Jennifer Dulski is a veteran troop rally-er. As president and COO of Change.org, she energized millions to rise up against the status quo. At Facebook, where last year she became head of Groups, Dulski draws people together around shared interests and concerns.
So it's not surprising Dulski chose engaging and mobilizing people as the subject of her book, Purposeful: Are You a Manager or a Movement Starter? Leaders of movements--entrepreneurial businesses included--incite followers to believe in a vision, in one another, and in themselves. To amass the power of many, they address the needs and dreams of individuals.
At the businesses she's worked for, which also include Google and Yahoo, Dulski developed and adapted a variety of tools and techniques to maximize employees' buy-in to the mission and satisfaction with their roles in it. She described several of them in a recent interview.
1. Customize motivation.
While managing a team of marketers at Yahoo, Dulski had a revelation. One woman explained candidly that recognition and rewards didn't interest her. All she wanted for a job well done was more money. "I would never have guessed that," Dulski says. "If she hadn't told me, I would have tried to motivate her based on what motivates me, which would have been the exact wrong thing."
The only way to know what motivates individuals, Dulski concluded, is to ask them. Hence: the Motivational Pie Chart. Dulski gives employees a drawing of an empty circle and tells them to divvy it up according to their personal priorities. Sixty percent might be personal development, 20 percent recognition, and 20 percent compensation, for example. "Sometimes, people will say something uncommon, like 'I am really motivated by being in the spotlight,'" Dulski says.
Employees then color-code each slice to indicate current levels of satisfaction. Green if the company does a great job with that motivator. Yellow if the employee wants more. Red if things are bad.
Dulski says compensation assumes a higher profile when people feel they're not being paid what they're worth. Once financial needs are met, the three most common motivators become purpose, growth, and connection. "People want to know they are working on something that matters and their role in it," Dulski says. "They want to work with people they respect, trust, and enjoy. And they want to feel like they are learning, growing, being challenged."
2. Clarify decision making.
Despite empowerment rhetoric, people often feel helpless to move forward. Dulski suggests a rule of thumb: Employees should be able to make 90 percent of the decisions required by their jobs. To create a common vocabulary for discussing authority levels, she uses the same color-coding deployed in the pie chart: green for decisions made autonomously; red for decisions requiring permission; and yellow for decisions where authority is unclear.
Dulski says that without the 90-10 Rule, things tend to break down in one of two ways. "Either you are asking people to make decisions they should not be making based on their role, or a person is capable of making decisions, and a manager is getting involved when they really don't need to," she says. Both instances leave employees feeling stripped of control.
In tandem with the 90-10 Rule, Dulski suggests companies adopt decision logs to track who made which decisions and when, as well as their rationales and the people who were consulted. Such logs reveal whether decision making is being sufficiently distributed. "It also serves transparency," she says. "When big decisions are made, everyone wants to be involved." That's usually not possible, but at least everyone can understand how and why a decision was made.
3. Lay out the long-term plan.
The adage "People don't leave companies; they leave managers" is a bit of a canard. "My experience has been people leave when they stop growing and learning," Dulski says. At Change.org, she learned a technique called Horizon Mapping to keep people motivated and guide their progress toward personal goals.
Employees begin by identifying their existing skills--relationship-building, for example--on the basis of their experiences. They then set five- or 10-year goals. "These tend to be big ideas," Dulksi says. "I have had people say, 'I want to run for elected office.' 'I want to be the CEO of my own company.' 'I want to invent something.'"
Finally, employees compare their current skill sets with those objectives on the horizon. Together with leaders, they then determine what roles or experiences will close the gap between them. "Sometimes, a project may seem uninteresting," Dulski says. "But if they understand how it gets them to the next step, it becomes compelling."
4. Get to know folks.
Strong personal relationships--between leaders and their workforces and among employees--make pulling together feel more natural and enjoyable. Dulski advocates helping workers learn about one another as people, not just as colleagues; and she recommends leaders dedicate at least a portion of events and offsites to that goal.
In one technique she uses, called Lifelines, Dulski will break up employees into small groups and ask each member to describe three to five experiences that made them who they are. "I have seen tremendous bonds coming out of this as people go a level deeper," she says.
For leaders, particularly those who fret about losing touch with their scaling organizations, it's a chance to attach a story to a face. It's also an opportunity to model healthy emotional openness. When Dulski kicks off a Lifelines exercise, "I will share one moment from my life," she says. "Something that is more personal or difficult, to make it appropriate and comfortable for other people to do so."
In the interest of humanizing herself, Dulski also welcomes employees' having fun at her expense. She's let them choose her Halloween costumes. They've cast her in company musicals. "Once, I had to play the Wicked Witch in a parody of The Wizard of Oz," she says. "I did a big cackle onstage that was widely imitated for weeks."