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Capture employees when they understand the ‘why’

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Would you enthusiastically rehire everyone on your team?

That question is usually met with a look of “hmmm,” followed by a look of mental categorization of who's in and who's not.

And then despair. After all, “I can't possibly survive without them.”

And there is the trap. Everyone has probably said at one time or another, “No one is indispensable,” but until something blatantly gross occurs, a lot of behavior that is toxic to the organization is tolerated.

It's easy to justify poor behavior if it doesn't affect you directly, especially if you are pleased with performance. However, poor behavior is the cancer that slowly erodes the foundation of your organization and will negatively outweigh any performance results.

Here's the wakeup call to every owner, manager, supervisor, leader: everyone in the organization knows the identities of the toxic teammates, and they are waiting and wondering why you tolerate it. And if you continue to do so, they will eventually depart or, worse, “quit and stay.”

Costs go up, profits fall, real talent becomes very difficult to attract and your life is a mess, because all you do is deal with people issues you think are part of the job – but are a result of your leadership, or lack thereof.

What's the solution? It's all about “who” first, then “what.” First, get the right people on the bus and boot off the wrong ones. Start at the top.

A critical element in building a team that is aligned and working on all cylinders is putting the right people on the team in the first place. Common sense, but very few companies do it well.

So, what would make the “right people?” There are four components, the first three most important. The fourth is the least important, but it's the component that most think about. The four:

(1) Alignment to core values.

(2) Alignment to core purpose (mission).

(3) Belief in the company's vision.

(4) Skills and competencies.

If someone doesn't pass the grade in the first three components, it doesn't matter how good his performance – eventually there will be a breakdown in the team and he will be part of it.

Core values are the handful of rules or guiding principles under which the company operates. They are not right or wrong – they are just yours.

They exist whether you have articulated them or not. Being clear on your core values and hiring people that believe in them are critical first steps.

The second step is alignment to your core purpose or mission. Core purpose is the reason you exist as a company – your why. It is not right or wrong; it is simply why you exist.

Hiring people aligned to your values and who believe in your purpose makes for much less drama and more productivity and fun.

Work is work. But when you like the people you work with (aligned with their values), and when there is purpose behind the work, most of us are not only willing to pitch in, but enjoy it and will give more than asked.

And when you get people who enjoy what they are doing, great things can happen. But you need to start with your building blocks – core values and core purpose.

The core purpose or mission of the company is not “consultant speak” but rather a very concise statement as to why you exist. This is for employees and helps develop strategic direction.

Core purpose is your “why.” Why do you do what you do? This takes thinking time and often a facilitator, but when you nail it, it becomes a rallying cry for almost every employee.

Nike has a strong core purpose: Products that help our customers be competitive. Think of every product Nike produces or licenses; it's all about competition. It's why it does what it does.

At its corporate headquarters, you only see pictures of the world's top athletes on its walls. If you want to work for Nike, you had better like competition.

It's not right or wrong. It's just why the company exists. You will succeed at Nike if you like competition and helping people be better competitors. And you will like your teammates, because they like competition.

Nike will succeed because its people align around a common purpose. And customers will succeed because the products are from people who have a passion about helping them be competitive. Ultimately, shareholders will be happy because of financial results.

In Inc., Jason Fried recently wrote that Uber didn't start its cab service because it loved transportation, but instead because it was angry it couldn't get a cab in San Francisco. Founder Travis Kalanick “hated not having a way to get home,” Fried wrote.

So, what is Uber's purpose? Transportation or finding a way home? It's finding a way home.

That is what drove Uber to tremendous results. That is what it loved to do. It hired people who also were passionate about – maybe even loved – finding unique, easy, convenient and safe ways for people to get home.

That passion isn't right or wrong. But if you have it, Uber is a good place for you to work.

As you define your core purpose, check out Simon Sinek, leadership author and speaker, by watching his TED video “Start With Why.” He leads listeners through a fascinating journey of discovering their “why.”

An organization's core purpose/why/mission is the inspirational, noninstrumental glue that binds an organization and each other together. It's real and it's alive. And it drives the bottom line.

When you get a team aligned around a common set of values, common purpose and compelling vision, the leadership work is nearly done. This is the type of team that can take on anything and win.

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@lvb.com

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