Recently, I was in a conversation with two CEOs, two CTOs, and a COO discussing our businesses in pretty frank terms. Most were doing okay. One was experiencing pretty explosive growth. But all were struggling with how to increase company productivity so their businesses could deliver more.
The C-Suite often has tremendous autonomy, but for many, determining how to influence the business from the top isn’t easy. The following are five ways the C-Suite can influence their employees to increase company productivity (outside of the most obvious, which is hiring the right people).
1. Align company leaders around the company mission.
When I think about leaders who truly inspire their teams, I think about a CEO I used to work with named Dennis Kelly. Dennis began every company meeting by restating that we were “changing the way power is made.”
And he believed it — which meant the team, from the C-suite to the newest hires, believed it.
We aligned through his leadership and his inspiration, and that alignment drove productivity in ways that are difficult to measure, but that everyone who worked there recognized. We wanted to accomplish great things — and we did. We hired people who could get excited about the mission, knowing it would align the teams and drive performance. And it did.
2. Provide clarity around goals/milestones.
Setting team or personal milestones is simple, but the follow through around the milestones is often where leaders fall short. So much of leadership is about repetition: measuring the same things over time, including progress toward goals. But it’s that repetition — that focus around a set of agreed-to milestones– that drives results.
The best leaders have three to five things they measure each of their teams on relentlessly. These are the priorities, and everyone on the team knows it. Other initiatives may slip; as Steve Jobs famously said, “(focus) means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.” The three to five things you prioritize don’t slip.
3. Arm your team with the right resources.
Teams require the resources necessary to accomplish the milestones their leaders set for them. Whether these resources are people, technologies, or something else, leaders need to understand resources as a dependency.
This is why milestones need to be shared and agreed upon. An executive may bring milestones they would like to accomplish to the table, but the team leader responsible for executing the milestone may have dependencies that prohibit or impede the team’s ability to accomplish that milestone. The C-Suite needs to trust their team leaders with this information and act on it, either by modifying the goal or by providing the resources necessary to accomplish it.
4. Stimulate internal interactions.
If you ask someone about the best work experience they’ve had, you’ll find that nearly all had one thing in common: co-workers who worked closely together and communicated well across teams.
Hiring goes a long way towards this, but regardless of who you hire, how do you ensure team members are communicating with each other?
An open floor plan helps because it forces employees to work in close proximity, which fosters communications. Chat applications like Slack and Hipchat also help, particularly for employees outside the main office. We use a combination of Slack and our own software for knowledge sharing. The result is closer collaboration across the company — and less reliance on one-to-one tools, like email. There’s no bigger culprit for developing silos than email!
5. Celebrate and reflect.
You’re going to have successes and failures in business. If you do it right, celebrating your successes brings people together in a unique and memorable way.
Recognize those who contributed to the success and celebrate their accomplishments. They’ll want to work even harder for you, and those around them will work hard for that recognition.
And remember that failures can also be a time to bring people together. Discuss what went wrong, what you as a leader could do better. Reflecting openly and honestly about failure will push others to do the same — and to not make similar mistakes down the road.
I’m proud to work at a company with a clear mission (that I reiterate every Friday at our all-hands meeting), which is to improve collaboration and productivity by helping teams find the information they need to do their jobs. And I’m lucky we are the developers of a knowledge sharing platform that helps us increase productivity. The C-Suite has an opportunity to drive business productivity from the top, but they need to invest in each of these elements to elevate their teams to accomplish more. Doing so requires time and focus, more than anything. But the payoff can be tremendous.
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