Enlighten, engage and empower
Are you getting the most out of your employees? The Big Corp founder Pete Baker explains the three ‘E’s and why they are more important now than ever before.
Recent studies suggest that up to 45% of employees are disengaged in the workplace – yikes!
This is both expensive and counterproductive to the future success of your company.
So, I would ask you: are your employees fully engaged and openly contributing to your company? Are you witnessing 100% of their ability?
It doesn’t matter if you have one employee or 100, these questions are universally important. In fact, these questions are arguably more critical to smaller businesses, which typically have less room for error and more opportunity to launch into greatness.
I am reading a great book now, called Good to Great by Jim Collins. It explores the questions of why some companies go from good to great while others remain stagnant or see a reduction in their business. I have always enjoyed figuring out how things work; motors, electronics, people and businesses, which this book certainly explores. It turns many commonly-held beliefs upside down with statistical data. I won’t dive into this book in much more detail here, but I will tell you the few companies that successfully moved from good to great had a strong culture of open dialogue with their teams – otherwise known as a culture of candour.
Great companies create a culture that encourages and often demands challenging dialogue among their teams. One example in the book discusses how one great company had an annual practice of assembling key members of their customer-facing teams with leadership to specifically discuss what they were doing wrong and how they could improve to become better (or great).
More importantly: Great companies make a significant investment of time, energy, money and brand/culture integration to onboard and embed good people into the company. As McDonalds founder Ray Kroc once said: “You’re only as good as the people you hire”. Companies should create a culture to keep good people and enable them to flourish and be the very best performers for the business. If employees do not feel engaged or valued in their opinions, they will leave! And before they leave, they will be disengaged, unproductive, inefficient and potentially toxic to the organisation.
There are three simple ideas that can improve your business (small or large) and create a more cohesive team. I call it the E3 Employee Engagement plan.
People naturally become more interested and engaged when they know where they are going and how they are going to get there. This is true in everyday life; but is especially the case in business.
A sustained path to success begins with:
- Shared Vision: What do you want to become?
- Mission: What do you need to do to accomplish or fulfil your vision?
- Strategy: How will you accomplish the mission?
Many other elements can and should be employed to make this a successful effort, such as determining the core values of the company, which comprise the dos and don’ts that guide the team and the company along the journey, and tactics, which is how you allocate resources to achieve goals during the mission.
To achieve the best sustained success possible for a company these ideals should be created ASAP and must be shared. Key members of the team must have ownership of the ideals. When people understand the vision, mission and strategy of the company, they are far more likely to become engaged and more productive contributors towards these ideals.
There is a significant difference between asking members of the team ‘what do you think about my idea?’ and challenging them to take an opposing view on the topic to improve upon it.
My niece is in her final year of law school. A common exercise for lawyers, in school and licensed, is to take opposing views on legal arguments to prepare to argue the case in court. Exercising this practice can produce amazing and powerful results to improve on (or in some case throw out) ideas for new initiatives, policies, etc (this, of course, must be done in an organised and civilised manner to avoid a company-wide riot).
I would again argue that this discipline is just as important for a two-man rodeo as it is for a team of 100 people. Engaged people contribute and when they contribute they become engaged and more motivated and productive to help the company succeed.
When members of the team understand and share in the vision, mission and strategy, they need far less handholding (I would also add core values and goals to this philosophy). With the first exercise accomplished, empowering the teams to deliver on the ideals and create success for the company can produce magical results.
One practice that I have used successfully in the past is to empower members of my team to contribute in areas outside of their daily scope of work. This will also help to reveal their hidden talents and professional desires, allowing you to better play to these strengths. An example of this exercise is to provide each member of the team freedom to unplug from their traditional duties for four hours a week to work on individual projects. This was a successful effort and motivated members of my team to contribute and present new concepts for policies, future initiatives, sales promotions, etc. In fact, these employee side-projects are how Gmail, the Sony PlayStation, the Facebook ‘Like’ button and many other successful developments were created.
As John Maxwell once said: “Foster a culture that encourages engagement and you will see positive changes.”