One of the most challenging experiences for anyone is to have to do something without understanding the purpose behind the action.
Sure, there are times in every person’s life when they are taught ‘lessons’ and the process of learning is in itself the answer. Think about joining Greek and non-Greek letter organizations: often, there are onboarding steps that the person joining doesn’t understand.
However, the workplace should not be like that.
Employees want to understand that what they do has a purpose and the purpose needs to resonate with them in a positive way.
While it may not seem that someone working a difficult or unpleasant job would be so motivated, we all are. Somewhere inside us is a desire for good to come of the work we do.
In recent years, crowdfunding has become a popular thing: a creator develops a product or service and bunches of people support it to help it come to market. Two years ago, I backed a particular service because, based on the description of it, I felt it would be something I’d like to use regularly. The service went live because lots of people seemed to have the same idea and desire — great, right?
Well, as it turned out, many of us felt swindled. Some people didn’t find any use for the service, while others discovered in addition to the crowdfunding (which suggested the supporters would get special perks that the general public would not because we backed these creators), the developers had a public website and were offering the same so-called perks to non-backers. As if that wasn’t enough, the service changed its name, started offering things way outside the originally described parameters, and charged us all a subscription fee, even if we’d cancelled.
While all that may seem convoluted and frustrating, there are a couple of tweaks that could have made the whole thing work:
- First, the developers could have given those of us who supported the crowdfunding campaign some kind of super special perks (like it seemed they were going to).
- Second, they very well could have had a public website — one that offered different things from what the crowdfunders got.
- Third, cost and payment expectations and practices could have been clearer for all; anyone wanting to either sign up for a subscription or cancel one should have been able to do so easily.
- Fourth, having a clear explanation available somewhere about the overall business goal and trajectory would have helped potential backers make informed decisions early on.
- Fifth, providing clear information to employees and customer service personnel, who in turn deal with customers and backers, would have aided in understanding for all.
Those last two points are important to R-Leaders because how leaders act is what guides what organizations do.
If a leader (or group of leaders) isn’t clear about expectations, team members won’t be clear either. The problem then is that they will be more likely to not understand the process or be able to engage customers or constituents in a way that increases the bottom line for the organization.
What Does Translating Practice to Process Look Like?
Let’s use an example of John, who is the leader at Widgets, Inc. (WI). For years, the widget industry has been all about selling round widgets. Suddenly, John finds out there will be a switch to square widgets. At this point, John has two choices:
- John could walk out to the production team and announce there will be a refit of the line to accommodate the new shape, expecting them to then connect with customers and obtain new ones.
- John could take several steps before, during, and after talking to the production team:
- Before …
- He connects with the Board to understand why the switch is happening and how soon. In his discussion, he also requests help in understanding the Board’s expectation for the time frame of making the changes necessary to a) re-tool the line, b) inform existing and potential customers, and c) how they might help those customers understand how to use and what it will take to incorporate the new widget form.
- Once John has gained these pieces of information and knows the Board’s expectation, he identifies the benefits and costs (human, financial, and time).
- John develops a plan for moving forward in a way that includes all constituents in the conversation.
- During …
- John has regular meetings with directors and managers. He usually pulls together an agenda with their input, but this time adds an additional item for special discussion.
- John and the group of leaders discuss the regular matters and when they get to the special discussion item, he provides them with the Board update about the widget change and they talk through the opportunities and challenges.
- John attends the department meetings to support each director and manager during their conversation with members of the production team. He guides the conversation back to the directors and managers, letting them know he’s just there to answer questions.
- After …
- As the dust begins to settle, John does some in-between check-ins with the managers and directors as well as the members of the production team.
- He works with them all to identify what challenges they are hearing from customers. John then calls, visits, and does video conferences with the customers who have deeper questions than other members of the team feel comfortable answering.
- The entire team comes together to discuss remaining opportunities and challenges. They celebrate the wins and at the same time seek further solutions for the stalemates.
- Before …
The second option — with a before, during, and after steps — takes more time to read, just as it would to put into action!
R-Leaders are willing to devote the time because showing the team by being present, being willing to engage in the difficult tasks, and publicly recognizing their own areas of growth and needs for understanding. Doing those things shows their human side as well as their belief and support of the team.
Need help strengthening your connections to your team and larger community? We’re here to work with you.