For those of us running our own business, it’s important to share what’s going on in the business with your employees.
In more than a few business articles where employees provide feedback for how startup businesses, or just any company for that matter, can improve retention and team morale is being more transparent. This doesn’t mean you need to share every nitty gritty detail down to how much you are spending on petty cash, but it does mean employees should have an understanding of some key things:
What is the vision for the company
Where is the company going
Where am I going with the company
Where are we doing well? Not so well?
Are we winning?!
WHAT IS THE VISION FOR THE COMPANY
Why do you exist? Why do your clients need you vs. your competitors? What’s so special about what YOU are doing?
Some questions that sound really simple but are as tough to answer as questions like “the meaning of life”. It is a really important one to dive into, because as I read in “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl, “once man finds their why, they can endure any how.”
Having this answer means your team knows why they go to work every day, that the reason why they work is much larger than just ‘making money’. Monetary motivation can only go so far, if you need a team that has each other’s backs and collectively chase after the company’s vision, you will need to go waaaaay beyond monetary incentives.
WHERE IS THE COMPANY GOING
It’s the job of the company owner and management team to fill the team in on where the bus is going. If you intend to make a massive switch in your business model, I sure hope you aren’t waiting for a long weekend Friday to make the announcement in hopes of slyly sneaking it by the team as a ‘small’ change you are making in the company.
Involve them in the process. Your employees are on the ground, connecting and interacting with customers and prospects every day. Unless you are still heavily involved in the delivery of your services or products and still a customer-facing CEO, I would bet that your sales and account management team would know much more than you do about what makes the market tick.
It you don’t listen to bottom up feedback, you are probably engaging in top-down management (read: shoving management policies down staff’s throats), which is never appreciated and likely won’t win buy-in from the team.
Once you have fleshed out your grand plan, draw it on the back of a napkin, or on a whiteboard, or whatever medium works for you, and explain your rationale behind taking the company in this direction. Once the team knows where they are going, everyone is aligned with the company objectives and goals; and if they feel they want to head to another destination, time for them to get off the bus, which is better for everyone involved.
It’s similar to asking the “where is this going?” question in a relationship, once you ask the question and you don’t like what you hear, it’s up to you now to make the decision of whether you stay.
WHERE AM I GOING WITH THE COMPANY
Let’s continue the relationship metaphor, because while the 'not knowing where you are going’ phase of a relationship is thrilling and exciting initially, that spark quickly dies and is replaced with doubt and frustration.
When anyone is dropped into a new role at a new company, everything is exciting and most will need to take some time to take it all in. If you are a manager or the owner of a company, it’s an art to figure out when you should step in and provide some guidelines to let the staff know what their personal development path is. You will need some time to observe what the person’s strengths are and where they can improve to create a productive and helpful development plan. So, while the new team member is learning the ropes, have them tackle different tasks to help you figure out what they are good at.
Everyone appreciates knowing what the company’s hopes and dreams are for them on an individual basis. Team goals are great, but we should not neglect how each team member is developing on a personal level. When the individual has a stronger skill set, it means they can contribute to a greater whole.
Don’t just tell them what they are good at, tell them what they need to work on, if they want to achieve the collaborative goals you have set. It’s easy to share positive feedback, but just as important to point out weaknesses that hold them back from achieving more.
Sh*t gets real, but everyone comes out better and with a deeper understanding of their personal and collective future at the company.
WHERE ARE WE DOING WELL? NOT SO WELL?
Sit the team down to do a realistic assessment of where the company is doing well and not doing so well. It’s like how they encourage you to do regular body checks; if something’s wrong, wouldn’t you want to know about it sooner rather than later?
When solving problems in the company, sometimes seeing it from different perspectives, ie. asking for advice from your different departments and from people varying in their seniority levels will glean fresh insight and uncover ideas you probably never thought of. While it is tough to admit when things are not going well with the company, it’s better to put out the fire when it’s still a small stove fire versus a house engulfed in flames (graphic I know, but now you get the point right?)
ARE WE WINNING?
It’s important to celebrate the wins in your business - big and small.
Why? Because every one can use a pick me up! Got an overdue invoice paid? WIN. Finally got a contract signed? WIN. Bringing on a new hire? WIN.
Every win is a step forward for the entire company, so why not celebrate?
Even the steps backward should be celebrated, because at least you figured out you need to back up after hitting a wall. You have an opportunity to define a new direction - shouldn’t that be celebrated?
When was the last time you did any of the things listed above?