To get your team to follow you throughout the journey you must truly understand the strategy and goals from above and be committed to achieving them.
You also you need to communicate this to your team in a way that provides them with understanding of how this links the ‘what they do’ and the ‘why it matters’ plus the ‘how it makes a difference’.
“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader works in the open, and the boss in covert. The leader leads, and the boss drives” – Theodore Rossevelt
In his book – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr. Stephen Covey, he states: Seek first to understand, then be understood.
Dr. Covey goes on to say that learning to communicate effectively is a very important skill. In the context of communication and leadership, this means that you must make sure you understand the other person’s perspective. Otherwise, you run the risk of two people having two very different viewpoints.
Years ago, when I was working for a large Australian insurance company, I was delivering an update as part of a section meeting. During the meeting, one of the staff in the room said –
“we just take all of the phone calls so why would anyone want our ideas.”
Others in the room nodded their heads in agreement with their colleague. That’s when I realised the “why it matters” was missing for my staff.
By not clearly communicating to the team how the work they do every day links into the bigger picture I had missed an opportunity. As I had a captured audience, I chose to start fixing this before the meeting was over.
I chose one of the companies goals and went onto explain the:
- ‘what they do’, and the
- ‘why it matters’, plus the
- ‘how it makes a difference’
I said to the group, “one of the companies goals is to be a trusted insurer. ”
I explained that, as front-line consultants, they provide outstanding customer service when talking to our customers. As such, it is highly likely that these customers would not have spoken to anyone else in the company since the day they purchased their policy (a common trend with insurance products).
This means that the customer service you provide over the phone, including your tone of voice, your pace of speech and your careful explanation of the customers policy, matters a lot to that one customer right there and then.
You are the face of the company to that customer. You provide great customer service and demonstrate a high care factor. This creates trust for you, and you represent the company – that is important.
I took the nods of agreement and heads held a bit higher as an understanding of the link between what they do and how it fits into the big picture (I also asked a few of them just to make sure!)
Do your staff know how their work is linked to the big picture?
Do you have the language needed to be able to share this big picture with them?
Managers must speak many languages
I speak many languages… and so do you. As a leader you not only speak another language – you also teach that language.
What am I talking about?
It’s the language of those above you – the decision makers that set the company direction.
Here’s what I mean.
You make sense of the language of strategy, direction, game plan or organisational goals, including:
- market share
- increasing the revenue
- decreasing costs and/or staff turnover
- the ‘answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds’ (one for my contact centre friends out there), and
As a leader you translate this language into your operational or tactical plan in order to achieve the goals of the strategy. You do this by managing, motivating and engaging your staff to follow the path that you have set.
You turn organisational goals into your team goals by motivating and influencing everyone around you.
As you travel down this road you also re-translate your plan from an operational language back to a strategy language for the senior execs to understand.
Your language skills are your real strength as a leader.
Is your team ready to follow you?
Are you able to share the strategy with your team and put this into operation? Do your team members know that what they do matters, to you and the company?
The first thing you can do in this area is to find a link between the organisational goals and what your team does to contribute to achieving them. Now, tell them often in various ways – meetings, emails, water cooler chats. Eventually you will find that they will start to tell you – then you know you have made the link for them!
Never stop learning,