When I was in fourth grade, I clearly remember the principal coming into my classroom and writing the word ‘assume’ on the chalkboard. He then went on to explain that when we assume, we make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’.
What prompted a school principal to use the word ass in front of a bunch of fourth graders I’ll never know. But I do know he quickly had our attention and the experience was memorable.
I’ve been doing a great deal of talking and writing about things like values, mission statements, vision statements, operating guidelines, strategies, tactics, etc. What I just realized is that I have ‘assumed’ that everyone knows the ultimate pay off for investing time in these activities. And in doing so, I have… well, you can finish that sentence for yourself.
Here’s the point. The reason for doing all of these activities is to influence behavior. Specifically to align behavior and motivate everyone to do all the same stuff for the same reasons.
What do you get when alignment is achieved?
- A strong brand and a brand promise that is trusted.
- Authentically empowered employees doing what they are supposed to be doing, even when no one is looking.
- Improved effectiveness and efficiency – or said simply, you will be doing the right stuff in the best way possible.
- Bottom line, all of this adds up to making and keeping more money.
Many companies create these organizational documents and when they are finished they pat themselves on the back, tell each other job well done, and then place them in a binder on the shelf to gather dust. When this happens, alignment is a dream and none of the above outcomes occur.
On the other hand, when a business understands that these documents are living, breathing tools that influence behavior and daily choices of activity – magic happens. Examples of companies that get this idea are Starbucks, Patagonia, and Zappos.
As business owners and leaders, do not assume that your employees understand the importance of these documents. Or that they even know what they say. Instead, create daily opportunities for conversations about your vision, mission, values, operational philosophies, and strategies.
What do you talk about?
- Clarify what they say and mean
- Illustrate how they should influence behavior, and
- Create a shared belief and motivation.
And remember, a conversation is a two-way communication method. Spend more time listening, than you do talking.
It’s never too late or too early to start this process. What can you do today?