagement so low? These statistics point to the fact that many leaders are not connected to what really matters to the people in their workforce — and possibly the source of high performance in their organizations.

The 2021 report states that employees are beyond unhappy and are actually resentful. People are left like the only thing that matters is shareholder profit at their expense. We call this a “You or Me” business model, in which one party wins at another’s expense.

Maybe it’s time to retire this model and develop a new kind of leader, one who authentically leads from the concerns of all the constituencies impacted by the enterprise. Maybe the time has come for leaders to commit to creating a culture of “You and Me,” where engagement happens naturally. And according to the Gallup 2021 report, when employees are engaged, companies report reductions in absenteeism (41%) and turnover (59%).

The pandemic has created especially challenging times for leaders. But times of crisis can be transformational if we look to learn from what is not working. We have the opportunity to reflect on what is missing and what can be brought to the future that constitutes a win-win for all stakeholders.

How does a leader access the You and Me culture of engagement? It begins with a certain kind of listening. Leaders must listen from the future as a possibility, imagining what the organization can be and what can be realized by all contributors impacting the organization. Great leaders create a painted picture for themselves of how they see the future, then create conversations with all the relevant parties to see how they see the future.


What are people worried about when they think of the future? What are their hopes and dreams? Listening to what people have to say helps inform and connect the leader in creating a leadership message that expresses a shared vision and speaks to what matters to stakeholders. Consistently taking the time to have these kinds of conversations when hiring and communicating with employees makes a very positive difference in people being engaged.


People naturally perform better in organizations with shared vision, values and practices. Employees who are highly engaged also bring that kind of engagement to their customers. A culture in which team members experience that they are listened to, that their voice matters, feel like they belong. This is critical to employee engagement.

Leaders must get the fact that employee engagement is more than satisfying employees or looking at what makes them happy. Maybe employee engagement is more about creating a culture in which leaders are authentically committed to hiring workers who are aligned in purpose, direction, philosophy and shared practices. 

Fostering a You and Me culture in which people experience that they make a noteworthy contribution to a shared future is an enlightening and inspiring journey for new leaders — and it makes the organization a great place to work.

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Kelly Townsend is the principal at Leaders Team (, an organization that calls itself “Codebreakers for Human Performance.” The team is comprised of experienced professionals who work to unlock human potential, helping organizations create breakthrough results.

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