It's no surprise employees are feeling more disconnected than ever from their jobs as organizations grow larger and the wizards/management hide behind the curtain. Engagement levels are pathetically low and there doesn't seem to be an end in sight. The Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet is the deepest canyon in the world and even that doesn't capture the depth of separation between employees and their organizations.
People are losing their connection to the strategy (and it's questionable if they ever had them in the first place) they are supposed to be executing. They are being told what to do without an understanding as to why. It's time to stop the madness and start singing Kumbaya. It's time to tell your employees not just the what, but the who, when, where and how. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? Not at all. In fact, I believe there are six keys to artfully engaging people and overcoming the barriers.
1. Connect through Images and Stories
It is a simple fact that humans think visually. This is why images and stories can be so powerful at work! Images eliminate misinterpretation and create a common storyline -- giving everyone a clear understanding from the beginning. People connect through visualization because it displays not only the facts, but emotion as well. So don't just spout out facts and messages. Tell a story. The impact this has on your people is worth the added effort.
2. Create Pictures Together
When visual iteration and dialogue are combined, they bring about people's emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and opinions. The group drawing of a strategy allows for ideas to be shared and challenged as the creation comes together. That's not all. The visual iterations build ownership creating strong connections to the strategy you need your people to execute - and establish precise meaning to the strategy.
3. Believe in Leaders
Simply put, the majority of employees do not trust their senior management. The successful engagement of people requires authenticity, truth-telling and realism from the higher-ups. Critical conversations need to happen in the open. Be real about the issues. Be open about letting new ideas in.
4. Own the Solution
It's time to allow employees to actively participate in the learning process rather than passively receiving knowledge. This process, known as "discovery learning," forces people to engage in the process of creating the strategy as they ask questions, find answers and form a complete understanding of the goals.
5. Play the Entire Game
From Lebron James to the ball boy, from Mark Zuckerberg to IT tech support, everyone wants a chance to play in the game! Everyone has the same desire to show how they contributed to winning the NBA Finals or signing the 1 billionth Facebook user (they are up to 1.86 billion by the way). Enter the Strategic Learning Map® experience, giving all employees their chance to not only help create the game, but to see where they contribute to the win. The Strategic Learning Map module is a picture that depicts an entire business or strategy in a graphic metaphor so employees can see and understand the business, arrive at their own conclusions, and expand their ability to see the big picture.
6. Practice Before Performing
Rome wasn't built in a day. It takes time and lots of attempts before successful execution takes place. People can't succeed if they don't fail and they need to know it is okay to fail, to learn from that experience and then convert those failures into real-life successes. Practice allows people to take risks, increasing their ownership of the strategy as they create new skills and behaviors necessary to execute their strategy. So yes, make all the mistakes. Fix all the glitches. Challenge each thought and step as you build toward the launch.
Nik Wallenda decided it was a great idea to cross the Grand Canyon by walking on a tightrope. There are far less dangerous and terrifying ways to cross or bridge the yawning canyons that exist between people and their organization preventing true engagement and success. Hopefully these six steps give you a bit more courage to begin narrowing your canyon.