Benchmark Business Group

Communication is a Two Way Street

October 6, 2015

We often hear business owners ask how they can get their team to have more ownership in their work.   Make sure you follow us this month as we focus on how to foster ownership at every level of your business by cultivating an employee ownership mindset. In this article we are focusing on how communicating and engaging your employees in your company vision creates the foundation for taking ownership of their work, and in helping your business achieve its vision.
 
The idea of communicating your vision with your team to increase employee ownership is not a new one. Chances are you've heard it repeated time and time again (even from us). What we've noticed is the word "communicating" gets lost somewhere in the translation.   Communication has to be a two way street. You can't just tell or share your vision, you need to communicate your vision, which means in addition to sharing your vision you have to listen to and engage with your employees.
 
Think about ownership. Typically if you own something, you have a say in how it is managed.   If you want your team to have more ownership or to "own" their position, you have to be willing to listen to their experience, thoughts and ideas about how their position adds value to achieving the vision. Now granted, as the owner of the business you have the ultimate say-so, but telling your vision is the equivalent of a lecture.   It may sink in, but chances are a lot of the message will be missed.
 

If you truly want your team to have more ownership you need to nurture the mindset of ownership and focus on collaboration.   Follow these simple steps to move from telling to truly communicating your vision:

  • Ask your team to repeat back to you the company story or vision. Can they tell you the vision in their own words? If not, resist the temptation to tell and start to ask questions. Ownership is a mindset and if you want your team to adopt a mindset of ownership then you need to change the way they think, which rarely happens through lectures. If an employee doesn't know what the vision for your business is, discuss it with them and discover how they connect with it and what it means to them.
  • Be willing to receive input.  Ask your employees how their position contributes to the vision. Find out if they have questions or ideas about how their position could add more value to reaching the vision. Obviously, the ultimate decisions for change lie with the business owner, but if you want an employee to take ownership you must treat them as if they have ownership.   Look at the relationship you have with your team.  Is it collaborative? Are they willing to provide their opinions? Do they feel heard?
     
  • Understand why the vision is important to your team.  Get to understand why their job and the success of the company is important to your employees. Ask them what motivates them. Are they connected to a core belief of the company? Are they motivated by their work? Do they enjoy being a part of a team that works together to achieve results? Are they passionate about meeting the needs of your clients? Are they motivated personally by having a job that allows them to take care of their family? Understanding what drives and motivates your employees will help you connect them to how their position enables the vision to be realized.
     
  • Be aware of how you address things that are not in alignment with the vision.  When something in the day to day operation happens that is not in line with the vision, it's easy to let emotions take control. Often times this leads to more telling and pointing out or insisting why something is important to the business. Resist the urge to tell and challenge yourself to ask questions that help you and your team gain clarity and a common understanding about what is in alignment with the vision. Discus the results that are needed and ask questions that cause your employees to describe needed results and standards or criteria for achieving them. Working on nurturing a mindset of ownership means you have to engage your team in new ways of thinking that lead to their taking ownership of the results of their position.
Communicating your vision is a mix of sharing, inspiring, and listening.   Creating an ownership mindset begins with your leadership.   You must be willing to share your vision and work on changing the way your employees think about "owning" their work. Don't forget to join us next week as we continue our journey in creating a workplace culture that promotes employees taking ownership of their work.

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