Guest post from Lorraine Grubbs:
The US Army War College, in the post cold war years, described the future business environment in four words: Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity - code name: VUCA. In my work (building loyal employee cultures), I define VUCA through a new filter: Value people, Unparalleled communication, Curious mind, and Accept responsibility. This new definition revolves around appreciating employees and, done right, can become your greatest competitive advantage.
Value people: President Teddy Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” That is as true today as it was when he said it in early 1900. People are one of your biggest assets. To get them to perform at the highest level, they need to feel valued. You can’t fake caring. Leaders who demonstrate they care will gain the respect of their people.
Action Item: Show new hires the “love” right away. At Houston based David Weekley Homes, as the new hires exit their orientation session, they walk down a hallway lined with employees clapping and welcoming them to the company. This is a great way to demonstrate your caring environment from the onset. What are you doing to ensure your new hires feel welcomed from the start?
Unparalleled communication: Be a great communicator. Leaders should be aware that people learn in different ways. Some learn through listening, some through doing, and some through reading. Leaders who are proficient communicators understand how employees learn and adapt their communication style accordingly. Good communication makes employees feel like they are in the know and keeps rumors to a minimum.
Action Item: Set up focus groups and ask employees how they stay informed about the company. Ask for suggestions on how to improve communication, then take their ideas and implement them if possible. In this way, everyone will be on the same page. At Sugarland based Hotze Health and Wellness Center Dr. Steven Hotze gathers the troops together every week to recite their vision and mission statement. In their “huddle”, they take time to recognize employees, talk about anything new, answer questions and within 30 minutes, everyone returns to work. Employees appreciate being in the loop. It makes them feel respected.
Curious Mind: Get to know your people. Who are they? What do they like? On the flip side, let them get to know and understand who you are. Leaders should be curious about their people. Employees feel valued when you remember their names, their accomplishments and details about their families. At Boston based General Insulation, CEO Frank Granara not only remembers everyone’s names, but is aware of what’s going on with their families as well. And his employees love him for it.
Action Item: At your next meeting give each employee a form to fill out. Ask things like:
· What’s your favorite candy?
· What’s your favorite movie?
· What do you like to do on your days off?
Then, at the next meeting, hand them a sample of their favorite candy. Doing little things will amaze and impress employees and they, in turn will learn to do the same for their teams.
Accept Responsibility: Employees who understand a company’s “one thing” are more apt to feel a part of the mission and embrace the company as their own. They will accept responsibility, as owners, to ensure they do their best to help the company succeed. Everyone in an organization needs to understand what the vision of the company is and how their job contributes to the big picture. When I worked at Southwest Airlines, we were taught that we were in the customer service industry even though we flew airplanes. Ultimately, we came up with a tagline that everyone could resonate with: “We give America the freedom to fly”, and every one of us knew what role we played in making that happen.
Action Item: In your next meeting, ask your employees what business you are in. Create the “one thing” you do above all else. Then make sure all your employees know, understand and live your “one thing”.
By following the redefined VUCA “people” competencies, your leaders will build a culture of loyalty and respect. Employees will be proud and defend “their” company against any competitor. Employers who are consistently voted among the top companies to work for have discovered that by sticking to the newly defined VUCA principles, their employees work harder and customers are happier. And, their bottom line reflects it.
About the author:
Lorraine Grubbs recently co-authored “Beyond the Executive Comfort Zone: Outrageous Tactics to Ignite Individual Performance” (www.executivecomfortzone.com). Lorraine is president of the consulting firm Lessons in Loyalty. As a former 15-year executive with Southwest Airlines, she takes principles and practices she helped develop to companies that strive for better employee engagement and loyalty. Look for her soon-to-be released book, “Award Winning Companies Create Happy Employees”.