Everyone has been reading and writing articles about tips, tools and skills that leaders need to implement in these times of uncertainty. Over and over, we are learning the importance of leading a company that is “people-focused” and “purpose-driven.” But as we settle into the “new normal,” the question is: what are the signs that this advice is working?
Here are three indications that your company may be heading in the right direction.
Stories Being Shared
Are leaders listening more and saying less? Are they encouraging people to share stories from the front lines? Are they consistently (and, these days, virtually) visible to your people? Ideally, everyone is given the opportunity to speak up, respect differences of opinion and champion the best ideas, regardless of whether they originate from a top executive or a production-line employee. People need to feel connected and to know that we are all in this together, so being able to communicate with each other is critical.
Meetings are no longer started with the obligatory, “How was your weekend?” or “How are you?” Instead, intriguing, funny and thought-provoking questions are now kicking off events, like, “Tell me an embarrassing story that happened to you on a sales call?” or, “If you could do anything without risk, what would it be?” or, “What was your favorite song when you were 12?” and, “Last joke you heard that made you laugh out loud?” In fact, one study from the Harvard Business Review found that employees who shared a funny or embarrassing story about themselves with their team produced 26% more ideas in brainstorming sessions than employees who didn’t.
“First thing that leaders of any level need to do is you’ve gotta talk to your people,” said Chris Fussell, president of McChrystal Group and former Navy SEAL, in his book, “One Mission: How Leaders Build a Team of Teams.” “The key is for leaders to facilitate information-sharing, encouraging people to start thinking out loud together. A good leader will pull the right values and ideas out of a community by challenging people to reflect on the bigger issues that the leader himself or herself is facing. That raises the level of thinking and helps build the aligning narrative,” he continued.
WFH Styles Set in
Has your team settled into its new normal? Do your team members appear to be working from home (WFH) or ready to work? Have they set up their office at home (maybe even putting up a few photos in the background)? Just because the office is closed does not mean we should change how we present ourselves. Leaders who model what they want to see from behind the screen successfully set the tone for what virtual meetings should look like and how their teams are asked to participate. Therefore, how employees appear on screen, including what they wear and what we see behind them, unconsciously communicates how engaged they are to leadership and the company. In fact, studies prove that our non-verbal communication through our appearance, tone of voice, facial expressions, actions and attitudes account for 50% of the entire message being conveyed to others.
As much as we see on social media posts about life in pajamas and dressing from the waist up, research from the Association for Psychological Science showed that how we dress impacts our abstract thinking and gives people a broader perspective. “Professional attire” doesn’t have to mean a blazer or suit, but it should show that effort was made and that employees are ready to work.
Brand Success Continues
Are your employees your brand ambassadors? Are they properly messaging the company’s values? Given that eight out of 10 consumers say that they are more loyal to purpose-driven brands (according to a Cone/Porter Novelli 2018 study), have you shifted to be seen as a purpose-driven company that’s top priority is its customers’ success?
Employees need to become even greater brand ambassadors during these times, reflecting brand stories, values and critical messaging that empower their teams and inspire customers to believe in the brand’s purpose and vision. Today, their advocacy in a company’s brand is of even greater importance and will drive results.
If you are falling short of these indicators, circle back on whether your purpose and vision for yourself, your employees and your customers is clear and communicated. A strong corporate culture takes time and is a daily commitment to establish a foundation that is led with humility, transparency and accountability.