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Make Your Employees Motivated Missionaries

As your company grows, you can't plan for revenue growth alone. You need to plan for leadership and culture growth as well. Here's how Stella & Dot does it.

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At Stella & Dot, we are in the midst of rolling out our annual strategy for our new fiscal year to our employees. As a management team, before rolling out our 2012 company goals, we did what every management book would tell you to do. We worked backwards from a three-year plan, we focused in on 2012, we broke it down by function and provided measurable objectives with great clarity. Textbook.

I could pat myself on the back and check the box next to "Roll out 2012 goals to company," but that would be like commending yourself for a good day's work right after you got out of bed. Goals on paper accomplish nothing. Motivated missionaries change the world. That may sound awfully crunchy-Northern-Californian to you, but really, is there any other way a great company has ever been built?

So, here are three steps I'm taking in 2012 to connect goals with passion for employees.

1. Hire people who are authentically connected with the mission.

We all want to only hire talented people who could easily be employed elsewhere. You should not hire people because you have an open position and they have the skills to fill the role, just like people should not stay at your company because of higher pay, shorter commute, or free lunch.

Hiring and staying should because there is an authentic personal fit with the employee and the company mission. A company is just a group of people, and it's not the product or the market opportunity that create company success, but rather the people and what they choose to do about it on a daily basis. The greatness in what they do creates the greatness in a company. And that choice is driven by their personal passion for why they do what they do. Are they mercenaries or missionaries? Are they there because of inertia, or are they there because their career at your company is a key part of their life's calling and they love it? That's not too high of a bar.

If the people at your company don't believe deeply in what you do and why you do it, you're destined for mediocrity. Without team members with personal passion for the company, goal setting is simply spending time putting percentage increases down on a soon-to-be-forgotten performance plan.

2. Motivation, recognition, and communication connect employees to the mission.

Open up the door for the honest conversation about how much does a team member care about reaching the company goals—and not because that is what determines their bonus, but because it matters to them on a deeper level. If the answer is not enough, not personally, or not right now, it's time to change that.

I'm not suggesting you fire everyone. I'm suggesting you improve the motivation in your company to connect people to the mission and achieve your goals. It could be that communication, motivation, and recognition need to become daily habit for your busy leadership team. As a growing company moving out of the phase where everyone knows everyone, that is one of our key needs in 2012. We can't just plan revenue and sales growth, we have to plan the leadership and culture growth. 

3. Gracefully manage out people who are not soulfully connected to the mission.

In hiring, you can only be certain you won't be right 100 percent of the time. Don't be afraid to correct it for the good of your company and the individual in the wrong spot. Sometimes, separation should come not simply from underperformance, but rather under-caring. Come to a mutual understanding that its not the best fit or the best version of the employee's life if that is the case. Plan a transition, even if they are getting the job done. Great people who lack passion for your particular cause are not benign. Let them find a place where they are passionate. 

And after a year of doing that every day, you get to check the box "Roll out 2012 goals to company" and know you had a company full of motivated employees who cared enough not to need bullet points to achieve those goals.

IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 31, 2012

JESSICA HERRIN is the founder and CEO of Stella & Dot, an Inc. 500 company. She previously co-founded WeddingChannel.com. The Stella & Dot Foundation has raising more than $350,000 for empowerment of women.
@JessicaHerrin




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