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Jun 29, 2015

Leadership & Profit: Easy as 1-2-3

Business and leadership is simple; we usually just choose to make it more complex than it needs to be. This complexity tends to defocus us — and our teams — away from the most important aspects that will create focus, engaged collaboration and a more profitable business.

Step 1: Focus on the Critical
As building materials leaders, we have a lot on our plates; meetings, emails, voicemails — oh yea, and more meetings. These may all be important, but do they drive our success? I believe deeply in the phrase “success is found not in the urgent, but rather in the critical.”

We find ourselves extremely busy, or so we take pleasure in saying so. But we fill up 99% of our day with addressing the urgent — because it’s there and it’s easier to start with. The other 1% (or a mere 5 minutes of the day), we may think quickly about the critical factors in our business, and promise ourselves we need to set some time away for a bigger thinking session — which as we know rarely happens.

In my numerous roles in corporate America, my goal was to push myself to take 10 percent of the day to “really think” about those items that would truly differentiate and enhance our business’ success. So I used to schedule myself 4-5 hours sporadically each week in a quiet room with a meeting subject of “CRITICAL.” When you focus on the few critical items, your team sees this focus, hears it in your communications, and sees it in your actions.

Step 2: Communicate and Engage
In the craziness of the day, weeks and months, we tend to lose the ONE thing that is the most effective tool to guarantee more profit. Basic communication. According to a Franklin Covey Poll, most employees are disconnected from the priorities of the company, with only 20% of employees seeing a connection of their job duties to the company’s priorities. This leads to employees who merely come in to do their seven tasks for the day and checking out at 5:00. In that same study, only 37% of the employees could even name the company’s top priorities, which is a dangerous place to be as an organization if your employees don’t even know the direction your business is heading. And of those employees that understand the company’s goals, only 20% are excited about the actual priorities. These factors also lead to attrition of your best employees. If they are not engaged or challenged, they disconnect and look for other companies to leverage their passion and skills. Then you are left with all the mediocre talent who typically thrive (because they can hide) in less stimulating and accountable organizations.

Where are building materials companies going wrong? Are we hiring the wrong employees? This is where most leaders’ heads go. Sending out an email is not leadership, nor is it engagement; it’s merely a one-way communication. Let’s look at how most companies communicate and how employees engage (or not) with different communication approaches.

The role of the leader is to create the vision, develop the strategy and communicate the direction of the business. The important next step is where most leaders fail: the engagement of each employee.

Less than 50 percent of companies have a town hall meeting — defined as a minimum of a quarterly meeting where all employees (white and blue collar) are brought together to better understand the priorities and success of the company. According to a Watson Wyatt study on Communication ROI, less than 50 percent of the employees stated they see value in these meetings. Therefore, many leaders believe town hall meetings aren’t effective and apparently are a waste of time. It’s not a waste of time; many times, they are simply improperly conducted.

There are different ways to communicate to your employees. In the Watson Wyatt study, they looked at communication approaches that achieve the “full attention” of the employees. It was found that only 15 percent of employees achieve full attention with written communications, 23 percent for audio meetings. However, the percentage climbs to 55 percent with face-to-face meetings. It is estimated that it could jump to nearly 75% with two-way face-to-face interactions. The study also found that in-person meetings reduce confusion by over 80% and build 90% higher trust with participants.

Step 3: Accountability
Employees want to be held accountable, but most leaders passionately disagree with me when I make this statement. The leader’s typical response is, “My employees don’t want to be held accountable. They just want to do their job and go home.” Is this really true? I agree that employees don’t want accountability to merely be under a microscope or micromanaged – however they want to feel what they are doing matters.

Think about why an employee would actually crave accountability. To hold an employee accountable, that employee first must understand and be engaged in where the overall business is heading. Then they need to understand how their role and each task can impact and influence these priorities. When employees feel accountable, it means they understand and are “all-in” in helping to deliver the business goals. When employees truly feel part of the solution and part of the success, you will be amazed what they individually can accomplish. And with numerous individuals taking ownership of the success of the business, the organization as a whole can accomplish incremental business success.

The key finding from the Franklin Covey study was shocking and impactful. Companies that are outstanding communicators are 57% more profitable than companies that are ineffective at communicating to their employees. If that doesn’t get you thinking differently about your leadership approach, I don’t know what would.

Leadership is simple. By focusing yourself (first) and your organization on the critical items, engaging employees on these priorities, and holding them accountable to help reach these goals – you will become more profitable. You can take that to the bank.

Looking for strategic branding and consulting to make your business more profitable? Contact us for a capabilities presentation.

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