Real stew­ard­ship requires ego-free col­lab­o­ra­tion.


5 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.


Let’s start with the good news: Recent Gallup sur­vey results sug­gest the high­est lev­els of employ­ee engage­ment since 2000, at 34 per­cent. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that’s a far cry from a world where even the major­i­ty of employ­ees are engaged in their jobs, so there’s still a mas­sive amount of work to be done.

Much has been said about the impor­tance of engage­ment, but most of the cur­rent lit­er­a­ture focus­es on increas­es in pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and reten­tion rate that go along with an engaged work­force. I would add that there’s anoth­er vital ben­e­fit hid­ing in plain sight: get­ting your employ­ees to buy into your strat­e­gy and involve them­selves in exe­cut­ing your busi­ness plan.

Relat­ed: Five Mis­takes that Hin­der Employ­ee Engage­ment

When work gets repet­i­tive, a dis­con­nect inevitably forms between what you’re doing on a dai­ly basis and why you’re doing it. Accord­ing to research from McK­in­sey, con­nect­ing day-to-day tasks to a grand plan helps employ­ees derive mean­ing from their work, but lead­er­ship can’t con­nect these dots once and call it a day. Instead, lead­ers must help employ­ees make the con­nec­tion on their own.

DTE Ener­gy Pres­i­dent Ger­ry Ander­son knew his employ­ees were dis­en­gaged, but he wasn’t pushed to action until the Great Reces­sion hit and threat­ened the com­pa­ny’s future. With insights gained from Joe Rob­les, then-CEO of USAA, Ander­son spear­head­ed a cam­paign to illus­trate the pur­pose behind the pow­er com­pa­ny. It didn’t hap­pen overnight, but employ­ees even­tu­al­ly bought in, and shares of DTE more than tripled over the next decade.

Ander­son start­ed his effort at DTE with a mean­ing­ful movie star­ring the company’s employ­ees, but there are numer­ous ways to get your own team invest­ed in your orga­ni­za­tion’s direc­tion. Start with these three steps to cul­ti­vate buy-in and rev­o­lu­tion­ize your busi­ness:

1. Involve your team in decision-making.

Noth­ing will improve employ­ee buy-in quite like giv­ing them some skin in the game. When you include employ­ees in the deci­sion-mak­ing process from the out­set, they don’t just watch as great con­cepts come and go — they’re able to add their own ideas to the mix.

Under Armour’s founder and CEO, Kevin Plank, eschews uni­lat­er­al deci­sion-mak­ing in favor of team input. When the team grew too large to include all employ­ees in big deci­sions, Plank cre­at­ed a team of six or sev­en high-poten­tial employ­ees to offer insights. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, some of the most effec­tive com­pa­nies in the world, includ­ing Google, still host “all-hands” meet­ings with every­one in atten­dance. These gath­er­ings give peo­ple oppor­tu­ni­ties to share their thoughts while keep­ing every­one on the same page.

Relat­ed: Good Deci­sion Mak­ing Requires Good Data

2. Illustrate the effectiveness of your strategy.

Dig­i­tal sim­u­la­tions are a great way to demon­strate the poten­tial of a strat­e­gy with­out requir­ing your orga­ni­za­tion to go out on a real-life limb — yet. David Ack­ley, exec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and head of dig­i­tal at pro­fes­sion­al ser­vices firm BTS, explained the thought process behind sim­u­la­tions in a recent op-ed, writ­ing, “Dig­i­tal busi­ness sim­u­la­tions not only give your whole com­pa­ny the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence what great strat­e­gy exe­cu­tion looks like, but they also pro­vide valu­able data on how peo­ple make deci­sions and trade-offs in exe­cut­ing strat­e­gy.”

Dig­i­tal sim­u­la­tions are a pow­er­ful way to cre­ate orga­ni­za­tion­al align­ment because they allow teams of any size to par­tic­i­pate in the strate­giz­ing process. You can then gauge how employ­ees feel about the strat­e­gy and make any nec­es­sary changes to pro­mote more whole­heart­ed buy-in while ensur­ing you have the skill sets you’ll need to pull it all off.

3. Delegate to employee strengths.

Divi­sion of labor is crit­i­cal for an effec­tive team, and it’s equal­ly crit­i­cal for employ­ees to take on roles that cor­re­spond to their strengths. Think about a soc­cer team, where indi­vid­u­als serve as for­wards, mid­field­ers and defend­ers, depend­ing on where they per­form the best. In most cas­es, if you switch the strik­er and the goalie, the team might as well for­feit.

When orga­ni­za­tions use Gallup’s Clifton­Strengths to guide their val­ues and process­es, for exam­ple, they earn almost 30 per­cent high­er prof­its. At least part of the improve­ment is thanks to a work­force that’s 15 per­cent more engaged. Engage­ment is vital, and fur­ther Gallup research illus­trates that com­pa­nies with a four-to-one ratio of engaged to dis­en­gaged employ­ees achieve four times the earn­ings-per-share growth of their com­peti­tors.

Relat­ed: Why You Should For­get About Your Weak­ness­es and Focus on Your Strengths

In Con­clu­sion.…

When you’re going on a vaca­tion to a new place, you might start by pil­ing in the car and plug­ging the address into your phone’s GPS. The soft­ware is telling you how to get there, but you also have plen­ty of input. You’re typ­i­cal­ly pre­sent­ed with mul­ti­ple routes to choose from, and you can elect to avoid tolls, cir­cum­vent con­gest­ed areas and even plan to bypass work zones. In the same way this con­trol helps you trust the nav­i­ga­tion soft­ware, your employ­ees need to have an idea of where your busi­ness plan is tak­ing them and be able to offer some input on how to get there. When they do, they’re more like­ly to go along — enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly — for the ride.

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