A favorite question I often ask business owners or senior managers after discussing their company’s priority business goals is “if I asked your first line supervisors or employees what the most important objectives here are, what would they tell me?” Typically, after a little silence, the more honest ones answer “I don’t know.” The point of course is twofold:
1. Has management taken the time to define progress in terms of very specific metrics?
2. Has ownership of those objectives been passed to the people who produce the company’s products or services?
Engaged employees will enhance each one of your key performance indicators. And true engagement grows out of a sense of ownership. No, not a new concept – Tom Peters was talking about employees “owning their numbers” twenty years ago. And yet, ask any number of entrepreneurs their top business challenges and somewhere not far down will be some variation of “getting my employees to care as much as I do.” And we’ve all heard supervisors and employees on how they dread performance reviews. Clearly something is being done very wrong!
Here are four ideas that will get you started if you want to share in the benefits of an engaged employee ownership of critical business growth outcomes:
- Focus on developing ownership rather than just dictating “more” numbers. More sales….more production….more, more, more. Yes, the objective is growth, but knowing how to bring the rest of the team into the game is the essence of leadership.
- Invest in “engagement learning” for your managers. Very few people have this as a natural talent so it needs to be learned. More easily done by those inclined to be good at questioning and listening skills, but equally necessary for any manager responsible for results through others.
- Talk to employees as though their ideas matter. Because they should! I know, common practice for some business owners, radical change for others. Questions such as “what do you think about….?”, “how do you think we could have done that better?”, “what else do you think our customers need?” Even if the answers are slow coming at first, stay with it and then make a big deal of it when you get some you can use.
- Provide the resources your people will need to participate. It might be tools, it might be learning, or it might be time. Each is a tangible demonstration you value them beyond their hourly rate. And begin the process of them coming to know they have a vested interest in the business prospering.
More on promoting ownership of results in my next article.
Implementing some of the concepts we discuss can be challenging. If we can be of assistance please contact us.