By Mike Novakoski – October 28, 2013
As a business owner who’s married with four children, I’ve learned the hard way that a lack of shared vision — and lack of clear communication about that vision — is a recipe for personal and professional disaster.
For instance, in the past, my wife, Liz, and I seemed to always envision something different when it came to vacation plans, but never really talked about it before we left. We thought the other person could read our mind (sound familiar?). Without the creation of common goals and an understanding of expectations, we were seldom on the same page and were doomed to suffer unnecessarily with the disappointment, confusion and misunderstandings that occurred.
Longing for vision
The business world is remarkably similar. Over the last 25 years, I have served many different roles and can remember having no clue where the ship was heading. I didn’t realize how I longed to be part of something bigger — for leadership to clearly state where they saw the company heading, and, more specifically, my role in getting us there. I remember being frustrated when I misunderstood our direction.
Today, I have the pleasure of captaining the ship. I have learned that people want to know everything about the company. They have an insatiable desire to know one thing — and that’s quite simply more! It can get frustrating as a leader when I feel the need to make everyone happy by posting everyone’s compensation and letting each person know why the company made the smallest decision. The reality is that people just want to know enough to feel included and connected to the bigger picture. They don’t want to be surprised or out of the loop.
When your employees feel they are in the know, there’s much less negative energy being expended on second guessing, grapevine talk or resentments from being left out. As we always say, “Happy employees = Happy customers!”
When E&V first applied to be recognized as one of West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For, we were shocked to receive feedback that we were not very highly rated in the area of communication.
During employee gatherings over the next five years, we learned to take every possible opportunity to communicate our company vision and what was going on in the company. We also found that engaging a majority of our employees in strategic planning was very helpful.
People in leadership roles, such as me, need to take — no, make — time to engage with as many people as possible, especially the new employee who can easily become a lost sheep. Employees need to hear from us consistently in whatever form of communication works best for them. This way, they’re always in the loop about positive feedback and significant concerns.
Savor Our Successes
One of my favorite forms of E&V communication that any company can easily adopt is our Savor Our Successes meeting.
We stop everyone in the office every Friday at 9:00 a.m. for a meeting in our break room. We buy a few treats and start off the meeting with a mini general business update from leadership, then ask anyone who’s willing to share personal or professional success stories they experienced that week. We talk about awarded projects, someone completing their first 5K race, ask the new person how their first week went, how a newborn is doing, joke about things that didn’t go as expected, etc.
It’s a chance to be real — to connect and communicate not only what’s happening around the office, but make people’s outside lives an important part of the company’s culture. The employee longs to know what’s happening within the company and for clear communication to be passed from both sides. Every employer should desire to know what’s happening personally with their employees.
Now, as you might have guessed, Liz and I have a clear-cut vacation agreement. Pre-departure, we sit down and talk about exactly what each of us wants and expects out of our trip. Then, we pick our top expectations and combine them into a tentative plan. Through this revised, transparent communication, our family may not have the perfect vacation — but we come pretty close.