How to Lead Today to Achieve Tomorrow’s Vision: An Open Letter to CEOs & Management

Dear CEO & Management,

I’m sure you get this a lot but what do you envision for your organization in the next 5 years…10 years…15 years? And how do you plan on executing this?

You’ll need an Employee Engagement Strategy ASAP. I’m not talking about just a few surveys to take the temperature on satisfaction and holding periodic employee appreciation events. I’m talking about a true, comprehensive strategy that will help you understand the motivations, expectations, and goals of your employees. This will be the quickest, cost-effective way to achieve your vision.

As a young professional in the corporate world striving to be a responsible citizen, a meaningful contributor to society, and tomorrow’s leader, like many of your employees, here are 3 things you should keep in mind while you’re crafting your Employee Engagement Strategy…

1. Believe in the Power of 1, starting with YOU.

Having sat through various townhalls and events where top leaders speak about the company vision, performance, culture, and competition, I often wondered if what you’re saying is actually what you’re feeling. “We have the best strategy, undeniably the greatest talent, the happiest customers…” (something to that effect) is what we normally hear. But do you really believe this? Do you think your employees believe this?

They don’t…and here’s why…

For starters, it doesn’t sound genuine. If you’re only engaging your employees on a quarterly basis through mass communication (large townhalls, emails, surveys, etc), where it’s usually a 1-way conversation, then you definitely do not come across candid. You’re losing most of your audience before you begin to ‘motivate’ them. Secondly, your message seems disconnected from what they’re experiencing day-to-day. The vision you’re describing is not what they’re working towards, their managers aren’t great leaders, and all they are surrounded by are examples of what needs to improve…whatever it is, they are dismissing you.

So what can you do? Believe in the Power of 1, starting with YOU. Drive change and empower your employees through your leadership. Collaborate more, be transparent, share successes and challenges, build trust, and aspire to change the world together. If you’re successful at SHOWING these traits, your employees will begin to connect with you on your vision and reciprocate your behavior. All it takes is just 1 person!

2. Be Bold & Break the Silos

Doing the same thing for a long time may make your company profitable, but for how long? In our world now, where we’re updated operating systems every 6 months and adapting to new technologies daily, you have to get comfortable with disrupting the norm. The things that worked 5 years ago will not work in the next 5, so don’t be afraid to be bold. Encourage your leaders to break the silos. This is the only way you will retain employees, attract top talent, and make things happen for your company.

Here are some of the things you can do:

  • Listen to your employees in a number of ways – forget the anonymous surveys (are they really anonymous?!?) and be a bit more creative. Turn the open-door policy into dynamic office hours, gamify idea gathering, organize hackathons to solve problems (it’s not only for technology teams), and continuously keep the conversations flowing. These tactics make your employees feel like they are being heard and are part of the decision-making process.
  • Hold your employees accountable – there’s something about setting clear expectations and instilling confidence in your employees that make them step up and deliver. Ever have a boss that you never wanted to disappoint because he/she wholeheartedly believed in you? This kind of employee/manager relationship involves trust from both parties, and it results in an extremely powerful partnership. Strive to foster this connection across your teams, and when you spot people failing to carry their weight, hold them accountable. “Your team is as strong as the weakest player”…so if you’re not acknowledging those that need improvement, you’re lowering the standard for the rest of your people.
  • Don’t let enthusiasm die – this is the most important thing you can take away from your employee. Regardless of your stellar vision or ever-increasing revenue stream, your people will always be your biggest competitive advantage. According to a 2014 New York Times article by Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath, there are 4 drivers that make employees feel satisfied and productive at work: physical (having the opportunity to recharge); emotional (feeling valued); mental (having the ability to work autonomously); and spiritual (feeling connected to a higher purpose). If these core needs aren’t met, not only will you have disengaged employees, but you’re profitability will take a direct hit as well.

3. Get Inspired from Other Industries

One characteristic of a leader is being able to see what is working and what is not, whether it be a process or a person. But a true leader is someone that will actually take the chance to fix what is not working. And in doing so, I ask that you and your management team get out of your comfort zone and get inspiration from other industries. It’s essential to establish benchmarks by not only looking at your competitors, but by also considering businesses outside of your industry. This notion of looking past your competition is especially significant when you’re talking about your people. Your employees are not bound by the industry they work in, so in order for you to retain the best and attract the best, you have to consider the global landscape. Don’t let your industry standards stop disruptive innovation and creative change.

I’m hoping these 3 ideas help you create and implement your Employee Engagement Strategy. I can’t stress how necessary and powerful it will be – for you, the management team, your employees, the Board of Directors, and the shareholders. The success of your company relies on the people that are working for it, and it’s your responsibility to ensure they are 100% engaged (it all starts with YOU).

My best,

A Millennial, Contributor to Society, Responsible Citizen, Tomorrow’s Leader, an Employee – just like many that work for you…