They can also feel overwhelming if we’re uninspired by the potential outcome. When we’re not intrigued by what might happen, we’re not engaged – and when we’re not engaged, finding solutions and doing what it takes to create success is very hard work.
Engaging employees in a corporate goal sometimes feels like just as big a challenge as accomplishing the goal itself. That’s understandable if we haven’t taken a moment to understand what creates engagement or disengagement, and what really motivates our employees. On the other hand, when we do take the time and effort to understand the people who work for us, we know exactly what we need to do to build and lead a high-performing team to extraordinary success.
Understanding comes from two simple keys:
1. Understand why the goal is important to your team. What effect will success have on them, not just on the organization as a whole? People respond most naturally and powerfully to a sense of individual, personal involvement. On the other hand, abstract statements of value just don’t capture attention or interest.
Obviously, statements of impact need to go beyond “You need to be engaged because you want to keep your job and get paid.” Most employees already know that, yet it certainly isn’t enough to get them on board with a corporate goal that seems remote and impersonal.
However, knowing that Sara is interested in a promotion tells you that this project might be an opportunity for her to take on new responsibilities in preparation for a more senior role. Meanwhile, Dinah is a super-smart engineer who loves nothing more than getting her hands into new technology, so offering her the chance to learn a new tool will ensure that she’s fully engaged. And since Gregory has had a lifelong personal interest in the business sector in which your new project is focused, he’d be an obvious choice to take on business analysis and market research.
2. Break down the steps. One doesn’t climb Mount Everest in a single leap; there’s a lot of planning that must be done before even the first step is taken. And then each milestone along the way invites reflection on what’s working, what isn’t, and how to adapt to changing circumstances.
Remember that finding the balance between enough and too much planning is a crucial skill for effective leadership. It’s important to stay clear of so-called “analysis paralysis.” The temptation to over-plan only leads to getting bogged down in details, keeps you stuck in the planning phase, and can lead to rigid task lists that don’t allow the flexibility to respond to changing situations.
When a project seems impossibly big and overwhelming, it’s often useful to ask the question, “What’s the next smallest step that we can take?”
Recommended Training Resource: Everest – Creating Greatness is a complete leadership development workshop based on the true story of blind mountain-climber Erik Weihenmayer and the team who helped him reach the top of Mount Everest. Erik’s tale is both moving and inspiring, and includes key teaching points that demonstrate how we all really do have the capacity to come together and accomplish apparently impossible feats.
Additional Reading: Robert Fritz has been challenging people to be the creative force of their lives for over 20 years. His book The Path of Least Resistance describes why people fail – and how to sidestep the cycle of failure to create what you want in business and in your life. It’s on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Path-Least-Resistance-Learning-Creative/dp/0449903370/