5 ways to stay connected to your employees as your company grows
Small teams have distinct advantages. Groups of three or fewer people disrupt current ways of thinking with new ideas, inventions, and opportunities. Small teams also allow others to observe, support, show kindness and love in a personal, inclusive fashion.
What happens as teams grow? Is it possible for members to stay connected in a meaningful way?
As CEO of a rural, community hospital I have struggled with making love scalable as our organization grew over a 30 year period, from 350 employees to 1,000 team members.
Authentic leadership requires thought and feelings to be consistent with actions. Leaders have to be themselves and allow their actions to reflect their thoughts and beliefs. One of the four pillars of authentic leadership, relational transparency, impacts our ability to show love to our colleagues.
Peter Northouse defines the leader-member exchange (LMX) theory as a process of leadership centered on the interactions between leaders and followers. How does a leader interact with 1,000 followers?
Here are ideas and tools I have found effective.
- Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Intranet pages, newsletters, blogs, emailed videos. Communication vehicles are not a choice of or but rather and. Do all of them. Our organization has a homepage for all corporate computer browsers that lands on The Online Connection. It’s here that employees can see the status of employee incentives, corporate philanthropy activity, and benefits information.
A weekly newsletter is distributed every Monday. The newsletter focus on good work employees are performing, service awards, and upcoming events. I publish a weekly blog at www.ksbpulse.com. The blog is my best way to communicate with team members quickly. Every Friday team leaders receive a video from me describing the organizational focus for the following week. People respond to various communication mediums. Use them all.
- Presence Matters
Showing up matters. Employee meetings are held at a local theater once a year. This time is used to announce results from the prior year’s incentive program and announce the incentive for the new year. Quarterly forums are conducted. These meetings highlight a current hot topic and allow time at the end of the meeting for Q & A. The administrative team visits a different department every week. I host a breakfast, lunch, and dinner called Meals with The Administrator. I have implemented countless suggestions taken from these meetings. Each senior leader frequently attends department meetings. Management by walking around works, and finding effective ways to engage in the practice consistently makes a difference to your team.
- Find Ways To Personally Connect
In our age of digital everything, handwritten notes are still appreciated. I send notes to people’s homes and hear stories of these notes posted on refrigerators. Recognition remains a tremendous motivator.
If you want to show love to those people making a positive difference in your organization, ask about their families. Pay attention to the coffee break conversation and ask questions. I attended a high school girls basketball game on a Friday evening and had parents thank me.
- Invite People To The Board Room
Taking a hot topic within the organization and collecting a small group of 12 to 15 employees to brainstorm solutions is effective. Ask for interested people through your employee newsletter. Be specific on the topic and clear about the problem we are trying to solve. A clear sense of direction, provided to all participants in advance of the meeting, helps to set the stage for meaningful conversation. Clarity of purpose from the leader is critical.
- Show Up When They Least Expect You
Our senior leadership team is asked to take call coverage on a rotating basis. During our week on call, we are required to drop in during the second or third shift or on the weekend. Off-shift and off-site employees do not see leadership as often as those people that work a more traditional workweek schedule. Get out and see everyone occasionally.
Putting It All Together
There are countless ways to connect with the people that impact organizational success. Not everyone is wired to take advantage of all five of the suggestions listed here. However, we are required to build teams around us that allow us to be successful in showing our teams how much we care.
Do you enjoy rounding but don’t like writing blogs? Talk with a member of your marketing team. Describe with great clarity the goal along with why it matters. Ask that person to write an article under your name.
Do handwritten notes seem overwhelming? Devise a system with your administrative assistant that places thank you notes in your daily mail. Something amazing happens in our organizations every day. Write a note to the person that put on the hero cape today. It doesn’t, and in fact, shouldn’t be lengthy.
Regardless of whether your organization has five people or 50,000, it is your obligation to make sure people feel engaged.
Can we connect as our headcount grows? I’m not sure. But I do know I’m going to keep trying.