“To get to the next level of greatness depends on the quality of the culture, which depends on the quality of the relationships, which depends on the quality of the conversations. Everything happens through conversations.”
– Judith E. Glaser, author of “Conversational Intelligence: How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results”
Success begins with clarity. Do you have a clear vision for your company’s success? Great. Now for the big question: Have you shared that vision with your employees and do each of them know the role they can play in achieving that success? If you aren’t sure, read on.
Research from Google’s Project Oxygen, an initiative that identified the top 10 qualities of a great leader, listed the seventh quality as having a clear vision and strategy for the team. When the purpose and strategy is articulated to each team member, they can begin to see for themselves where they have an opportunity to contribute. Nothing is more powerful than a team with a shared vision of success.
How do you get there?
1. Start with Clarity of Vision.
First, understand YOUR vision of success as a leader. Oftentimes we have so many things coming at us that we have multiple definitions of what success means on any given day. It’s important for us as leaders to move from ambiguity to clarity by understanding exactly how we are defining success. We also need to acknowledge this definition is fluid and could change in six months or a year, we need to be willing to reexamine our vision.
Next, talk to your staff about what success looks like to them. Your employees are your most important assets. It is essential for you to be aware of how they define success so you can understand their motivation and drive and their role within your business.
Once you have that clarity around how each person defines success, then you have the opportunity to create a shared vision. This allows you to connect with your employees and come to an agreement about what success means for your organization. In a positive relationship between leader and teammate, we can play to each other’s strengths and ensure we aren’t duplicating our efforts, instead aligning them. Our job as leaders is to communicate and also enroll our staff in our shared vision.
2. Know Your Employees’ Strengths.
If you wait until you need to delegate a job to an employee to figure out that person’s strengths, you’ve waited too long. It’s your job as a leader to know your team. Know their strengths; be aware of their blind spots. What do they excel in? What comes naturally versus what is outside their comfort zone? You can ask your workers to stretch in order to promote growth, which is a different conversation.
You will thrive when you know them like the back of your hand, what drives each employee and how to best engage them. As certified leadership coaches, we at Institute Success can help you do this. The more time employees spend working on what they are good at, the easier it is for you as a team to make agreements and create action plans that are in alignment with the shared vision of success. Everyone is more productive and the work feels less like work and more like something that brings, dare we say it, pleasure!
3. Listen to and Communicate With Your Internal Clients:
In addition to satisfying our clients’ needs by listening to what is important to them, we have an opportunity when we actively listen to our internal clients too — our employees. Spending time in this way is not wasting it, not by any measure. By listening to what our employees see as their truth, we are instead making an investment in our shared future.
Everyone wants three things:
To be heard; To feel valued; To make a connection
If we fail to truly “hear” what our staff members are telling us, we won’t know how to make them feel valued because we won’t know what’s important to them. Some people are highly motivated by objective markers of achievement, like commissions or promotions. Others focus more on internal factors like the knowledge of a job expertly done or alignment with a moral or ethical value.
If you don’t find out, your employees may not feel a connection, and without connection there is loss of trust and engagement.
Picture connection as the intersection of circles: you (the leader), your employee, and the organization itself. If you are working with a team, you can recreate this intersection with each team member. What do you want from each other? What are you going to give to the organization and what do you want to get from it?
Have your employees get together and ask each one what they want, both from the business and from each other. They may say things like: I want respect, I want to use my talents and work as partners. Now you are getting somewhere.
Collaborating as a team is like dancing: you need to figure out how to do it. If I have a vision of the cha-cha and you’d rather do the merengue, we’ll be stepping on each other’s toes and won’t make very good partners.
At the end of the day, we need to walk away in agreement and Institute Success can help you do this for your team.
Institute Success Tip: Always make time for an employee who comes to you with a problem. As Colin Powell has said of his soldiers, “The day the soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you stopped leading them.”