Communicating the Vision to Employees Who Don’t Report to You

Business leaders often struggle to motivate and communicate with employees who don’t report directly to them. I witness many situations where conveying an idea, a business philosophy or stating values and goals leads to a break down in the chain of command to staff.

Here’s a recent example where the owner has an “open door” policy for all employees” 

A long-time employee comes into the owner’s office and shuts the door behind him. He expresses concerns regarding his manager’s lack of respect for the company commitment to quality and customer service. The owner immediately becomes frustrated with the situation and recites the company mission, core values and philosophy toward customer satisfaction. He calls a meeting with the staff and gives a lecture on what makes the company great.

This sequence of events ignites a big blow up with everyone involved; the supervisor feels as if his direct report went around him, the owner feels as if he needs to become more hands on and the long-time employee now feels that he isn’t able to speak out when he sees a problem. Unfortunately, this scenario occurs every day in our industry.

Let’s face it, company culture and communications are the underlying issues that create these setbacks. Culture is driven from the top down and must have everyone’s buy-in. Communications (or lack thereof) seems to be the catalyst for conflicts, like the example above.

Here are some leadership best practices from some of the best and brightest in our industry for handling situations like these:

  • Use company meetings and morning huddles effectively (which could mean using the very technology we sell) to communicate better with everyone in the company.
  • Produce an internal newsletter (e-news, blogs, etc.) to convey the company story, key messages, brand promise and vision, This is effective coming from the desk of the president and other influential leaders in your organization
  • Offer the support of an open door policy and instill an environment where there is no triangulation or posturing.
  • Always resist overruling a decision made by mid-managers to not erode their authority and verify if they’ve first spoken with their supervisor.
  • Never publicly criticize managers in front of their direct reports. Instead, drive decision-making down to these managers using mission, values and ethics as a filter.
  • Create a culture of accountability throughout the organization. Hold people accountable for achieving measurable results at all levels –including the owner.
  • Eliminate people who consistently focus on blaming others and not taking responsibility. Move away from the clock-punchers and the “tell me what to do and I’ll do it” culture.
  • Empower those who want to take on new things and are willing to sign up for achieving the results and know it won’t always be pretty the first time.
  • Reward innovative thinking linked to results, reward people willing to live by example, reward people who can embrace the culture you’ve established.

It’s very common to have intelligent and hard-working employees that simply do not share your same core values. Those employees won’t last long, and they shouldn’t. If you commit to always doing the right thing, no matter the cost, the results seem to take care of themselves. Encourage your people to be authentic, real, express themselves with emotion, and sincerely care.

The secret to success is to define what you value most, surround yourself with those who share those same values, distance yourself from those who don’t, and passionately live your values through every decision and action. When you do you will look in the mirror with pride in the culture that it reflects and become envied by those who have yet to learn this simple lesson.  CW

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