4 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE BIG-PICTURE THINKING IN EMPLOYEES
The big picture isn’t always visible to employees. It’s easy for team members — and even leaders — to slip into the daily monotony of focusing on specific tasks and losing sight of why those tasks matter.
Helping every member of an organization understand and engage with the overarching mission and purpose of their work isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort. Engaged team members are an unstoppable force . . . a catalyst for growth that can help an organization get through any challenge, be it a merger, a market change, or relocation.
Here are four strategies leaders can implement to make sure every employee sees the big picture.
Define the ‘Why’
If a CEO can’t readily explain the “why” of the organization, there’s no way the average employee can. That being said, defining an organization’s purpose is the first step in encouraging big-picture thinking. When team members know why they perform their daily tasks, they’ll see more value in their work.
For example, a company might broadcast its well-known goal of selling the most airline tickets in history throughout the organization. However, if team members also knew they were selling tickets to create an ever-connected world where people cherish the privilege of human contact, they would work with the mentality that they’re contributing to a real purpose. Such thinking gives the staff the freedom to explore outside common industry practices and do whatever it can to improve the business, which, in turn, could increase the organization’s bottom line.
Be a Servant
Leaders, just like entry-level staff, contribute to the company’s mission, but they’re only one player in the process. There’s always a cause that’s bigger than one individual, so whether meeting with an intern or a world leader, a leader should stay humble.
Acknowledging the importance of people lower on the chain of command communicates value and appreciation, which are two significant engagement factors. Setting this example can help humility to trickle down through the ranks, causing other workers to appreciate the privilege of participating. If the CEO is excited to be working for a cause, the staff will be, too. A leader is effective when facilitating the goals of the organization and works to serve the needs of the team members, as well.
Connect Through the ‘Why’
A big part of working for a cause is active participation. Team members need to know the boss is on their side, uniting the team and working with them to achieve a collective goal. Leaders need to roll up their sleeves and get in the weeds. By doing so, they unite team members under the organization’s overarching mission and goals.
It’s also helpful to show team members what’s happening outside of their desks, teams, or even departments. Seeing what others are doing is mentally stimulating and fosters respect for other areas of the business. Leaders often forget that workers assigned to very specific tasks aren’t exposed to big-picture efforts. Better-informed members can clearly see how their roles contribute to the overall success of the company.
Transform From the Inside Out
Most leaders try to make changes from the top down, but transforming a business from the inside out resonates better with staff because it takes the staff’s personal values into account.
Leaders should ask team members and potential hires about their own values, what they believe the company’s mission is, and, most importantly, how the two intersect. Encouraging them to offer input on the organization can even lead to growth objectives like new product lines or human capital initiatives.
This type of open management approach is especially relevant to Millennial team members who value work that’s fulfilling more than a bigger paycheck. Companies that don’t engage them in a purpose will quickly lose them.
Retention concerns aren’t limited to Millennials, though. The 2013 Emerging Workforce Study by Spherion found companies with clear missions were more likely to have satisfied employees. Companies with well-developed missions also had a 70 percent rating for keeping current employees for the next five years — compared to 34 percent for companies with no clear mission. The more people want to work for a company, the better quality the employee base.
Mina Chang is CEO and president of Linking the World, an international humanitarian aid organization with a focus on children, global awareness, and breaking the cycle of poverty. Linking the World has been saving lives and transforming communities since 1997.