February 17, 2015
A Familiar Story
Matt, the manager of a marketing department at a mid-sized company, leaned back in his desk chair late one Friday afternoon and sighed. His team of five was struggling, despite the fact that each employee had a stellar background and showed great promise after being hired.
The team seemed to be suffering from a general lack of motivation. Ellie, for instance, no longer arrived at the office promptly at 8am, coffee cup in hand and smile firmly in place. Instead, she was routinely late and seemed to lack the enthusiasm she had after being hired.
Communication was also an issue. In weekly status meetings, it wasn’t uncommon for someone to be caught off guard by an announcement – totally unaware that a marketing campaign’s focus or deadline had been changed.
Most of the team members ate lunch at their desks, preferring to use the break to answer emails or skim news headlines. Rarely did conversations progress beyond work matters or polite small talk, and everyone seemed relieved when the clock struck 5 pm so they could hurry home.
After reviewing the team’s symptoms, Matt concluded that the problem was an extremely low level of employee engagement. He knew he needed to engage his team in order to achieve peak performance, but how?
Employee Engagement Woes
Matt’s situation is, unfortunately, a common one. According to Gallup’s latest study, just 31.5% of U.S. employees were engaged in their jobs in 2014. This is an issue that organizations must address in order to achieve sustainable success.
While there are many suggested solutions to America’s employee engagement problems, research suggests that the most highly engaged workforces all have one thing in common: A Connection Culture.
A Connection Culture is created when leadership communicates an inspiring vision and lives it out, values people as human beings, and gives employees a voice in decisions.
In this three-part series, we’ll explore each element of the definition to help you effectively address the difficult task of employee engagement through a Connection Culture.
Casting a Memorable Vision
Imagine this scenario: your direct report is at dinner with family or friends and someone asks, “what does your company do?” Would his answer be something like, “we make widgets,” or would his face light up as he explains how the widgets the company makes are helping people do things better?
The reality is that people are motivated by serving a cause –something bigger than themselves. We are energized when we feel that our work has meaning and is actually making a difference.
Making a difference doesn’t necessarily mean solving the problem of global poverty. It may mean doing something that makes life more beautiful, supports truth, or brings more good things into the world.
Great leaders know that a memorable vision phrase is essential to helping employees understand and embrace the importance of their daily work. Henry Ford, for instance, used the phrase “opening the highways for all mankind” to describe the tremendous impact the company’s work had on making travel accessible to all social classes. When Chuck Schwab started The Charles Schwab Corporation, his vision was to provide “the most useful and ethical financial services in the world.”
Once you have a memorable vision phrase, communicate the vision consistently and live it out. Ask yourself whether projects align with the vision, and drop the ones that do not.
When you cast an inspiring vision, communicate the vision, and live it out, you will be rewarded with a more engaged team and will have taken the first step toward a true Connection Culture.