I believe businesses can change the world. I’m pretty sure if you’re an entrepreneur you believe the same thing. You also know that you can’t change the world alone and that you’ll need your team focused on a clear goal to achieve anything. Employee engagement is a hot topic as big corporations try to figure out ways to engage a more youthful and less engaged workforce. The same motivators the boomers had are not working for gen x-ers or Millenials. The question is then, how do you improve employee engagement across a multi-generational workforce? My thesis has always been that a group of people united together under a common clear goal will achieve exponentially more than a group of employees hired to accomplish the same goal.
It Starts With Trust
Employee engagement comes down to trust in the work environment. Trust in the workplace is the foundation of any team. Trust comes from intentional caring. Skills like listening. Using cliche’ words like empowerment build trust only if the leaders implement what their team wants. Trust is built on integrity, of doing what you say you will do. It doesn’t mean saying yes to everything it means saying “no” more often.
Trust is built when a direct report knows they can trust the competency of those around them. Trust is built when conflict is dealt with head-on. Trust is something that is built when the leaders of an organization are caught working toward what they said they would. The challenge is that trust is hard to build without a mission.
The Mountain Of Alignment
Imagine you got a team together to climb a mountain. This team trusts your judgment. They know you’d never lie to them. You know your team’s family and personal relationships run deep. Before the announced peak to climb, they all had visions of what a mountain climbing team would be. Some envisioned an adventure-filled climb reminiscent of a Mission Impossible movie. Others envisioned a vigorous hike up to a peak. When you tell them to meet you at the base of Brasstown Bald, the tallest mountain in Georgia, your team has to reorient to your vision. At a height of 4,783 feet, this is hardly a mountain. However, some members of your team wanted Everest. At the base of the mountain, you find that some of your team brought motorcycles, others brought 4×4’s, still, others have the climbing gear and one person rented a helicopter.
As you can see from just the start of this story that without the vision and the clarity of the details it can tough to get engagement. How many times can a team member trust a leader when their visions aren’t aligned?
The key to alignment is casting a clear vision that is big enough that others on your team can achieve their vision too. This is why a missional business is so effective with employee engagement.
Going From Profit-Driven To Mission-Driven
In “Start With Why”, Simon Sinek’s famous book explains people don’t’ buy what you do, they buy why you do it. He uses Apple as a quintessential example. Apple products are not more innovative, they aren’t “better” than other brands. However, people buy it because of the perceived why behind it. It’s uncanny. You and I both know people that wait in lines for the latest Apple product and would almost fight to the death to get it. It’s because Apple has defined it’s why.
The mission statement of Apple today is nothing motivating. The power of Why is shown in that this company’s mission statement from Steve Jobs in the 1980s still carries them today.
Imagine if Apple took that one step further and used their profits to create progress for those less fortunate. What if Apple stood for advancing humankind in the poorest nations? Similar to our discussion about Coca-Cola’s mission statement. If Coke used their resources to end world thirst would you think that you’d have a more engaged employee base? That mission seems a lot bigger and more exciting than just being the best soda distributor.
Answer The Question: Why Does Your Team Exist?
I always love the idea of answering this question and developing a simple, clear yet huge mission statement. When I did this with my real estate team years ago, we came up with “Moving Families Forward.” This gave us alignment on how we treated customers (like family), and how we directed our charitable work (giving to families in need in various ways). However some times your business is there because you saw an opportunity.
For example, if you run a roofing company you could easily have gotten into because of the opportunity. Perhaps rally your team around improving homes for the elderly or putting roofs on homes in impoverished nations. If you own a Subway, could you look for ways to help feed the hungry?
No Secret Missions
The key to engagement is a clear, big vision. However, it has to be cast. You can’t do it on the side or with your family and present it. No team member wants to work at a company so the CEO can take mission trips or work at a soup kitchen. If you want them engaged at work, you have to engage what excites them.
I suggest at your next company retreat or mission statement review to pull out your mission and use it to answer the question, “what can I do to impact the world?” You can the post “3 areas of impact of a missional business” as a guide if that feels overwhelming. Get your team’s input on what that mission is, then set goals just like you would for any other goal in your business. It’s not immediate, but as time builds your employee engagement will go through the roof and you’ll hear statements like, “I can’t believe I’m getting paid to do this.”
What do you think?