Laying out a clear vision for your company is one thing. Getting your employees to buy in and implement it is an entirely different animal. Dwight Eisenhower said real leadership is getting someone else to do something you want done because they want to do it.
And as a five-star general and former Leader of the Free World, Ike was the kind of boss that could lay out a plan and expect his minions to fall over themselves making it happen. But you know what? He never did that.
Instead, he leaned on his so-called “underlings” throughout the planning process, soliciting advice and fostering an environment that so encouraged debate it sometimes bordered on treasonous.
You could learn a lot from the 34th president of the United States when it comes time for you to map out your company’s future.
Do everything you can to include your employees when you’re plotting a new course. And I’m not talking about some trite, shallow exercises meant to appease them and give them the illusion their voices are being heard. Listen to what they envision your company becoming. You’ll undoubtedly come away impressed. They’ll offer a unique perspective gained by toiling on the front lines while you’ve been busy with the big-picture business of running your business.
It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, either. Something as simple as a brainstorming session can get the creative juices flowing and really motivate your team. Channel your inner soothsayers and work together to picture how the world will be different in three to four years. Then brainstorm ideas on how your company can change to thrive in this future reality.
I’ve seen some leaders group employees into small task forces and assign specific areas for each to focus on, be it growing revenue, workplace culture or other areas that contribute to the overarching goals. If you’re small enough, meet one-on-one with as many employees as you can. Discuss their personal goals and collaborate on how they can be integrated with your ideas for the company’s future.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that your staff will be the ones doing a lot of the work necessary to reach your goals. If they think your vision will put them outside of their comfort zone, they’ll be quick to let you know. You’d be wise not to look at this as grumbling; Instead, view it as proactive feedback that could save you a lot of aggravation when you try to implement the changes you thought you needed.
I’ve come across many small business owners who think only they know what’s best for their company and use a utilitarian, top-down approach to goal-setting. Some even end up hitting their targets. But nearly every one has told me how much harder the road to success was. They ended up wasting inordinate amounts of energy selling and reselling their vision to staff members, motivating them, training, retooling and otherwise rolling the boulder up the hill.
Your employees are human beings, prone to act out if they feel they aren’t being heard or respected. Slacking off, insubordination, outright sabotage—hell hath no fury like an employee ignored.
Eisenhower was a lifelong advocate for peace, not just around the world, but within his cabinet. too. He achieved peace by letting all voices be heard. So when you sit down to chart your company’s future, you should be a lot like Ike.