Friday, July 25, 2008

Keep them Engaged Through Leadership

OK, I think this is the last post in this "Delightful" mini-series so a quick recap is in order.
First I posted about the importance of Delighting your way to Success and how critical it is to improve upon the customer experience every time you deal with them. I gave some recommendations for implementation in your business to improve the customer experience and more closely align everyone at your company with your customer experiences. My Dairy Queen example was a simple illustration of the impact a positive experience has.
I followed up that post with a related one on a new role that we are seeing more of in the market and is that of a "Community Manager", which I am a proponent of and would suggest you consider for your organization. I used AideRSS and Akoha as examples.
Next I followed up with a piece on how critical it is to hire smart AND engaged employees right from the start rather than hiring just for smarts, and gave my thoughts on how to successful hire employees that will delight your customer. This is important for all organizations but especially for young startups. You do not have the luxury of being able to make mistakes against a really tight budget and very few staff. Take your time and get it right.
The last piece will be some simple thoughts on leadership that I think are important to keeping engaged employees in the game and on your team. Hiring the right people is absolutely critical to an engaged workforce but keeping them engaged and growing is all on you. There are so many leadership books out there by people who have forgotten more theory on leadership than I will ever know but here are my simple guidelines that I follow.
  1. Give direction - in the absence of being given direction by a leader employees will make up their own direction. This is hugely problematic because if you have 10 employees who are all engaged and acting in the best interests of the company but are pulling in different directions it will make the very difficult journey from point A to point B way harder than it already is. For small companies, you don't want to get meetinged (is that a word?) to death and a meeting schedule is a completely separate post so to start I would recommend the following. For 15 minutes at the start or end of every day huddle with your team. I posted some details earlier on the agenda.
  2. Open, focused and frequent communication - understanding the big picture and the strategic path the company is on is critical. Every chance you get reiterate the "elevator pitch" with your employees. Explain why you are doing what you are doing organizationally and strategically and how they fit in to that. What is their role in achieving this success and how can they impact total company success. Again, in a small organization it is much easier to see how you fit in and what your contribution means. Just make sure everyone knows the strategy and what success is so they are engaged as part of the solution.
  3. Lead by Example - BE FULLY ENGAGED! Engaged employees WANT to be inspired and look to you to be the rock through all the ups and downs you will face. Constantly reinforce your words in point #1 and #2 above with your actions. Your behaviour shows people what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for others...when you don't think anyone is watching...they are. Don't give them reason through your actions to become disengaged.
  4. Measure Success and Reward Proper Behaviour - make sure any and all measurements or metrics you put in place for the business are aligned with the strategy you are implementing and base all rewards around those. Rewards do not need to be purely financial especially for highly engaged people. These employees want the company to win and want to be part of it. Non-monetary rewards like GH3 nights out and pool and beer nights on the company to acknowledge great work are great motivators and team builders at the same time. I am a big believer in that which is measured is improved. Put the right measures and rewards in place and they will drive behaviour and engagement that is consistent with the strategy and keep everyone in synch rowing the same direction.

By Hiring Delightful Employee's and Keeping them Engaged you will Have Delighted Customers!

There are so many things in business that are uncontrollable that have a material impact on your businesses success or failure. Who you hire and how you motivate them as the leader and how they interact with your customers are all controllable. Nail the stuff you can nail and this is one area that everyone can control....get at it.

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