The legend says that one of the reasons for the “Y” in Generation Y is due to a persistent quest for meaning in their personal and professional lives. Unlike Boomers, they were raised in a world in which stability and meaning are scarce resources, and success depends on flexibly switching through different sets of rules.
Upon arriving in their first job, most Yers discover a world of confusing and conflicting directions. Most companies have an official vision and mission statement stacked somewhere or framed next to an elevator. However, those tools are by large undermined by an utter ignorance of the company’s direction and a strong informal culture.
The problem with this situation is that the birthplace of leadership, focus, engagement and personal accountability is precisely the meaning given by a clear vision. We all know what we do. Usually we know how to do. But as a society we’re in a severe deficiency of knowledge about why we do. In one of my Top 10 TED talks, Simon Sinek explains the significant results that businesses can achieve by focusing on the why.
1) (Re)define your vision statement.
A vision is top-down. It comes from the leader and it gives the long-term goals of where the organisation and the team is heading.
I know you’re going to say “we have one and it’s great.” Before renouncing the idea of working on it, let me ask you a few questions:
- Is your vision ambitious enough?
- Does it create a human connection between the individual and the company’s aspirations?
- Is it capable of energizing your employees to go to work day in and day out?
- If I stop a random employee in your company and ask him about the company’s vision and its meaning, would he be able to answer me?
- How frequently are your employees able to visualize the gap between the vision and the reality?
In other words, your vision could be “Become the market leader in heart medication” but this visions is not sufficiently inspiring nor comparable with the reality on a regular basis. When was the last time your team was informed of competitive positioning? Is this vision enough to get everyone inspired?
What if instead your vision was to “Help clients benefit from a healthier life and the company of their loved ones”. This is something that can drive an entire organization and be translated into clear and objective goals for every team.
2) Share company’s strategy throughout the organization
If there’s one thing traditional businesses are struggling with in the new world order is confidentiality. Confidentiality is indeed important in some cases: it protects intellectual property, avoids unnecessary employee anxiety and is fundamental for project implementation.
However, with globalization the businesses of hidden ideas and products have in a large extent disappeared. Now it’s not about new things: it’s about having the discipline and speed to execute in new ways, preferably open-source ways.
The biggest part of the problem is unfortunately not even on the debatable confidential issues, it lies within the 90% of cases where “confidential” is not confidential at all. It’s the manager that hides information with day-to-day impact to serve his own ego, believing that retaining “confidential” information will grant him respect and admiration. A friend of mine calls this “mushroom management”: keep your employees in the dark and feed them BS.
Mushroom management has disastrous consequences: it wastes a lot of people’s time and effort in tasks that are already outdated and it breeds demotivation when people find out that important project they’ve been working for months has become unnecessary. Most importantly, it slows a company reactivity to change and it blocks top-management from a much-needed sanity check from the field.
If a company desires to really benefit from the full benefits of meaning in the workplace, all unnecessary confidentiality must go.
(To be continued)