As a young man, I was fascinated by magic, due in large part to the fact that I quickly realised that what I was seeing wasn’t truly magic, it was mastery: mastery of a series of steps that when practised and repeated delivered a magical outcome that to the outside world made it look like the magician was performing the impossible.
When you look around the business landscape today and see the organisations that are thriving and are well known for having wonderful cultures, motivated people, and delivering quarter after quarter of great performance, it can seem as though they’re achieving the impossible.
It’s not magic. You are seeing mastery.
And for an organisation, the steps to deliver those outcomes – great culture, performance and results – are as simple as A B C: Alignment, Belonging, and Clarity.
If your organisation can master these, you will have a magical workplace.
As the world sees it, ‘alignment’ means a position of agreement or alliance. More practically, as related to the workplace, alignment is better described as a direction of travel that moves people together, and toward something better, and it happens when vision and purpose unite.
What happens when you don’t have alignment? It’s the equivalent of going on a long hike without a map or compass – you wind up lost. In an organisation, a lack of alignment saps energy, wastes time and effort, squanders resources, and makes it unlikely you’ll achieve your goals.
But when you have alignment, what a difference! Instead of aimless wandering, you feel the sun on your face, the wind at your back and you know where you’re going.
In the workplace, alignment brings focus, channelling energy and resulting in progress.
Alignment = Vision + Purpose
Here is where some mastery comes into play.
The vision you share with employees is important. It paints the big picture of a brighter future in which everyone can participate.
To be effective, a vision statement needs to be simple and inclusive: all of your employees should be able to understand and feel part of the envisioned future.
To get it right, I recommend you also make your vision SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Because let’s face it – a vision statement that talks about achieving world-class end-to-end synergies aren’t going to resonate with anyone.
As an example, I offer you the simple vision I have set for Engagement Multiplier:
750,000 lives impacted and improved in 36 months.
For my team, the meaning is both clear and motivating: in three years, we aim to have 750,000 employees from our clients using our platform, thus unlocking their potential, and improving the lives of everyone in our client organisations.
This ties directly into our purpose – unlocking potential and improving lives – which provides my team with a ‘why’ that makes everyone feel great about the work we do. We’re helping leaders unlock the potential within their businesses, even as we help them unlock the potential of their employees – improving lives all around. This makes me smile as I write it, and I see the smiles on my employees’ faces when they talk about adding “hearts” to our platform.
This is the power of Alignment – with purpose and vision.
This brings us to Belonging, an unbelievably powerful element that many, many leaders overlook, or aren’t even aware of.
In the dictionary, belonging is defined as ‘an affinity for a place or situation.’ In the workplace, it’s the fusion that brings people together, irrespective of their differences.
When people feel they belong, they come together, building relationships, connections and trust between them.
Belonging is a basic human need, as Maslow identified, and when it’s missing for your organisation, people are just there for the money. Without belonging, there is no passion, no ambition, no growth, no excellence.
Interestingly, belonging is measurable. Organisations in which a high percentage of people have a strong sense of belonging have been found to enjoy:
- A whopping 56% increase in job performance,
- 50% drop in turnover risk,
- 75% reduction in sick days.
Belonging is about feelings
Belonging cannot be created by an edict – it is utterly dependent upon how your people feel.
- Do they feel connected to their coworkers?
- Do they feel respected at work?
- Do they feel supported in their daily work and their career development/
- Do they feel they have an authentic voice?
How do you create a sense of belonging for your employees? It starts with understanding how they are feeling.
If you know how they feel, you will understand why they behave.
I know this may be uncomfortable for some. But you overlook peoples’ feelings at your own risk because the reasons for their behaviours are rooted in how they feel.
If you don’t like how they are behaving: if they aren’t motivated, if they’re calling in sick, if they’re resigning in droves … have a good look at how your people are feeling. Therein you will find the keys to righting the ship.
This brings us finally to the illuminating power of clarity, which is defined as ‘the quality of being coherent and intelligible. However, within the workplace, clarity is the antidote to resistance, which almost always comes from a lack of clarity.
What happens when the organisation lacks clarity? Well, as I like to say, “what you miss out, people make up.” Organisations in which clarity is lacking are slow and mired in resistance.
What happens when you have it? It’s like having a treasure map in hand. Your team can get straight to the objective because you have removed the impediments that could slow them down or take them off course.
Seek first to understand
Clarity comes with an important caveat. It is wholly possible to be perfectly coherent and intelligible, whilst at the same time being dead wrong! If you’ve ever had a communication that missed the mark, you know what I mean.
But when you listen first and seek to understand – you gain context that ensures your message will be on point. As Steven Covey famously wrote, “Seek first to understand, then be understood.”
This is why I am convinced that clarity starts with listening. To listen at scale, seek appropriate employee feedback regularly. We’ve seen first-hand through Engagement Multiplier what happens when you ask the right questions in the right way. Decisions are easy when you have the right data. Yet many leaders today still operate in a vacuum – overlooking the valuable resource right under their noses – the wisdom and insight of their team.
Bringing alignment, belonging, and clarity together
Mastering what it takes to produce alignment, belonging and clarity within your organisation means that you’ve created a purpose that resonates with your team, you know how they feel and where they stand, and you’ve created an environment in which employee voices are truly heard.
This is how you create the magic.
It is truly confounding to me that so many leaders insist upon making everything harder for themselves by willfully ignoring these elements.
They are creating friction, resistance and discord. Loyalty is a total non-starter, and they’re probably suffering even more than most in the current job market.
And they’re probably exhausted because they feel as though they are dragging their entire organisation behind them, when, if they would only mind their ABCs, they would instead be running to keep up. Because it is breathtaking what a workplace full of people who show up every day feeling present, focused and energised can accomplish.
I invite you to download the toolkit we’ve prepared, which expands upon these ideas and offers practical advice and tools for mastering the ABCs within your organisation. Download your copy here.