Your vision is exactly that: yours. Not everyone has the luxury of immediately understanding the strategy behind your decisions, but it’s important that your team grasps the deeper meaning behind their work. After all, how is your team supposed to think critically and be innovative if their perception of the work is misaligned?
If you’re part of the 33 percent of executives who aren’t confident that their employees could accurately communicate the company’s business strategy, then listen up! I’ll let you in on what’s holding you back, as well as some of my newfound secrets to help your team understand your vision.
First, here’s why your team may be misinterpreting your strategy:
You’re Not Communicating Clearly
This one seems like a given, but you’d be surprised if you took another look at past communication involving projects. Go ahead and think back to the last time you stayed up past midnight redoing an employee’s work. If possible, re-think the conversations surrounding the project and see if there were important things you missed. Sometimes fixing miscommunications isn’t enough. A study of high-performing companies with “clearly articulated public strategies” found that only 29 percent of their employees could correctly identify the company’s strategy out of six choices. If this isn’t an issue, and you can point to where you gave clear direction, then speak to the employee about comprehensive reading of certain messages or teach them to return to something specific, like a project brief before working on a project.
An Employee Lacks Experience or Necessary Skills
Depending on your industry, some employees just may not be capable of understanding the mechanisms of your business. After all, we’re sometimes limited to hiring for skills (not experience). So while someone may be an exceptional writer, designer or web developer, they might not have the experience to grasp how your business works. Even those who are skilled and understand your business may simply lack the drive to get behind your company flag. When that happens, it may be time to change something.
So what are business owners and CEOs to do? Here are four best practices you can follow to turn the ship around and lead your team in the right direction:
- Don’t give up on them. It may feel like you’re standing alone in a crowded room, but every employee deserves the chance to prove they’re capable of getting it right. With your newfound approach to spearheading strategy, give each employee a clean slate, and remind them of this status every week. Mistakes are okay, but poor patterns of behavior are not.
- Occasionally push deadlines back or get started on projects sooner. Give employees enough time to repeat the work as many times as it takes to get it right. Resist the temptation to do the work for them, but still offer feedback and input to further drive them. However, don’t do this too frequently or your employees may begin thinking of deadlines as suggestions. Don’t set the deadline for a new task based on how long it would take you; instead ask the employee how long it will take them to complete each tactical piece. Record your planning sessions, and note the time so you can add this into future deadline calculations.
- Explain the meaning of the work. Your time is best spent communicating and spreading the knowledge of your brand, strategy and goals. Use this time to invite employees to an intimate conversation instead of a boardroom meeting, or ask them what kind of communication typically works best for them. It could be a campaign brief, or they may need to write it down to remember. It could be a conversation, or a video screencast they can refer back to on their own.
- Reward those who understand and contribute to your strategy. Employees who are getting it and helping the company achieve the strategy should be commended. Analyze which employees are succeeding and what went right. While much of this can be chalked up to individual intelligence and ambition, there are still lessons to learn from your communication with them, and rewarding or recognizing them publicly allows others to see what you’re looking for. As Jimmy Leppert, an engagement expert at Kotter International says, “This sets the example, shows the connection between effort and outcome, and inspires others to make a contribution as well.”
In time, you can better align organizational goals and strategies if you analyze your team, adjust communication strategies, eliminate underperforming team members and build up those who are nailing it every time.