“Do not merely set goals for your organization…
Establish a culture which owns the success of the team.”
Airman Knight used the reflection of the front door to do one last check that her Air Force uniform was perfect. She peered around the mantra “We Build Fighter Wingman” etched in the glass to straighten her gig line. As the timid, soft-spoken 19-year-old opened the door to her first duty assignment, she was nervous for the world she would find, how she would fit in and how she would interact with the Type-A personalities found within the squadron.
Fast forward three months.
Any commander knows, a 7-day inspection from higher headquarters (HHQ) not only determines the current status of a squadron, but determines how their 2-year command will be remembered. The commander of this highly trained squadron was confident the team was ready for the test.
Then, on a Thursday afternoon, the lead inspector walked into the office and said the phrase no leader wants to hear, “I would like to talk to you about one of your individuals.” As the door closed, the commander’s heart began to race in anticipation of bad news. Surprisingly, the inspector’s face began to light up.
“Let me tell you about the youngest member of your squadron, Airman Knight. As I walked by her desk this morning she politely stopped me and said she was ready to discuss her job in the squadron. She proceeded to open with the squadron vision and walked me through every goal set for the squadron. She did not just repeat the goals in the way most people do for inspections. This young airman, who has been in the service less than a year, expertly and confidently detailed everything she did and how her daily duties tied to the achievement of the goal and success of this squadron, the wing and the Air Force.
The Importance of Setting Goals
Every leader knows the importance of setting goals… of building deliberate steps to achieve success. This area spans the gamete from long term vision to overall mission and includes detailed intermediate measures to achieve the stated goals. Plenty of articles have been written on the need for RAM (Realistic, Attainable, Measurable) goals to drive positive change, progress and success. This is not the area in which leaders fall short of goal-setting. Routinely overlooked is the internal communication, the intrinsic motivation and the understanding of the vitality of each team member in the achievement of these goals.
This is where many leaders fall short. This is where many leaders fail to embrace a primary determinant of employee engagement: ownership. The level of employee engagement in the organizational goals determines if they are employees or teammates, whether they are working for you or with you
The level of employee engagement in the organizational goals
determines if they are employees or teammates,
whether they are working for you or with you.
To ensure maximum employee engagement in the future of the organization, an effective leader must embrace these four concepts to ensure your team fully embraces the established goals.
Establish a Common Lexicon. As an Air Force pilot, my community truly understands the importance of a common lexicon. If someone outside our community listens to us talk, with a plethora of code words and acronyms, they may never follow the conversation as logical. To those in our community, these terms and descriptors are second nature. Now, you do not need to go to that extreme. But your organizations should have established phrases, descriptions and goals that everyone understands. It creates a sense of teamwork, a belonging to something larger than oneself. Further, it forms the basis for sound bites of your vision, mission and goals which will aid in making them more prevalent in every day conversation.
Make Your Vision…Their Vision. Every leader understands the importance of establishing a clear vision for the future of the organization. Effective leaders understand a vision statement is worthless unless it is understood and repeated by all members of the team. You must firmly establish your vision in the lexicon of your followers. When a visitor or customer enters your organization, the vision must be a basis for all to fall back on and incorporate into their conversation. To do this, everyone must understand how they, individually, are critical to the achievement of the goals and only then will it inspire, energize and create a mental picture of the future goal for every follower. Simply, it will create ownership.
Ensure they work with you, not for you. Every meeting is an opportunity: a unique moment that can bring a team closer together or shred the fabric that binds. Many leaders talk about developing teams and establishing clear goals, but few truly understand the complexities and intricacies of establishing the necessary culture of unity which best draws the engagement of every member of the team. Ensure as many of your teammates as possible are involved in establishing company goals. This will aid in the previously discussed area of making your goals theirs. Further, the more they are involved in the development of the goals, the more they are working with you, not for you. Make it a team effort, a family event, not just a job.
Intrinsically Motivate Your Teammembers. How do your employees talk about the organization? Do they choose pronouns such as ‘they’ and ‘their’ when talking about the company or do they reveal ownership and belonging through their use of phrases like ‘our company’ and ‘our vision’ ? If you have successfully developed a company lexicon and made your vision theirs, then each and every one of your team members should be intrinsically motivated toward the success of the team. This intrinsic motivation will take them, the team and the organization to levels of success previously thought unachievable. Intrinsic motivation creates self-efficacy.
This confidence in their abilities will enhance every aspect of their work experience and success. For this to be possible, the team needs to feel a sense of autonomy, a connection that they are choosing to do the task, which ties back to the previous three concepts.
Back to Airman Knight…
As the inspector closed his discussion, he informed the commander that Airman Knight would be recognized as one of only five Outstanding Performers during the inspection of the 3,000 people on the base. Her intrinsic motivation to achieve the goals, her understanding of the importance of her daily duties and the fact she knew her small area of expertise was vital to overall success of the mission was what he wished he found in every person he inspected.
What Airman Knight revealed is that a leader does not achieve a purpose…they inspire others to achieve a purpose. Airman Knight’s commander did not merely set goals for the squadron; he developed a culture which owned the success of the team. Only then will the collective whole achieve success. While goals and purpose provide what the leader wants to achieve, only motivation and inspiration can provide the energizing effects required to achieve success. An effective leader understands expertise and success lie not in establishing the goals, but in engaging followers to embrace them. Common goals create shared leadership and ownership. Only then can an organization be a successful team…which should be the goal of every leader.
How did you enjoy today’s post?
If you liked what you read, sign up for our frequent newsletter by clicking HERE — and you’ll also receive our handy Leader’s Reference List
as our free gift to you!
Photo attribution via PhotoPin