There are so many reasons why people choose to work with an organization that can vary from financial to cultural to longevity to the people. Why do some seem to thrive while others simply survive? Why are some employees reaching their potential and beyond and others are getting a paycheck to do a job? What can a leader do?
While you cannot order greatness, you can create an environment where greatness occurs. This begins with assessing and understanding how your employees and coworkers define greatness for themselves and how they believe they can best contribute.
What makes their brilliance shine? What are they looking for in the culture of your company or in their own business? It is important, first and foremost, that you set up an environment that encourages honest, open dialogue. An environment where people can feel safe expressing their perspectives without fear of negative repercussions.
You should be explicit about and model your company’s values. Incoming employees and partners can determine up front if those values resonate with them. This is not a one-time event. Even noble corporate goals such as “open communication, empathy, respect, innovation, or fostering an environment in which each individual is encouraged and supported to fulfill their potential” are open to interpretation, especially when being implemented.
Here are specific strategies I have employed while in Corporate America as well as while running my own businesses to help create an environment for greatness.
- We all know that not everyone learns and produces in the same way. However, I believe that everyone has the ability to do well when they are motivated and effectively supported. When I interview people to work with me, I begin by asking them what they need, what motivates them, and what they expect from me. I typically set this up as an exercise. For example, I may ask them, “What three things can I expect from you, and what three things do you expect from me?” It is great, time-efficient way for each person to give and receive concrete information while eliminating guesswork and assumptions…and I hear some really important thoughts and ideas to work with…that you won’t see on their resume.
- I want everyone I hire to understand his or her importance to me and to the business, and I continually reinforce that. That does not mean that I do their work for them or otherwise cover up their mistakes. It means each one of us knows what is necessary to be productive and profitable, and we do our parts to make that happen. I have their backs and they have mine.
- To benefit my coworkers, colleagues and myself, I provide posts of inspirational messages in the form of quotes, images, or articles. Social media makes the process that much easier. Tag someone if you want to make sure they see your message. It may help them feel important and necessary to you and your business.
- I am generous with feedback. In the business world, and especially as an entrepreneur, it can be a lonely existence if no one tells you how awesome you are, at least once in a while. While constructive criticism is important, I find that positive feedback is out of this world. If your business has a newsletter, highlight something noteworthy that someone did. Give an award for something special and thank people publicly for a job well done. A little praise can go a long way.
- I nip problems in the bud—and privately. Business is filled with challenges. Before a challenge or issue gets out of hand, have a private conversation with the person or people at the root of or party to the matter, and iron out the wrinkles. The last thing you need is for something small to become monumental. I let others know that I have an open-door policy, and I encourage them to ask for my help with anything they feel they cannot handle themselves. When problems are left to fester, greatness will not happen.
- I make discipline about accountability and growth rather than about punishment. While consequences may be needed for less than stellar output, there are ways to hold people accountable while also providing support. When I ran an insurance agency, I adopted a different approach and rewarded agents for writing business in ways that motivated them to see more people and thus enhanced their opportunities to reach their goals. My agents also were supported with weekly coaching sessions to troubleshoot challenges, establish accountability, and guide them to more sales. Inherent in every business are opportunities to hold others accountable while also encouraging success.
Each one of us is born with the potential for greatness. There are no exceptions. Yet most people realize less than ten percent of their potential, while a small handful of others rise to extraordinary heights. Why is that? Great leaders and business achievers look for something other than sales success as their ultimate goal. Their vision is to make a difference in the world, and they keep pushing forward to make it happen. Ask yourself these questions:
* What is your compelling “why” as a leader and in your business?
* What causes and issues are you willing to fight for?
* In what ways is your business/company a vehicle to make the world a better place?
* What are your core values as an individual and as a leader?
* What are the core values of your business or company?
* Are there any business goals or actions that are out of integrity with your core values? If so, how might you remedy that?
* How can your core values differentiate your business in the marketplace and attract like-minded employees, partners, and customers?
Achieving greatness requires self-awareness, discipline, and the support of others. Surround yourself with people who see your vision, believe in it, and will help you get there. As a leader, create an environment where you enable others to thrive.
Remember, be a unicorn in a field of horses. If you want to achieve greatness, stop asking for permission.