I was asked recently how a purpose-driven business leader can ensure employees support his or her vision.
Whether you are a corporate CEO or the owner-manager of an SME, you might feel you have done all you can to make your company purpose-driven. But it’s just not happening. You’re frustrated that your employees ‘don’t get it’. Teams are lacklustre and pulling in different directions. What’s gone wrong?
Assuming that your employees don’t simply disagree with the purpose you’re trying to achieve, the lack of support is likely to stem from one or more of these four causes.
Purpose does not align with employee experience
We all know you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
Take this example. Company A’s UK employees face a pay freeze and sales targets which are not so much ‘stretch’ as ‘on the rack’. They are not likely to support the board’s purposeful pursuit of improving the lot of their developing world supply chain. No one trusts its “market-leading” position regarding modern slavery and buying from suppliers under fair-trade conditions. The vision simply does not tally with the day-to-day experience of employees.
As E. M. Forster wrote, “only connect”. Maybe the issue is not what you are saying about purpose to your team, but that you are not listening enough to what they are telling you.
Management is by command and control
This is a subset of the first point. Leading with purpose harnesses the enthusiasm of the team to create a bigger vision. Yet, if managers are stuck in an outdated command and control model, their people cannot engage fully.
There’s great advice on purpose-driven business leadership in Sarah Rozenthuler’s Powered by Purpose. Engagement requires modelling power with rather than power over others in the team.
Staff do not fully understand the impact they can have
Poor communications are at the root of many problems. Staff need to feel confident that the problem they’re solving is real, that their actions will make a difference, and that the result will create a better business. Are you practising a clear, coherent internal communications strategy which brings your vision to life in an achievable manner? If you can integrate your internal and external communications messages into one measurable and implementable strategy, that is even better.
Staff have more pressing concerns
Finally, your staff may be committed, engaged and keen to support, but frankly they simply don’t have the energy or the bandwidth to deliver it now. What’s bugging them? The recent pandemic has caused mental health issues, people are struggling financially, their families may be ill, some may be bereaved. We need to start with our own people; look after them, and they will be able to look after others.
To find out more about rejuvenating your purpose-driven business communications strategy after the pandemic, read how clear communications will help business return from lockdown.