the smartest way to ensure your leadership message sticks

The Smartest Way to Ensure Your Leadership Message Sticks

Taking your management team out of the field for a leadership offsite or kick-off meeting can be an incredible way to provide clarity around your leadership message, to get everyone focused on what matters most, and to encourage the sharing of best practices.

AND, let’s face it. These meetings are expensive. By the time you add in the time off the job, travel, conference space, AV, and break-time cookies, you’re right to question ROI.

How do you ensure your leadership message sticks? How do you ensure your team is taking your message back to actually DO something?

The Easiest Trap to Fall Into When Sharing Your Leadership Message

Mary’s Story

Mary had brought her managers together to discuss their 2019 priorities along with a bit of Winning Well management training. She kicked off the meeting with a highly-motivating and inspirational message.

She clearly articulated the MIT (Most Important Thing) strategic priorities they had aligned on during their executive session; worked hard to explain the “why” behind what matters most; and, most importantly, translated the priorities into what that meant the managers needed to DO differently.

I was applauding on the inside.

But as I looked around the room, I noticed that not a single person had taken notes. They were all just smiling back at her politely.

I had a hunch that no one had truly picked up what she was putting down.

So as she handed me the mic to begin our training, I did a quick check for understanding. “So who can tell me one of the three most important priorities Mary talked about?”

Crickets.

It wasn’t because they weren’t listening. They were.

It wasn’t because they didn’t care. They do.

But it was taking them a minute to catch up.

What Mary so needed was a recap and a feedback loop. A check for understanding.

So I asked Mary to recap the three priorities, which she did slowly and deliberately.

And then we asked again.

This time every manager was able to share all three priorities. They nailed it.

An hour into the training, I went there again. “What were the three priorities Mary shared?”

They nailed it AGAIN. Progress.

One subtle shift.

Getting the team to share back what they heard. It only took two minutes and made all the difference.

Your Story

It’s so easy to assume your team will get it the first time. After all, they’re smart. They care. And if you do say so yourself (it’s okay, it’s probably true), you’ve crafted a really careful and powerful leadership message.

But the truth is, they’re just catching up.

You’ve been sitting in the planning meetings.  You understand the nuance and the backstory. You wordsmithed the talk points.

But for them, here it comes … all at once … and it’s likely they’re processing #1 and what it means to them, while looking at the escalation blowing up their phone AND thinking about the fact that they only had one slice of lunchmeat for little Bobby’s lunch that morning and wondering if he’s going to notice.

I know it’s frustrating (been there). But try to slow down.  Ask what they heard. Repeat if necessary with a warm smile. Ask again.

And as a close,  ask each person in the room to send you a quick email about what they will be doing differently as a result of your message.

Your turn.

What’s your favorite way of ensuring your leadership message sticks?

You may also enjoy: How to Communicate Remarkably Clear Leadership Expectations

6 steps help team navigate change

6 Smart Steps to Help Your Team Navigate Change

Change is Inevitable, Strategic Change is a Choice

It’s a hard truth that confounds many leaders: continued success requires continued change.

But change isn’t easy. For most people (and therefore most of your team) it’s more comfortable to do what you did yesterday than to do something new today.

One of the critical roles every leader plays is to help their teams to navigate change successfully. Not just change for the sake of change, but strategic change that achieves breakthrough results.

Transforming results requires every heart and brain working together. Change requires confidence and inclusion, not selling. When you take your audacious vision and make it feel real, practical, and achievable, your team will be energized and ready for what’s next.

1. Establish a clear vision

Be crystal clear about what you want to accomplish. Communicate and reinforce your vision through every medium possible. When you’re sure everyone’s got it, communicate even more. It’s important to explain the reasons behind a change as well as to identify the specific behaviors you need from employees in each role.

2. Be honest about the benefits

The notion that all that employees care about is WIIFM—what’s in it for me?—is BS. Sure, employees want to know what’s in it for them. They equally want to know what’s in it for you and for their customers.

It’s not enough to be clear about the “What?” – they’ve got to know the “Why?” as well. In the absence of information, people often jump to the most pathological conclusion. Leave out key information and they fill in the blanks with assumptions (e.g., “the next thing you’ll do is downsize.”) They want to know that you’ve thought this through with your brain and not just your pocketbook.

