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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Leadership Basics: Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

By Rick DeMarco

I recently saw a Harvard Business Review interview with Doug Conant, former president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company that does a good job of highlighting some of the everyday things CEOs and other senior managers can do to demonstrate their commitment to employee engagement within their organization. 

In the video from Harvard Business Review, Mr. Conant makes a compelling statement that an organization cannot perform at high levels unless employees are personally engaged.  His comment is supported by significant empirical evidence that directly ties an engaged and inspired workforce to higher productivity, lower turnover, higher customer satisfaction, increased margins, and faster growth. 

Here are some additional thoughts for leaders who want to “walk the walk:”  
  1.  Employees cannot become engaged and represent the brand and company in the manner in which the company wants it represented if they do not know and understand the vision, strategy, and brand promise.  Leadership must commit to communicating to employees to educate them, inspire them, drive appropriate behavior that supports the culture and strategy, and reward and recognize them.
  2. We appropriately spend a significant amount of time and resources understanding things that go wrong and developing corrective action so we don’t repeat our mistakes.  But it’s just as important to recognize the things that we are doing right.  Often companies don’t take the time to celebrate success.  This does two things.  First it motivates and inspires employees and acknowledges them for their efforts and contributions to the company.  And secondly, it provides a foundation to apply the lessons from things that have gone well to other problem areas in the company.
  3. Like Doug, I can remember every personal note I ever received in my career from one of my former leaders.  One personal note from a senior leader has a greater impact than multiple canned appreciation or recognition notes sent via email or some other automated communication vehicle.
  4. Leaders often understate the significance of walking around and being visible to employees.  No matter what is written regarding a company’s values and culture, unless employees see it exemplified by leadership, it’s just words on a page.  When leaders take the time to walk around and talk to employees, it demonstrates that they do value them and connecting with employees is a priority regardless of how busy they get.  In addition to making an emotional connection, leaders often learn what is really going on in an organization by taking the time to talk to employees at all levels.
If you take the time to connect with your employees in a meaningful way it will be noticed and appreciated. 

You can watch the video here.

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