In Nine Lies About Work, Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall examine the myths that surround leadership in today's workplace. I spoke to both authors-- Buckingham is a New York Times bestselling author who founded the 'strengths revolution' after studying leadership for nearly 20 years at the Gallup organization. Goodall is the Vice President of Leadership and Team Intelligence at Cisco, the company that runs the backbone of the internet.
Buckingham and Goodall offer a three-part strategy to align a team to a leader's vision. Although leaders are obsessed with setting goals for their teams, goals are ineffective if they're not attached to meaning.
Here are three ways to create meaning--or alignment--between your vision and every member of your team.
1. Express your values every day and in every way.
Expressed values are what you write on the walls-- figuratively and literally. "Don't tell them what you value, show them," says Goodall.
For example, when I visited Zappos headquarters to speak with CEO Tony Hsieh, I had a hard time finding his desk. It was covered with plants, streamers, books, and party favors. It's done on purpose. One of Hsieh's expressed values is giving employees the creative freedom to have fun and be "a little weird."
Hsieh credits the fun, vibrant culture as a fundamental ingredient behind the remarkable customer service that Zappos is known for. After all, happy teams mean happy customers.
Steve Jobs used a pirate flag to express his values. When his team was working on the first Macintosh, Jobs told them to think like pirates rather than the Navy. It was a metaphor for seeking innovative solutions instead of getting bogged down by bureaucracy.
For a story in Fortune magazine in 1984, Jobs's team posed for the cover in front of a black pirate flag. Another flag flew outside the building where the team members entered each day. The flag was an expressed value.
Look around. What values are you expressing so everyone can see?
2. Pay attention to rituals
According to Buckingham and Goodall, rituals are things that leaders do over and over as a signal to their teams that they value a habit, outcome, or way of doing things.
For example, I recently spoke to a successful entrepreneur who wants to build a learning culture among his staff. He implemented a monthly book report initiative. He assigns a book that's influenced him or one that an employee recommends. He asks that everyone write a short report on it. They discuss it at a monthly staff meeting. As an extra incentive, he pays them to do it!
The ritual-- and the fact that he puts his money behind it-- shows that the habit of constant learning is an important value to him and the company.
Pay careful attention to the rituals you maintain. Your team members are watching you.
3. Tell purposeful stories
"Many of the best leaders are storytellers," Buckingham and Goodall write in their book. "Not in the sense of writing a novel or screenplay, but because they cascade meaning through vignettes, anecdotes, or stories told at meetings, on email chains, or on phone calls."
The stories you choose to tell convey the value you want to instill.
I interviewed prominent healthcare CEO, Dr. David Feinberg, for one of my books. He successfully transformed the UCLA Medical Center into one of the leading hospitals in the country and now runs a new healthcare initiative at Google.
Feinberg told me that that when he started as the CEO of UCLA healthcare, the hospital wasn't putting patients first (and it had low patient satisfaction scores to show for it). He started something new. At the beginning of every monthly executive meeting, he invited former patients to share their stories-- the good and the bad. Feinberg said storytelling was a crucial tool in the hospital's astonishing turnaround.
Pick your stories carefully and tell more of them.
Most companies and leaders want their teams aligned around a common vision. Goals are largely ineffective if your team members aren't on the same page. But if you pay attention to expressed values, rituals and stories, you'll have a much better chance of keeping the people around you focused on the big picture.