Powering Employee Engagement

The ability to envision your company’s future is important to formulating business strategy.  Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up someplace else.”

It’s also important for employee engagement.  Employees want to know two things about their organizations:

  • First, that their leadership is clear about where the organization is going and how it will get there,
  • Second, that their work is an important part of the strategy — that each employee plays a part in achieving that future vision.

So, if you want your people to exercise all their discretionary efforts, one of the best things you can do is to give them something to believe in — a compelling vision and a leadership team that clearly knows what they want to accomplish and how they plan to get there.

This isn’t just leadership, it’s also internal marketing.

You’ll Never Get Commitment Using Logic

In response to one of my recent emails concerning commitment, several clients asked, “So what are the leadership steps to getting commitment?”  Here’s one of the most important:  Don’t rely on logic; tap into emotion.

It’s what marketers do, and when you’re looking to build commitment, that’s exactly what you are doing too — marketing.  You’ve got to appeal to people’s rational self-interest and do it in a way that is both compelling and exciting.  For example, tell them why this is the most exciting time in the organization’s history.  Tell a story that conveys the reason your mission is important to them personally.  Whatever you do, don’t do a PowerPoint presentation full of business jargon.  As author Alan Weiss says, “Logic makes you think, but emotion makes you act.”

Consensus Is Not Commitment

Getting consensus is good — but commitment is essential.  I have seen leaders who spend all their time getting their team to reach consensus, but fail over and over again to get the commitment necessary to really move ahead.  They fool themselves into believing that having consensus is the same as having commitment.  Nothing is further from the truth.

My recommendation:  Go ahead and build consensus, but understand that you’ll have to do more than that to achieve commitment.  Learn the leadership steps that hone in on commitment–real commitment.

The Wisdom of Giving Thanks

This is Thanksgiving week in the United States.  It’s a time to give thanks to your coworkers, your employees, your customers, and vendors.  And especially to give thanks to your family and to yourself.
We often focus on what needs to be done, what must be corrected or improved.  It keeps us focused and moving ahead.  But the most powerful source of motivation (and satisfaction,) is regularly stopping to be thankful for what we have.
Whether you are in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, or overseas, take the time to have a good Thanksgiving, and a grateful thank you to all of you who are my clients and my friends.

On performance, motivation and engagement

People improve their own performance.  It’s an individual accountability.  Leaders can provide the ways and the means for people to do that, but leaders cannot do it for them.
Similarly, people motivate themselves.  Leaders cannot motivate individuals.  People can be forced to do something by fear, peer pressure, or incentive, but that’s not motivation — it’s control.  It’s what Harvard professor Herzberg decades ago called a “KITA” (kick in the ass.)  KITAs are effective at getting movement, but not high-level and sustained performance.
While many managers and companies continue to use KITAs, others are obsessed with employee “engagement”–a term that has made the rounds since the mid-1990’s.  Much of what passes for engagement is control in one form or another, or entitlements that may increase employee moods, but which don’t translate into better performance.
The best way to improve performance, motivation and engagement is to make the work itself meaningful, stimulating, challenging, and rewarding.

The Final Mile in Strategy Implementation

In the cable industry, the final mile is connecting the cable system to customers’ homes.  It is the most costly part of the entire system, and in many ways the most important.  When implementing a strategy, the ‘final mile’ is connecting the strategy to each individual’s objectives.  Corporate strategies, objectives, and outcomes are pointless unless people are actively working toward them.  Yet in many companies, little is done to make the connection.  Instead, the strategic plans get put in binders for senior managers and everyone else continues to do their jobs in ways that might support or conflict with the strategy.
To go the final mile, involves a few very practical steps.
  • First you need a strategy that is clear and cogent (many aren’t.)
  • Second, the strategy needs to be communicated (I know of three CEOs who think their strategies are  too confidential to tell their organizations.)
  • Third, you need managers who understand it, can articulate it, and have the skill and motivation to connect it to each individual’s objectives.
  • Finally, you need ongoing reinforcement and monitoring—not once a year, but at least monthly.  Successful companies make sure to connect the final mile because that’s where the power is.
What is your process for the final mile?

Having Your Head in the Game

With three minutes to go in the game, and his team leading by 30 points, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is studying and discussing game pictures on the sideline. He’s a professional, and he has his head in the game. Having one’s head in the game means planning, thinking, knowing what you intend to do when you go out on the field. But most of all it means being fully present and ready for whatever happens. How many of your people have their heads in the game? What are you doing to make sure they know the game plan and the next immediate objective?