Leadership Toolkit: 3 Surprising Reasons Your Employees Let You Down
Reframing the way you convey expectations can measurably increase response, productivity and results.
Recently I taught a Communications on Purpose workshop to a room full of managers. We talked through some real-life challenges, and one struck me. In a nutshell; a district manager was unable to get her local managers to recognize the people on their teams for putting in overtime. In an effort to motivate these managers, she gave them notecards, email templates, even cute blue ribbons to hand out, yet still, they stonewalled. They didn’t see the point, so no matter how turnkey or simple the request, they simply could not bring themselves to comply. A classic power struggle.
As a leader, how often does some version of this happen during throughout your work week? It can feel like your team doesn’t respect you, or that they’re not bringing their A-game. You’re frustrated. Yet when you drill down a notch, this lack of expected follow-through is likely caused by something else. In short, they just don’t see the purpose. They’re not clear on their part in the bigger picture.
To feel motivated to comply, especially in a work-related situation, people need to know why your requests matter, not to you but to them, preferably communicated in a voice they can relate to.
Certainly, purpose can sound like one of those touchy, feely words coaches love to use. It’s also highly correlated with business outcomes like greater productivity and profitability. Author Chip Conley originally explored this concept in Peak, and dozens of researchers have since confirmed the positive relationship between purpose and productivity/profit in the years since. One recent study shows that if employees felt they were working towards a good cause, it increased their productivity by up to 30%.
A-list executive coach and thought leader Marshall Goldsmith uses the relationship between leadership and profitability as a cornerstone in his work. It’s one asset companies can capitalize on for free.
Free monetarily that is. The measurable benefit of practicing the type of messaging that will deliver better results in terms of response, cooperation and follow through requires some commitment on your part.
For starters, next time you plan to communicate a request to anyone in your organization or at home, first stop and get clear about the results you’re expecting from this interaction.
Now use the following purpose-driving communication strategies to avoid the 3 common pitfalls that keep you from getting your results you want:
- Lack of clarity: You didn’t deliver the message clearly. This is a much larger topic for discussion, but suffice it to say, most of us are prone to under-communicate. Because we fall victim to what The Art of Explanation author Lee Leferver calls “an explanation problem”. It’s when you assume people have a shared understanding of your reality, yet as studies show, often they do not. Psychologists call this confirmation bias. To avoid this, err on the side of over-communicating with respect to details. No one will fault you for clarity, and even if they do, it’s probably worth the risk.
- Lack of trust: In the workplace, people have a heightened need for recognition I will that person leverage my contributions to serve their own self-interest. Will I be given credit? am I valued? When you communicate your request, think about how you can address that concern for them.
Consider the following 2 options for the exact same request; “Karyn, can you put together a sales report segmenting out the top 10% of customers by Friday?
Compared to; “Karyn, we’d like your help. We’re researching whether a new supplier is encroaching on our business in certain sectors. This is a high visibility project and we want you in on it. Can we count on you to pull together a report segmenting out the top 10% of customers by Friday?”
It’s impossible to underestimate the value people place on belonging. There are too many Karyn’s out there getting mislabeled as non-team players when they were never even knew they were on the team.
3. Lack of Buy in: One high tech company I worked with has a manager known to call upon his team to step it up a notch, adding extra deliverables mid-way through the product development cycle, yet not necessarily adjusting deadlines accordingly. The people on his team sometimes complain about the additional expectations. Other times they completely ignore them.
This manager, we’ll call him Terry, is always scoping opportunities for the whole team to shine by raising the bar for their projects. He knows this practice will pay off for everyone on the team eventually.
His usual strategy is to rally around the cool new product features to get the team exciting and motivated. Yet, deliverables and deadlines are consistently missed, and instead of accelerated results, Terry feels like his team just kind of sucks, and he resents that unlike him, they just seem to be working for the paycheck.
When Terry took the time to establish what was important to people on his team, he could speak to them in a language they understood. He tied back the project to things that they cared about, like higher visibility to senior management and company-wide recognition. Suddenly the team saw these requests in a whole new light, as opportunities instead aggravation.
When people understand the big picture and the part they’ll play, they can find purpose and motivation to stay on task, despite the challenges.
Communicating with purpose calls for leaders to take the time to clarify their objectives, so they can clearly convey the vision that will ultimately lead to commitment from their teams.
As a Deloitte.survey reveals that 73 % of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are actively engaged, compared to 23 % of those who don’t. Leaders who understand this see that purpose driven strategies simply make good business sense.
Interested in building a more purpose driven, productive workforce? Sign up for an introductory Leadership on Purpose workshop today! Elizabeth@theBorelliGroup.com
Marshall Goldsmith, http://www.marshallgoldsmith.com/
Chip Conley, Peak; https://chipconley.com
Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, Primed to Perform; 2016
CES IFO; http://www.personal.soton.ac.uk/mv1u06/CP_WP.pdf