3. Start small

Don’t advocate for an idea or change that’s half-baked or full of flaws. Test it first with a small group, take their feedback seriously, and get it right. It’s tough to regain credibility. “Oh yeah, I admit it stank before, but now it’s better,” only leaves people wondering why some bozo made a choice to sing praises for an idea, system, or process that was full of problems in the real world.

Even if it looks great on paper, your boss is sold, and it worked well in the IT war room, field test the change first.

Yes, this takes time. Go slow to go fast.

Take the risk of making some waves to make it easy for your team. You might be slower out of the gate than others, but when you get it right and everyone owns it, you’ll sustain your results and be ready for the next change.

4. Establish easy-to-access listening posts

This is perhaps the most important part. Really listen to what your people tell you. Respond to feedback with solutions, not selling. When you fix something, communicate it back using the 5×5 method – 5 times, 5 different ways. Ask, “How can we address this and make the change serve its purpose?”

5. Leverage reluctant testimony

Share as many testimonials as you can, especially from people who were doubtful at first. Get your most excited employees showing how your new idea, system, or process changed their world. Your most influential stories will come from the least likely suspects: the sales guy who never bothered with this stuff before, the new rep who’s now running circles around the old-timers because she uses the new system, the supervisor who got his entire team (including the union steward) performing acrobatics with the new process.

6. Involve the team in key decisions

No one wants stuff done to them, or even for them. With them goes a lot further. Ask employees, “What’s working well and how do we leverage it? What enhancements do we need? Where should we head next?” All these questions go a long way. Include employees by involving them in your change efforts.

Your Turn

Leave a comment and share with us your best leadership strategy to help your team navigate change.

Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

Employee Engagement - Avoid Tremendous Leadership Mistake

Employee Engagement – Avoid This Tremendous Leadership Mistake

Employee Engagement – Play the Game, Don’t Game the Score

When you see low employee engagement scores, what is your first reaction?

I spoke with a company executive who was upset with his engagement scores. “The numbers are horrible,” he said. “Can you help us with some team-building?”

I replied, “Probably not.”

He looked at me with a combination of shock and amusement.  He wasn’t used to consultants telling him they didn’t want his money.

“Okay, tell me why not?”

It’s not that I wasn’t willing to help – of course, I would. But when morale stinks, employee engagement scores are down the drain, and your people are upset, team building isn’t the solution.

In fact, it’s a tremendous mistake that will almost always make things worse.

Start With Why

Low employee engagement scores are the symptom of a problem, not the problem itself. Leaders who are Winning Well focus on playing the game, not gaming the score. That means they don’t try to manipulate the score with team-building, pizza, or incentives – they stay focused on the critical behaviors that drive performance and results.Employee engagement - play the game don't game the score

Employee engagement is no exception. Focus on the score and you’re lost. Instead, play the game: focus on the behaviors that create the score.

When I asked the executive why his people were upset, he wasn’t sure.

As we dug deeper, we discovered that there were significant breakdowns of clarity and commitment. There were problems communicating major organizational changes, one mid-level manager who had become territorial and was needlessly frustrating other departments, and front-line leaders who were driving talent away by scaring people into performance.

Fix The Real Problem

Don’t try to motivate your way out of a mess. Fix the mess. (Tweet This)

For this executive, that meant apologizing for the communication problems, getting the right information out to everyone, listening to and addressing the concerns his people had about the new process, and taking aside the territorial manager for some one-on-one coaching and accountability. Then he invested in leadership development for his front-line leaders and we worked with the middle-level managers to reinforce the front-line leaders’ new focus on results and relationships.

Don’t use team-building in response to problems or low morale. Fix the communication problems. Improve the process issue that prevents people from doing their job.

Icing On The Employee Engagement Cake

Team-building is often loathed and panned by employees and managers alike because it can be such a waste of time – a well-intentioned, but a completely ineffectual response to a problem that takes real work to solve.

Done properly, real team-building is the icing on a good cake.  It takes a solid foundation and makes it something truly special.

Imagine trying to spread frosting on a cake that is only half-cooked. You’d a have a nasty, goopy mess that ends up in the trash. You can’t frost a half-baked cake and you can’t use motivation or team-building in place of fundamentals.

Your Turn

Leave us a comment and share: How do you make sure you’re not trying to “motivate your way out of a mess”? Or if you’ve got a particularly awful example of this mistake at work, you can share that too.