I remember standing on stage, speaking to 300 people on how difficult it is to demonstrate our hidden value. My point was most people don’t trust what they can’t see and for us to prove our worth we have to make it visible. I really thought I had this group convinced when one person stood up and said, “Curt, if people don’t trust what they can’t see, why does three quarters of the world believe in God?” Well, I will tell you I had a divine intervention; I looked back and said, “I think God has a better sales team!”
Think about it. There are two times in your life you adopt religion: first, you are cultured through those you trust, or second, you come to a point in your life (i.e. crisis) where you see how life would be different with God in it. It’s now five years later and I still believe that this is one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned, and I believe this simple lesson is the foundation on which powerful employee relationships are built. Employees need to see how their life will be different with you, the employer, in it and they have to see how the company’s life is different with them in it. Employees want to appreciate what they do, and they absolutely need to know that what they do is appreciated. So how can you make their contribution visible? I say take the time to show them the numbers. Let them see, first hand, how they make a difference.
When I was President of ExecuTrain Canada, I made a decision that every employee should be invited to review our corporate financial statements and learn the basics of how their involvement impacted our performance. What happened was that we started to see employees take ownership for managing their business and making great decisions. Even though our business was struggling, they could see how their commitment and efforts were moving us in the right direction. For example, when the employees saw the huge amount of money we had tied up in accounts receivable, everyone made a commitment to collect the money that was rightfully ours. Every week we reviewed the numbers, we strategized new ideas, and the employees got further excited about the difference their contribution was making.
Our business was in very bad shape. We were trying to fend off bankruptcy. But because the employees could see how their work was making a difference, we were able to keep them focused and motivated on the task at hand — surviving. By letting your employees see under the hood and truly understand the challenges and opportunities of the business, you can also improve morale. When employees are not given access to information they tend to fill in the blanks on their own. Their thinking can often be very different from reality. This can result in employees distrusting senior management and, more importantly, distrusting what is being communicated to them. In fact, according to a study by Discovery Surveys, just 53 percent of employees believe the information they receive from senior management.
So let me ask you, are your employees invited to participate in a financial review? Do they understand where and how their contribution impacts the business? Are they empowered to suggest ideas that could help to reshape the business? I am always surprised by how many businesses keep financial performance a secret.
Stephen Semple, president of Thinc Strategies, a Toronto based management consulting firm says that employees today want to be tied to clear actionable results. He also says employers need to minimize performance review surprises by communicating clear expectations throughout the year. He says that surprising employees during their performance review is a great way to lose trust and deflate morale. He wholeheartedly believes tying performance back to financial or objective business indicators is the best way to open communication.
At ExecuTrain I created a very simple one-page report that allowed our management team to see the basic business indicators all in one view. The report contained more than just numbers. It looked at financial performance, customer metrics, employee satisfaction, business process and investments in R&D. It contained all of the indicators against which our business performance was measured.
This month, take the time to educate your team on the numbers. Show them clearly how they can make a difference in the business. Create a one page scorecard that shows them these numbers. In the end there are no surprises, and you may just be pleasantly surprised to find your employees showing more ownership and taking more responsibility.
ABOUT CURT SKENE
Curt Skene is a professional business speaker, sales trainer, and certified hypnotist who specializes in helping companies look at their business, their relationship with their customers and their future opportunities in a powerful and positive light. Curt offers over 75 rapid-fire insights based on over 20 years of award-winning business experience (Microsoft, ExecuTrain and BrainBuzz) and combines his experience with the kowledge he has gained as a certified hypnosis/NLP practitioner. Find out more at www.curtskene.com