The fine line in employee engagement

Take your team with you

How important is employee engagement in the planning process? Most companies are lucky to have a consistent process of cascading direction, let alone engaging employees in the conversation leading up it. A few companies go the other extreme of doing strategy planning with half the company in the room. This is certainly dependant on the industry, the corporate culture and the personalities of the leadership.

While there are no hard and fast rules about how to best do your planning, there are a couple of common pitfalls to pay attention to.

Executive spirit walk

This is pretty common. Most companies have an executive planning session off-site, and when they come back, they declare the output but don’t involve employees in the journey or experience to any degree. People try to align to it, to the degree they can but they don’t totally own it. Don’t believe it? Walk around and ask people to describe what the strategy and business plan of the company is. It’s like Moses going to the mountain to meet with God and coming down with the 10 commandments. Sounds harsh, but this is based on the assumption that executive have all the answers.

Assuming that people don’t want to have input

It’s pretty clear that you’d be walking into a dog and pony show to try and involve the entire organization in a strategic planning event. That being said, it’s a huge mistake to assume that people wouldn’t get really excited about having input to the corporate direction. It’s important to tap into the collective best thinking of your subject matter experts across the company as input to the executive planning. You will be amazed with the excitement and engagement this creates. If you’re going to do this, you have to follow it up by showing people how their input was used so they know you’re not wasting their time.

More often than not, people are disengaged because they’re more interested than we give them credit for.

Tip of the iceberg

In a previous team I worked in, we very clearly focused our efforts on what we thought would guarantee success by designing a small printed graphic with three statements on it. We kept it on our desks to remind us of what we need to do. While I no longer work with those people, I still keep it front of me at all times as the relevance of those statements has not changed, even though I work for a different company. I have learned that in dealing with an executive client base, you cannot go wrong with these as your team focus. None of these statements are particularly refined, but that’s what made them meaningful to us. They didn’t sound like corporate-speak.

Build a kick ass business plan and reports that ROCK

Can a business plan kick ass? Is reporting actually exciting? Not if you don’t believe it’s possible. I do. Your focus should be exciting to you. This first statement speaks to the quality of what we deliver. It has to be amazing, every time. In order to continually be amazing, you have to continually improve what you do, looking for opportunities to make it even more meaningful. This ongoing change makes the job interesting and makes you good at what you do. Deliver fewer and more meaningful things.

Get the executive to love us

This speaks to our client focus, our sense of optimism, and our end goal. When we add incredible value, we will be incredibly valued. Finally, it speaks to the amount of effort we should put into the things that are visible with our key clients. When you have 20-30 hours of visibility per YEAR with a key client, rushing through the preparation is the worst use of your time possible. Taking the extra time makes all the difference. For all of the work most of us do during the year, the hour that you’re in the room with your most important client is the tip of the iceberg as it relates to your time, but it’s the only thing they base their opinion of you and the quality of your work on.

Hit every deadline

When you treat someone’s time as valuable, you respect them by treating them as valuable. When you miss deadlines, you appear as though you don’t have control over your work. Make an effort to exceed every deadline whenever possible, and always deliver what you promised. Who should have more control over their time than planning?

Focus on fewer things. Take the time to do the kinds of thinking our clients don’t have the time to do and then you’ll have something to bring to the table that’s even better than they expect.