It’s not a matter of threatening or conning…it is a matter of inspiring
I don’t care what business you are in your ability to inspire and get the most out of your direct reports is a priceless trait to obtain. Having been in the people management business for many years I’ve yet to put my finger on that magic trait that some people have in getting others to follow. Now, I hear most of you reading this passage yelling “it’s charisma”, “charm”, “intelligence”, “good looks”, “being famous” etc etc…all traits that do not guarantee support from others. Let’s look at it this way if you’ve been in any relationship whether it’s being married, a best friend to someone, or great relationship with a work colleague I think many of you would agree that these superficial traits fade over time. If you were to meet me for the first time I’m hoping you would come away saying “he’s a nice guy and fairly intelligent” (LOL!), but that doesn’t mean you have my best interest. In fact, you may not have my best interest for a few meetings….that’s the reality of our existence as human beings. People either follow, support, and yes LOVE those who have their best interest over time. I literally laugh hysterically when I come in contact with people who brag about the number of twitter followers they have as if to say “I’m more important than you because so many people follow me” (the kicker is most of these people who follow you do so because they want to be followed how crazy is that?!). Leaders of big and small business today have a ton on their plate competition is fiercer than it’s ever been and holding on to great talent is a challenge. What I’ve observed in working with CEOs in small and big business is there is a struggle in identifying and compassionately acting on what I call “employee temperature”. Most companies either once or twice a year puts out an internal employee survey feedback form as a way of checking the “temperature” of their people. The form is usually a standard off the shelf cold document that’s laced with questions in most cases a kin to a telemarketer script. Worst, typically only about 60% of employees even take the time to feel out the survey (this percentage is lower if there’s no enticement), and the feedback received is rarely acted upon. Which explains why feedback response rates are so low in corporate America. Okay, so that this doesn’t appear as if I’m throwing the entire business leader community under the bus I do think it’s a matter of not knowing how to engage with today’s employee. All over the place we’re getting information on how to motivate/inspire the millennial, a geography that has captured and in many cases held businesses hostage. I’ve never sided with the philosophy that everything we do when it comes to business and life should be catered to one demographic group because it naturally alienates the next. We are officially a global entity thanks to technology and the good ole internet. Today’s leadership has to have a chameleon leadership philosophy, which focuses on adaptability, humility and competency. In another post I talk about the importance of chameleon leadership and why it’s the leadership of the future and beyond (http://ah2andbeyond.com/the-chameleon-leadership-effect/). In order to gather and maintain employee loyalty it’s not a process (e.g. employee feedback, the scheduled team building events, the company retreat etc), it’s the sincere value you place on every employee. When I teach negotiation skills I talk explicitly about the importance of identifying what your negotiating partner values first…not yours. You see, in harnessing trust and integrity I have to understand what makes you tick in order for that same virtue to boomerang back to me. Obtaining loyalty from your employees can be seen as a negotiation, if I take the time to really understand you….will you run through a wall for me.
Loyalty Means Putting In The Work
I’ve come to realize that in order to inspire and get the most out of those that report to you, you must put in the time or what they say now “putting in the work”. As a sales director I used to come home exhausted after working in the field with my sales people because I absolutely thought it was important that I leave everything I had with them…when I was with them. I wanted to be the consummate coach to my sales team with the objective of teaching to excellence with the payoff being a highly successful salesperson. I have always believed in the “WIIFM” (Whats In It For Me) theory when dealing with people whom you need to support you. In reality, we’re all selfish people in that we want to feel that we’re getting something in return and often times it’s not monetary. TIME can be more of an asset than money…just ask a young child who has never spent quality time with a parent. If your goal as a CEO of a company is to reduce turnover, vacancy rates, HR issues, obtain top talent…then you have to put the work in. It’s that simple. One of my sweet spots when I work with CEOs is helping them with their corporate vision. Inevitably, the beginning of the process is usually about growth, customer loyalty, stakeholder happiness and if there’s time….employee satisfaction. The saying “you’re only as good as your people” is true and unfortunately shamefully thought of as a throwaway cliche’. Walmart, Amazon, Apple and IBM have one thing in common, they hired people who executed the vision extraordinarily well. Sure, the CEOs of these corporate giants will get the PR but behind close doors they’ll tell you it’s the employees that make it happen. A vision is meaningless if there’s no one around to execute it. The question then becomes how do you gather that sense of loyalty so that people feel inspired to run through the wall executing the vision…that’s where the work comes in. Below are some strategies that can be implemented to get the work started:
- Build communication strategies into your business plans. What type of information sharing and feedback do you need to accomplish employee/corporate goals?
- Review and analyze how your company currently communicates. Is it like a spider web, where there are too many communication points with ambiguous direction?
- Communicate with employees about….communication. Ask people how the current communication system helps them perform their jobs. Discuss your current communication culture and whether or how it should be changed. This is a GREAT way to encourage involvement in the process and demonstrate “behavior” that this will be a sincere effort.
- With your employees develop a communication philosophy that EVERYONE will be held accountable too. Every person in the organization will understand and be able to explain the corporate’s communication mission and goals.
- Develop corporate advocacy where there’s governance around contributing ideas and knowledge is a part of everyone’s job, regardless of function or level of responsibility.
- Build an environment where ideas from EVERY level, from the CEO to the parking lot attendant are captured and importantly followed through on.
- To reiterate, build “Follow up” mechanisms that respond to all feedback, and ideas. Employees should feel that they’re being heard and that their correspondence isn’t placed in a black hole.
- Finally, as a company leader be receptive to the ideas you hear….even the ones that are several feet “out of the box”. Showing a willingness to hear about an idea demonstrates once again the “behavior” of practicing “Open Door Policy”, and importantly doesn’t shut off the flow of potentially great ideas.
Below are my “Intangibles” suggestions:
- Show Empathy: Right out the gate develop a “We’re all in this together, success depends on all hands on deck” philosophy. Credibility is not gained…unless there’s mutual trust.
- Demonstrate Competency: Telling someone you’re “Smart” is not going to cut it. Do your homework, make sure you have a thorough understanding of what needs to get done and importantly know the “Landscape”.
- Create Value: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Creating mutual value between yourself and team creates a positive “WIIFM” (What is in it for me”) environment that empowers and breeds accountability toward completing the desired goal.
- Forge A Partnership: Develop a “Connection Session” strategy which each indirect report. Discuss working relationship, accountability, and importantly “VISION”.
- Inspire Commitment: “Leading by Example” is the soup of the day. The best way to inspire those not directly reporting to you is to get in the “mud” with them, demonstrating your commitment to their success and the overall team success will definitely inspire.
- Grow Skills: If there’s an opportunity to “Teach” take it! If people feel like their growing under your direction they’ll wish you were their official boss…rather than an ambiguous one.
- Shape the Environment: Perhaps the most important is developing and molding an environment based on “TRUST”. The corporate environment is chocked with “snakes” and the immediate cognitive dissonance between a dotted line leader and employee is “Can I Trust You”? If the top bullet points are followed to mastery then shaping the environment of trust should come naturally.
GREAT head coaches don’t just happen each has a desire to connect, inspire and care for those players that leave it on the field for them. Leadership quite frankly is not a difficult concept however it does take work to focus on one thing…the other person.
Check out my presentation on “Building A Global Sales Team For All Industries”
You can download the presentation on this website as well
Andre’ Harrell (AH2 & Beyond Consulting)