As a successful leader, you must …
- Define and communicate the values and vision for your company
- Align the company and all employees towards your values and vision
- Engage and then develop the employees to act in accordance with your values and to achieve your vision.
In short, your values and your vision need to be understood and shared by all employees. They need to stick. They need to be front of mind. They need to be thought of on a daily basis.
So, how can this be achieved?
- You as a leader need to spend the time to teach and explain your values and vision directly to the employees in your company!!
Yes, teach. As a leader, stand in front of groups, large and small, and directly explain, teach and preach your values and your vision, how they were derived, and why they are important.
You likely have three questions:
- What to Teach?
- When and to Whom to Teach?
- Why Teach?
What to Teach?
The goal is to teach all members of your team about your company, about your values, and about your vision for the company.
As Division President, I conducted countless teaching sessions, formally in a 2 day class that I called “Precast University” and informally in small group settings. The purpose of these sessions was to ensure that everyone understood what the company did and to explain the values in the company and the vision that I and the leadership team had for the company.
First, I would explain about the company. I had a show and tell about the size and extent, the culture, the customers, and the products and services in the company. I was always shocked to discover how little people who had worked at the company knew about the company. Finance and human resources people would not know the products that we produced. Even production people would have no idea how the products that they made were used, who our customers were, and why they bought our products.
After this introduction, I would explain my values and the values that I wanted permeated throughout the company. Then, I would lay out the visions and the objectives of the company. I would explain why we are doing what we are doing.
When and to Whom to Teach?
I would teach the values and vision to the VP/ General Managers at formal General Managers’ meeting. I would teach to up and coming managers at small group “Manager of Managers” training. I would teach at formalized training programs as part of other teaching I might be doing or as an introduction before other training sessions. Finally, when visiting plants or different departments, I would teach the vision in informal small group “lunch and learns.” The opportunities for teaching are endless. What is essential is to ensure that as many people hear it as possible, both managers and employees.
Finally, you need to have classes with your direct reports present and classes without your direct reports present. When your direct reports and their direct reports are in the same class at the same time, they are all hearing the same message. This limits the mis-communication and the lower level employees can serve as a check on whether their supervisors are following what you want them to do. Conversely, when your direct reports (their supervisors) are not present, employees are much more open and the interaction is much livelier.
Why Teach Your Values and Vision?
Teaching your values and vision to your team has three key benefits:
- Helps spread and refine your vision and your message
- Forces you to live the values and focus on your vision
- Helps you develop relationships and understand your team below the level of your direct reports
Helps Spread and Refine Your Vision and Your Message
As leaders, we continue to over-estimate the penetration of messages to all levels of the organization. We may have been preaching a message for years and feel that we have communicated it to everyone, yet it still may not have penetrated down in the “trenches.” Richard Nixon (of all people) had it right when he wrote: “About the time that you are writing a line you have written so often that you want to throw up, that is the time the American people will hear it.”
By taking the time to teach your message directly and personally to the people throughout your organization, you get the opportunity to ensure that your values and vision are heard. In larger companies, this may be the only personal interaction that an employee will have with “the big boss”. If that is the case, would it not be important that that interaction revolves around what you as a leader stand for and where you want the company to go?
Surprisingly, the constant teaching and communicating of your values and vision has another benefit. It helps you improve the message. When I do this, the general content of what I communicate rarely changes, but the words and how I communicate does change. Especially at the beginning, I might be stressing a point and see by the reaction in the group that I had lost them completely, either from confusion or (yes, I will admit it) sheer boredom. In the end, the message gets shorter, more relevant, with more examples and stories, and stickier. Through this teaching, I have come to realize the importance of relating the vision and values that I was teaching to each person’s daily jobs, directly answering the fundamental question: “But, what does this have to do with me?”
A successful vision has a lot to do with each and every employee.
Forces You to Live the Values and Focus on Your Vision
Regular readers will know about my firm belief in the importance of leading by example. Through teaching your values and vision, you will be (over time) in front of hundreds of employees in large groups and small settings. You are on stage and they will directly see how well you live your values and vision through your actions during the different sessions.
Moreover, by teaching you will really understand the subject. As such, your values and vision will be driven home to you yourself; they will clearly be and remain in the front of your mind. Thus, each time that you teach your values and vision, the little voice inside your head will be telling you how well or how poorly you are living up to your values and properly focusing on your vision. This will reduce the hypocrisy which cripples companies where leaders say one thing and do another. As a leader, you know that…
- If you cannot adhere to your values and vision, then why should anyone else?
- “Do what I say not what I do” does not work on any child over the age of 5 and will certainly not work on your employees.
Develops Relationships With Employees Below the Level of Your Direct Reports
By spending time directly with employees at all levels in both small and large groups, you will get to know many of them. You will get to know their name. You will get to know 1 – 2 things about them. In their body language, their engagement with you, and their questions and comments, you will learn a little about their personality, their capabilities, and their style. In turn, they will learn a bit about you. In short, you will begin to develop a relationship with them. This occurs especially in those meetings where your direct reports (their supervisors) are not present. Through this budding relationship you will begin to know better what is going on in the trenches and with customers without the insulation of several layers of management. As I discussed in my blog Do You Know How Your Managers are Managing?, it is these relationships with people layers down in the organization that let you understand the character and quality of your direct reports and other managers and whether they share your values and promote your vision.
Countless surveys expose some dirty little secrets of business today. Most employees in most companies…
- Do not know the values of their company and what their company stands for
- Do not know the goals and objectives of their company and how these goals translate into what they do on a daily basis
- Have little interaction with any leaders in their company outside of their direct supervisor
By getting out and teaching your values and vision and interacting directly with employees throughout your company, you, as a leader, can dramatically improve the alignment of your employees with your values and vision and increase the engagement employees feel in their daily work lives. With improved alignment (everyone rowing in the same direction) and increased engagement (everyone dedicated and committed), your company can significantly improve its business performance and realize your vision.
p.s. When you get out there and begin teaching your values and vision, you will find that not only is teaching a vital, albeit often overlooked, leadership tool. Teaching is actually a whole lot of fun!!
Until Next Time.