Leaders want results. They are paid to achieve them. Funny thing is, most leaders don’t realize how influential and powerful relationships can be in achieving those results. As I gathered research and stories for my book, The Soul of Business, I was blown away at how simple this concept seems, but how difficult it is to put in place in the real world.
The very reason it is difficult to put in place is the very reason it is true – humans are emotional beings! Dan Ariely’s research has shown us that emotions creep into our decisions, even the most rational and logical of us. (See Mr. Spock) So where does one start to put relationships and results in their proper context?
First, realize that we are wired to work – at least most of us are (insert name of relative you have questions about here). In his book, Drive, Daniel Pink describes what motivates people to work – and it isn’t just money. One of those things is mastery – or the desire to be good at what you do. There is an innate need in us to do something well, and for most of us that outlet is work. Employees want results, too.
We are also wired for community, and community does not happen in a cubicle. It requires repetitive and diverse interaction with other cubicle dwellers. Extensive research by Gallup has shown us that being a part of a successful team is an important need of engaged employees.
So work provides the perfect canvas to blend results and relationships. Problem is, it is usually as messy as finger painting. And that is because people bring their own color palette of expectations and experiences with them. Many employees also think that they are Bob Ross. That leaves you, the boss, to manage all this and make everyone color between the lines.
So what’s a leader to do?
Leaders must trust that results will follow if they adhere to these four principles concerning work.
#1. DEFINE – nothing clarifies the starting point of a job better than defining the end goal first.
What I’m about to tell you will sound unbelievable coming from a consultant who deals in relationships a lot, but during a break up I once said this to a girlfriend: “If you think we are getting back together, you’ve got a long road ahead of you.” I was a smooth operator back in the day, yes? OK, so there is no reason for that kind of drama, but defining the relationship should be job one for leaders. What do I mean?
Example: New employees enter your workforce with lots of junk in their trunk. Even if they have no work experience, they have life experiences that will influence their work. Leaders re-calibrate fresh employees to a new default setting.
The Best in Class do this:
1. Explain how their role fits in with the overall mission of the company
2. Incorporate visuals (Drawings or sketches allow employees to “see” the context of their job within the bigger picture.)
3. Establish the metrics that will measure progress
4. Discuss 1-3 before the employee begins work assignment (and reinforce thereafter!)
Back to the story about my break up…Despite the years that have passed, I still cannot come up with a legitimate reason for saying such a terrible thing to my future wife. Yes, my wife. (She often brings this up if a dinner party is experiencing a lull. Her favorite part is how I groveled back.) So why in the world would she marry me after such an outburst? In an odd way, that moment defined us. The ensuing time away from her lifted the clouds of uncertainty for me. I saw our differences as a strength instead of a liability. Once I defined my starting point, I focused being an encourager instead of a critic. The relationship from that point on? Great! The result? Nearly twenty-five years of bliss!
One final word here. Leaders define jobs, projects, direction, etc., for existing employees as well.
Definition brings clarity. Clarity provides focus.
#2. ALIGN – remember this formula: definition + alignment = effectiveness.
On a business trip to Chicago years ago, several colleagues and I visited a few facilities spread out throughout the metro area. Since we were all from small towns in Alabama, we had no clue why exit ramps would have toll booths. Some appeared to be under construction and none of them were manned, so we assumed that they were building them for the future. We blew through them in our rental car thinking nothing of it until six months later when the driver received a nasty letter threatening legal action if he did not pay the tolls, which now included some hefty fines.
The toll booths were positioned to keep bottlenecks from occurring on the main freeway. Strategically placing them at the exits smoothed traffic flow and kept commuters moving toward their destination.
Example: Innovation has always been the key to business survival, but it is becoming more so as we lean into technical products and services. To develop these products and services quickly, business leaders bring together the sales team and the engineers early in production to satisfy customers. They huddle nurses, physicians, and other caregivers before rounding on patients. This type of alignment keeps everyone moving in the same direction, toward the same goal.