In 1998 I was traveling on I-95, just south of Cocoa Beach, Florida, where brush fires burned along the highway. When I arrived in Fort Lauderdale that night, I watched a news story recounting a chief in the middle of the crisis who was attempting to help his team. The chief identified a need for his team and called in for supplies. A few hours later a box truck arrived at command central. As the driver emerged and then opened the back, the chief happened to be walking by. As the driver began unloading cases of bananas, the chief asked, “What’s that?” The driver replied, “Bananas. Can you believe that in the middle of this mess some idiot ordered cases of bananas?” The chief shot back, “Can you believe in the middle of this mess that some idiot misheard bananas instead of bandanas?” Clearly there was misalignment in the midst of a crisis.
The importance of your communication is magnified in times of crisis or uncertainty. It is crucial to your team alignment. It is mandatory for your success in a constantly changing environment.
Speaking on behalf of your team, they yearn for information. They want collaboration, peace of mind, a focus on opportunities and leadership transparency. Still, I have observed that knowing what to do is not enough. The hundreds of companies that I’ve worked with continue to struggle with mastering internal communication. Nearly all will acknowledge that communication is important and give lip service to the “fact” that communication directly impacts every company department and all company outcomes. No leader has ever pushed back on the communication benefits of improved productivity, better engagement, increased job satisfaction, higher employee retention, shared knowledge or team alignment.
What I do get pushback on is whether team members actually feel engaged, connected or aligned. When challenged that their team is like any other, yearning for alignment, I get the speech about how "we’re different: 'Our industry is different, our business model different, and you know, it’s true for them but not for us.'” They say things like, “In fact I started this company with two other people, and we continually communicate to our 600+ workforce today.”
All this pushback comes from leaders with no real data. Leaders that haven’t implemented internal employee surveys and satisfaction scores. It seems silly to write this, but it’s proven true year-over-year, company-over-company. Admittedly, the entrepreneurial intent is good, yet this blind assessment of alignment is much like determining that your customers are extremely happy and satisfied with your products and services without ever asking your customers what they think. It’s like not bothering to monitor your inbound calls for customer issues and assuming that customers have a high level of satisfaction.
According to Forbes, the definition of employee engagement is "the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals."
These employees care about their work, their company and are aligned on behalf of the organization's goals. They even use discretionary effort to help the company cause.
Your options for creating alignment are constantly changing, and technology can help. Culture IQ published a report indicating three quick steps for great engagement gain: 1. Draft employee engagement surveys (55% gain), 2. Create culture committees and events (29% gain), and 3. Offer employee resource groups (20% gain). (Check the report for more detail.)
I see successful companies using internal messaging tools, collaboration tools, and employee advocacy tools to successfully align their teams, and our clients use Rhythm Software to ensure that all involved are communicating and executing in alignment. You can include mobile apps on the list, and remember to keep your communication and collaboration simple. Any combination of tools that aligns your team is appropriate, but too many tools will cause confusion.
Successful leaders and entrepreneurs are winning the battle for their team(s) discretionary effort. Get yourself and your team in this fight before you lose the alignment war.
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