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The latest release of Gallup’s highly regarded State of the American Workplace report in February provided an overview of job satisfaction levels that few could be proud of. 

The company’s newest research reveals 70% of American workers aren’t engaged at work. Representing a continuing trend that’s emerged in recent years, these statistics are simple to understand: companies are failing to keep their employees happy.

Speaking at HotelSpaces on the topic of leadership, broughtonHOTELS founder and CEO Larry Broughton believes it’s a tendency hurting the country in more ways than one. While Gallup estimates disengaged employees cost US companies upwards of $605 billion every year, Broughton says of equal concern is the sobering insight these figures provide into the lives of everyday Americans.

“If you have a bad day at the office, do you leave that at the office? Most people actually take it home,” Broughton says. “If so much of the America citizenry feel like their best years are behind them, what’s the answer?” he muses, before issuing businesses with a call to action for more than just their bottom line.

“If you are a leader, I think the answer is you. If you are a leader, you have a moral responsibility, an obligation to change that negative mindset.”

It’s a belief Broughton takes to heart with his own entrepreneurial endeavors. Despite enduring testing times in the hospitality industry since its beginnings in 2001, broughtonHOTELS now manages a portfolio of over 20 boutique hotels across California and Chicago.

As Co-Founder of Broughton Advisory Group, Larry has provided consulting services to organizations ranging from the Pentagon to Turner Broadcasting on topics of transformational leadership, entrepreneurial mindset and team building. He attributes much of this success to his tried and tested leadership methods – knowledge he’s passed on to countless others.

Having interviewed and learned from some of the best and brightest business minds, Broughton confidently stands by one simple piece of advice:

“If you want to do great things, you have to be a great person. That’s just the bottom line.

“But often times, a lot of people stuck in these leadership roles are jerks. They don’t know how to deal with people. They’ve been promoted from a management position to a leadership position because why? They’ve been around longer than anyone else. It’s just the absolute wrong approach,” Broughton puts bluntly. “If you’ve ever worked for a boss or a leader who’s been a jerk, you know they’re condescending. Or they grind you down. Don’t be that person,” Broughton urges, before assuring there’s hope. “If you are one of those jerks, you don’t have to be. There are answers.”

And if the latest statistics are anything to go by, finding answers to America’s engagement problem had best come quickly.

While Gallup’s figures show merely a third of full-time employees are engaged at work, at the opposing end of things, 16% of workers are actively disengaged. Research shows that employees who are downright miserable in their jobs have damaging effects on the workplace as a whole. As well as this, more than half the workforce admits they’re looking for a different job. Retaining workers will be one of the biggest challenges facing American business moving forward – something companies may not be realizing quick enough.


In order to create a happier, more productive workforce, Broughton says leaders need to focus on those they’re leading.

“Usually when you’ve got a problem in business, there are four categories of problems. You’ve got people problems, process problems, profit problems and product problems. But when you pull the lens back on this thing, what you want to ensure is that you have the right people sitting in the right seat on the bus. So if you take this approach to leadership, if you have a product problem, or a profit problem, or a process problem, you know you really have? They all come down to people problems. So we, as leaders, better understand this – we better be really good at dealing with people.”

A Military Mindset

As businesses scramble for a solution, Broughton advocates adopting a militaristic approach to leadership. Before finding success as a hotelier, Broughton spent eight years in the elite Green Berets. He believes there’s a lot to learn from their methods.

“How is it that the military can build arguably the world’s most elite teams – the Green Berets, the Navy Seals. These folks are ready to go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How do they do that? They focus on people’s strengths. They don’t focus on weaknesses. They identify weaknesses and then build teams to augment each other’s weaknesses,” he says.

Applying this mindset to his own businesses, Broughton is adamant the key to happier, more driven employees begins and ends with a strengths-based approach. In particular, he praises strategies of companies that nail it from the get-go – the hiring stage. Broughton utilizes these same strategies when building his own teams, relying on strength and personality tests offered by companies like Kolbe to find right people for the job.


Broughton also promotes three factors to focus on when recruiting, which will help kick things off on a positive note:

  1. Motivation first. You want people to get out of bed in the morning and be happy to be there. They’re problem solvers, they’re highly motivated.”
  2. Integrity is number two. You’ve got to have people with integrity on your team. Motivation without integrity is dangerous.”
  3. “And the third thing is capacity. Because people usually build organizations to grow. There are few things as sad when you’re a CEO or a founder or a leader of an organization when you have people on the right seat of the bus, but you’re growing so fast that your team can’t keep up with you. So you try and find the people and build the teams who can grow with you.”

Using these principles, companies can achieve a better outlook and ultimately, an eager, productive workforce.

“A good attitude won’t guarantee victory, but a bad one will guarantee defeat.”

For Broughton, the engagement issues we’re witnessing have everything to do with outdated managerial methods.

“You have a performance review at work. There might be 30 indices they’re measuring your performance on. 28 are awesome. But where does the boss spend 45 minutes grilling you? Two things. Negative things. It’s all wrong. Build your teams where people can soar in their strengths. Imagine if you could go into the office every day and do everything that you’re good at and that you love doing. Imagine if your teams could do the same thing. Productivity skyrockets. Morale skyrockets. Turnover drops.”

The Beginning of Success – Embracing Failure

Ultimately, the true triumph of a more positive approach to leadership is how it encourages what most of us fear – failure. Broughton says companies need to embrace a culture that allows employees to feel safe enough that they’re willing to fail. While this sounds counterintuitive, Broughton looks to his research in finding clues to success.

“When I interview the Richard Bransons' of the world and talk to them, over and over again, they say failure is what helped to get them, propel them to where they are,” Broughton says. “We have to create cultures where people fail, constantly.

If you’re not failing, you’re not moving fast enough or getting close enough to your fullest potential. We have to fail, I really believe we have to embrace it.”


Michael P. Owens

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Michael P. Owens is Co-Founder + Managing Partner of influence group, a leading producer of invite-only B2B events.

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