I focus a lot of my time and energy on helping clients remember the importance of ongoing communications as their strategic plan unfolds. Keeping employees informed on a regular basis helps to keep the finish line in sight and ensures that everyone runs the same race.
But getting from where you are now to where the organization needs to go can often feel like running a marathon. How do you keep people motivated and inspired when the finish line seems miles away, and when some days, it is unclear what race you are in?
At the beginning of a marathon race, the runners are pumped and ready to go. Muscles are loose, the adrenaline is flowing, and everyone envisions themselves crossing the finish line in front of cheering crowds. But as the miles add up, the mind weakens and the body tires. As each step grows more difficult, some people begin to question whether they can reach the finish line.
Similarly, when you first unveil the strategic plan, you inspire employees by sharing a compelling vision of what tomorrow will look like when your organization wins. But once people go back to the daily grind, their spirits can sag and their focus wanes as the initial excitement wears off.
As a leader or manager, this is the time to shift your focus from informing to helping employees stay excited and energized about achieving the goals. To keep your people inspired day in and day out:
Focus on the aspirational components of your goal. Most people want more than just a paycheck. They want to feel like they’re helping to improve the lives of others. They also want to know that management feels the same way. From time to time, share why you believe in what the company does and why you find the destination so compelling. Articulate how the destination reflects the unique characteristics the company has to offer and how it benefits everyone who works for it. Ask your people why they want to go there with you and what ideas they have for getting there.
Share your passion.
When discussing the goals, don’t be afraid to let your passion shine through. Talk about what the goals mean to you personally and what excites you about achieving them. Solicit similar input from others and share it via emails, the company intranet or in quarterly staff meetings. The more you get people talking about what the goals mean to them individually, the more likely you are to attain buy-in and commitment.
Show people how they are making a difference.
Bring the value of your company to life by sharing customer feedback. Note how you have made a difference with your customers, your community, and the world at large. If possible, create a video of customer interviews and share it with all employees. Invite a customer to present at a company meeting. Present samples of written testimonials you have received. Make it real by sharing stories and information about the individuals affected.
Nothing keeps the passion and energy flowing like recognizing people for a job well done. When individuals or teams achieve interim goals, take the time to recognize those involved. Send thank you notes to employees. Host a celebration event that brings people together in a fun way. Use music, visuals, handouts and give-aways to maintain momentum and enthusiasm.
Regularly assess your communications efforts.
From time to time, pause for a moment and ask yourself, “Am I telling employees everything they need to know? Am I honest and forthright when presenting negative news? Are my communications strictly one-way or do I give people a chance to voice their opinions? When others talk, do I really listen?” Most important, “Are my messages inspirational and compelling?”
Strive for a balance of focus.
People can easily get lost in the day-to-day and lose sight of the big picture. Your role as a leader or manager is to ensure a balance of focus between day-to-day tasks and long-term achievements — a task made increasingly difficult by today’s time-deprived, do-more-with-less, just run fast continuously work environments. Keeping the destination and other components of your strategic framework on everyone’s radar screen will go a long way towards maintaining the inspiration needed to achieve your goals.
There will be days when inspiring employees seems like just another task on your already lengthy to-do list. However, few tasks are as important as this one, even though it does not always appear as urgent. When individuals and teams remain focused and moving in the right direction, they can accomplish great things. And, you just might be surprised at what falls off your own to-do list!