In Change, Strategy

“You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go.  You lead by going to that place and making a case.” – Ken Kesey

Last week I spent part of a day visiting with a leadership group whose organizational focus is entirely on growth.  They’ve been talking about growth for years, and have finally managed (they think) to remove almost all the barriers that stand in the way.  Now they’re having the “fun” conversations – the ones about where opportunities lie, where they can provide value to customers, how their strengths line up with their opportunities, and so on.

Halfway through the conversation, they started talking about another potential barrier.  There is the feeling that, for whatever reason, a number of their employees don’t feel like they could handle any more work than what they’re already doing.  The leadership team didn’t feel like it was a waste issue, and those employees weren’t working an excessive number of hours.  The group eventually came to the conclusion that to a number of employees, “growth” sounded a lot like “more work” and the employees just didn’t think it seemed worth it.

I think as leaders we run into this barrier more often than we think.  Unfortunately, too often the reaction is something along the lines of, “Our employees have bad attitudes,” or “This must be a generational issue,” or “People just don’t want to work hard anymore.”  I’ll admit that any of those could actually be part of the problem; however, the reality is more likely that as the leader you’ve failed to create a picture of why growth is good for your employees.

As leaders, I think we too often assume that because we’re excited about growth then everybody else is too.  We fail to make the case for why growth matters.  For all our enthusiasm about improved profits, more resources, etc, we forget that for most people it comes down to what’s in it for me.

Think about your employees.  What’s in it for them?  Why should they be excited about growth?  Don’t just assume that they are.  Think about how it will impact them – why is that worth it?  Then ask yourself:  have we communicated this?  Do people really understand?  One of the most frustrating leaders I work, when asked that question, said “Well, they should understand, it seems pretty obvious to me.  We shouldn’t have to actually come out and say it.”  WRONG ANSWER – YOU SHOULD ACTUALLY COME OUT AND SAY IT!! (sorry, I get a little angry just thinking about that guy.)

Make sure you’ve clearly created the vision in people’s heads.  And once you done that – keep doing it.  Don’t just talk about it once at staff meeting for 5 minutes.  Talk about it over and over and over again.  If you’re going to grow, you need everyone to be rowing in sync.  Making that happen is your job.


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