We all know the direct relationship between inspired teams and great business results. What is not clear and is much misunderstood is the formula that creates inspired teams. In my mind, it starts with a unique business model, great business culture, hiring and developing your employees, and retaining the best and the brightest, and finally assuring that the mission is in alignment with the organization skills and structure.
Very simply, success is a people thing. It’s making sure the right people are on the bus in the right seats. Once on the bus, the key is to keep them there; they may be in different seats, but they stay on the bus. It’s done by building an organization with shared values and a sense that what is being done is important and relevant. Without a compelling purpose and shared sense of values that are inextricably woven into the fabric of the business, companies will not attract the A players – the A players being those key employees that are in demand and are the difference makers in building a great company or a mediocre company.
It’s one thing to recruit great people, but it’s an entirely different thing to retain them and have them personally and professionally evolve. Key employees stay where they are because they believe that the company cares deeply about their welfare. They see this by way of a company that believes in transparency and communicates early and often with them, a company that constantly discloses to all employees its vision and mission to include the need to pivot and reposition itself when necessary. Leaders of great companies know that change is a reality of building a successful long term business. Leaders communicate that business models must change to accommodate the changing nature of the market. In conjunction with that message, they also communicate what will remain constant in the business. What will and must remain constant is the rock-solid belief in shared values, integrity, people and customer centricity and sense of always trying to do the right thing.
There is an old adage that ‘everything done makes a statement.’ It’s easy to communicate how much the company and management cares about people, but it’s a very different thing to demonstrably show it. Rank and file employees know lip service when they see and hear it. Conversely, when they see employee career path programs that are designed to accelerate their careers (such as company paid and encouraged training and development programs that advance and evolve them), they take notice. These are the kind of initiatives that make the statement of how important employees are to the company. These are the reasons why the best and brightest hitch their star to a company.
Earlier we discussed the importance of assuring that a company’s mission is in alignment with its skills and organizational structure. We also defined where unity of perspective and view must exist in a company, that unity being shared values, commitment to the mission, integrity and respect for others. Great organizations must also reflect definable organization diversity. Getting the right people on the bus and in the right seats is all about building teams with different roles, responsibilities, skills, motivations and career interests. It is vital to consciously architect a team that can think differently and bring diverse points of view to a discussion or team problem solving.
Designing team architectures must be deliberate and thoughtful. The organization must recruit and develop team members that are imaginative and creative, that are deliberate and detail-oriented, and that are analytical and objective. Yet these are only a few of the individual characteristics that define a great team. The team must include individuals with strong organizational skills, as well as highly results-oriented individuals. Finally, the organization must include great team players, people that can and will play any role as long as they are bringing value. The biggest mistake business leaders can make is to hire everyone in their own image. This is dangerous, as the team now both thinks the same way and solves problems in the same way. Leaders do not serve themselves well when their closest advisors approach opportunities and challenges with the same set of glasses as they do.
Our goal throughout this discussion is to establish the importance of building and encouraging a culture of shared values, purpose and commitment to doing the right things. Employees are looking every day for affirmation that the leadership team does what it says, that they in as sense walk the walk and talk the talk. A clear way to best illuminate this commitment can be seen in how senior management makes decisions. Are decisions made that are consistently self serving, short term and in contradiction to the company ethos? In contrast, is it clearly evident when the criteria for management decisions are constructed by using a simple checklist? The decision criteria on the check list would include and clearly support that the decision was in alignment with the company mission and objectives and was in the best interests of its people, stakeholders and customers. Finally, it is important that the decision was in the long term best interests of the company and not some short term, knee jerk reaction to an opportunity of the day occurrence. Very simply, did the decision process start and finish with a value based approach?
From our perspective, company credibility and employee loyalty is created when leaders visibly do what they say, and when employees and the outside world understand that the company and its leaders are consistent and predictable relative to values-based decisions and the professional conduct of the business. Keeping the best and the brightest in the business is about trust, and the team’s confidence that they work in an environment that leads with integrity and sincerely cares about its people and their welfare.
There is another old axiom that loyalty in business flows in one direction, which is from the employees to the company. When that axiom is turned upside down and employees learn to believe through empirical experiences that loyalty flows both ways, great things begin to happen. The best and brightest are recruited and retained and the process of building team passion, alignment and business success is both visible and in full bloom.