Creating a company is unlike anything you’ve done before. It is the most draining, exhausting, all-consuming beast that eats every second of free-time, wakes you in the night, and demands sacrifices your social life upon the Alter of Hope for months – and likely even years – at a time.
Whether apocryphal or not, the idea that in the 1960’s, a member of the press (or J.Fk> himself) asked a janitor in the background of a NASA meeting room what he was doing sweeping up in there, and his answer, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” tells us everything about employee engagement.
Without a goal, and I mean a real, tangible, and well-defined snapshot articulating the future reality, then it’s very, very easy to drift off course. Without constantly checking your bearings and evaluation your path, then you’ll end up walking in circles. Without a timeline, and a plan to go from A to B to Z and a fundamental understanding of what actions need to be taken, you’re lost.
If you’ve already started your business, the above is nothing new to you. If you’re growing, then you are starting to understand how easy it is to trip-up; one bad hire, one wrong decision can send you reeling off course. So how do you maximise your chances for success? By understanding your direction, and leading your party (fledgling company) towards the end-goal.
Like any epic quest, strong leaders are able to rally their people to a cause, excite their imagination, and keep them moving forward. They don’t do it with a whip, or offers of gold, they do it with a true belief in their collective goal. Defining that goal, and the journey leading you there is all-important. It’s what binds your people together, and motivates them to keep going when things are falling apart around them, or some seemingly insurmountable problem. It’s what gives them purpose.
If the goal is really far away, whether months or years, then the journey needs to be defined as important in and of itself. If your goal is to ensure that nobody anywhere on the planet ever gets sick again, this is a noble goal, but it’s not realistic, and it’s going to be impossible to get true, to-the-roots buy-in from your people. If your vision is to see illness becoming a thing of the past for more and more people, that’s still obviously incredibly ambitious, but more rational. But articulating your message as ‘Reducing suffering one person, and one day at a time.’ then you have a cause, something your people – current and prospective – are driven by. When people truly have a cause, they no longer have a job, they have a calling, and will drive themselves forward.
If your company is producing life-saving medical devices, then this idea is easy to make manifest. What if your company is creating a social media application or ‘just’ a game? It might be less obvious, but a company that ‘creates moments of happiness on the daily commute for thousands of people’ is easy to get rally behind. That’s how you get buy-in. That’s how you build momentum.
Define your goal, your vision, your journey, you will bring people together, and start to understand your culture, your employee value proposition, and what the right person looks like for your company. You’ll have a united and resilient band that can push through things that would lead other start-ups to churn through staff when they can least afford it. Then your job becomes managing the work/life balance of your people, rather than trying to get them to do their job to a minimum standard.
It’s not enough to have a goal, you need to make it real for everyone in your company.
If you’d like to understand how you can frame your business and improve your people-element, Mercuras can help: