Have you ever noticed that no matter how much some things change, others remain the same? The modern workplace has changed almost beyond recognition, yet, many companies still manage their employees as if we were in the 80’s.
Twenty-five years ago, managers basically gave employees tasks to complete, providing only as much detail as needed to get the job done. Workers were almost never asked for their ideas, input or critical thinking.
Today, effective leadership involves a lot more than just telling people what to do. To achieve success you must inform, inspire and engage employees so they will choose to go where you are attempting to lead them.
Informing is the first step in aligning employees and getting buy-in. It starts with sharing the why, what and how of your strategic plan. Then discuss and get clear on individual roles in meeting the goals necessary to achieve the plan.
To feel informed, today’s employees need clarity on:
- The mission statement (why you exist)
- Guiding principles (how you will behave)
- Value propositions (what you offer to key stakeholders)
- Destination points (where you are going in one to three years)
- Strategies (key areas of focus for the entire organization)
Although the need to communicate has not changed over the years, the tools we use to communicate have. Thanks to the Internet and other new technologies, today’s leaders can (and should) communicate in many different ways.
The old standbys — memos, meetings and newsletters — still have their place, only in most cases these have gone digital. In addition to these tools, today’s leaders and managers use e-mail, intranets and online newsletters to communicate quickly and effectively with employees. They also use blogs, webinars and video clips to educate and update employees about company goals and objectives.
Companies with geographically dispersed workforces use conference calls and video teleconferencing to simulate face-to-face interactions. And the more tech-savvy companies, especially those with younger workforces, are even using instant messaging and Twitter to stay connected. Whatever technologies you employ, the key is to communicate often in many different ways to ensure that all employees are focused and aligned.
Today’s employees want to believe that their work is making a difference in the world. To inspire others:
- Share a compelling vision of what tomorrow looks like. How will that vision make the world a better place and improve their lives?
- Constantly discuss the aspirational components of your model. Why should employees aspire to achieve the goals your organization has set?
- Share why you believe the destination is compelling. What is it about where the company is going that inspires you?
- Communicate with enthusiasm and passion. Become a cheerleader for the organizational goals.
- Ask employees what the vision means to them. Share their responses via e-mail, intranet and in company meetings.
- Share positive customer feedback. Give people reasons to feel good about what the company does.
- Celebrate achievement of milestones. We all want to be part of a winning team, so recognize the progress and success along the way to your goals.
The ultimate goal is to get employees talking about what the vision, mission and goals mean to them individually. The more they focus on these areas, the more likely you are to get buy-in and alignment.
Engaged employees bring more than just their bodies to work. They bring their hearts and souls as well as their best thinking. To keep employees engaged:
- Visit with them throughout the year to check on their progress. Make sure all individual goals remain aligned with company goals.
- Share stories of how teams are aligned and achieving goals. Highlight team accomplishments and link them to the strategy they support.
- Create an employee pledge wall or flip chart where people can affirm their commitment by listing one thing they will do differently to support the goals.
- To measure employee understanding, commitment, inspiration and engagement, take quick surveys following team or company meetings.
- Solicit questions via email or intranet and address them in open forums. Publicly thank employees for raising the issues.
Remember that as a leader or manager, your behavior speaks much louder than your words. What are you doing (and not just saying) that communicates the importance of the company’s goals? Conversely, what are you doing that might send a conflicting message? The more your behavior is in alignment with what you are saying, the more you will inform, inspire and engage your employees.