How your ears can help your vision01 Dec 2017, by Leadership in
A lot has been written about vision and the business owner’s need to be clear on what they’re trying to achieve. And it’s true that without that sense of direction, planning and measurement become impossible.
But most business theories also say that the leader must then inspire their followers with that vision until those workers make it their own. On the grand stage and with an unarguable objective a shared purpose is quite easy to define. ‘Blood, toil, sweat and tears’ might not sound attractive, but attached to the vision of a world freed of the totalitarian yoke it was part of inspiring a whole generation.
But is the same true when your objectives are more mundane? How does a leader inspire the staff of a budget airline whose business methods ensure most customers step onto their plane disliking the company intensely? (If you want a light hearted view of that particular problem go here. (be warned, it’s quite rude)
I any case, it seems to me that vision is a very personal thing and, particularly in smaller enterprises, the business owner needs to take some notice of what it is the staff want for themselves. There’s a truth rarely acknowledged. A significant proportion of the people we work with don’t have a ‘career’ as we would understand it. They have a job, a means of securing the income needed to support their lifestyle.
We might feel that shows a lack of ambition or hides unrealised potential. But as long as they fulfil their contract, turn up on time, efficiently deliver their work and maintain suitable working relationships then we should respect the right to determine their own lives.
Vision is a word steeped in ambition and drive. It may well be appropriate for those at the head of large organisations or driven entrepreneurs. But is it the right word to use for the (very valuable) person walking the aisle of the intercity train collecting passengers’ rubbish? What is it that person wants from their work? We won’t know unless we ask.
So your job, once you’ve identified your vision and told everyone where you want the business to go – is to find out what your staff are looking to achieve. That might sound counter-intuitive, but trust me, it can make all the difference in the world.
It’s easy to assume that money will answer all these needs, a successful company makes more money and therefore staff will work to make the company a success. But people are much more complex than that. Even you, the entrepreneur that started the business, are motivated by more than the desire to make money. Independence, respect, innovation and success are just some of the things that drive us. Why would we think the people that work with us are any different?
So have conversations. But don’t be the hero leader with all the pat replies. Use your ears. Listen to what your told, ask sensible questions, treat the answers with respect and learn what floats their boat. Once you’ve done that you’ll be able to show them how helping you to achieve your vision will help them get what they want too.
And there’s an astonishing bonus. Treating people as individuals, actually letting them talk and be listened to, respecting their view of the world – will make you stand out. You will already have started to grow their loyalty and commitment before you’ve even begun to deliver their dreams – and your own.
Want to know how to engage staff and get the benefit of all their abilities? Go here and get in touch for more information.