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As the Sun Rises on 2018, Create Broad-Based Support for Action
by Karla Brandau, Co-Founder of the World-Wide Discretionary Effort Initiative
Yosemite National Park – Sunrise at Glacier Point
As the sun rises on a new year, you as a leader undoubtedly have visions of projects and initiatives to move your organization or team forward. But do you struggle with getting broad-based support for these new initiatives, a necessary ingredient for success? Even though you have the leverage of a paycheck, a paycheck buys brawn, but not necessarily employee intellect, creativity, commitment, and discretionary effort – the qualities that keep organizations viable. The answers to creating broad-based action are the same whether you are leading a corporation, a team or a committee. Here are strategies to rally direct reports to carry the torch of achievement.

Establish a Vision and Reasons for Rational Alignment

Vague expectations result in vague actions so your first job is to establish a vision, a direction in which to travel. Describe an innovative new product for market, or a new strategy to improve business performance. This vision permits employees to evaluate, ask questions, clarify and rationally align with the direction and goals. You can increase emotional commitment and impact if you attach a slogan or “battle cry” to your vision.  I prefer battle cry because it represents total commitment. A vision can be academic or intellectual, but a slogan or battle cry sets an emotional tone and creates enthusiasm as it rallies individuals to action. When I was president of a local association, I chose “110%, Surpassing Expectations.”  I encouraged each member of the association to give 110% to their volunteer efforts, to their career, and to life. I gave gold lapel 110% pins to thank volunteers for their contributions. The next president chose “Moving to the next level,” and all members focused on taking their assignments and the organization to the next level. How does this affect broad-based action?  Each year team members at all levels in the organization were asking “Am I giving 110%?” or “Will this move us to the next level?” Using a motto, slogan or a battle cry is very useful for moving employees into action.

Permit the Future to be Shaped Together

After providing the vision, direction, and a battle cry, permit a fuzzy or foggy picture of future achievements. Why? Because for broad-based enthusiasm, individuals must know they contributed in the planning process and have had a part in clarifying the end product to be completed in the future: What does ‘Exceeding Expectations’ or ‘Moving to the next level’ look like? This is part of the rational alignment process taught in Discretionary Effort Leadership. In a forum such as a retreat or an organizing meeting for a new product, do brainstorming on what each employee thinks the end result will look like.  Enthusiasm and commitment will build as the ideas revolve from “wacky” to “huge potential.” This requires flexibility on your part (meaning you have to let go of your ego) because the picture you are permitting to be fuzzy may change dramatically as team members focus and refocus the end result. The benefit is that team members become loyal as their ideas are part of the finished product. They become dedicated workers when they are permitted to determine HOW the project will evolve. You as executive or manager can move from the role of a manager who is concerned about every detail to the role of facilitator and leader of motivated individuals.

Create Urgency

It is easy to think of deadlines as negative yet deadlines move you into action because they create urgency. Leonardo da Vinci said:  “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” I’d like to think the man in the picture found his task so compelling that he stopped, pulled up a chair on the way to work and is completing it right there midst the human traffic. Do you regularly check and observe your employees and intuitively feel their level of urgency? Do they feel urgency to complete them by the deadline? They may be willing, but are they doing?

Be an Encourager

The road to success is bumpy and employees need to be encouraged as they travel toward their destination. Give them courage by showing interest in what is happening. Create urgency and move employees into action by insisting on predetermined mini-goals and reports at regular meetings. Having built in check points along the way gives you opportunities to encourage each individual in customized ways while you keep the project paced properly to a successful conclusion. You may have discovered this, but praise is usually given at the completion of a project. Encouragement is what happens along the way that keeps morale high. Encouragement is observing the project and discerning if there are blocks to completion you can remove.

Make it Personal

I was impressed with a thought by a former colleague, Scott McDonald from Sacramento, CA.  He said, “People die for their country, God and family, but not for their organization.” This means you have to make your leadership personal. When you make your initiatives personal, you extend human dignity and respect to each employee. You show respect for their ideas and help them see how their contribution affects the success of the project, the team, and the company. Another way to make it personal is to be generous with gratitude for the efforts of employees. When you learn to observe, you will find ordinary employees making unordinary contributions of discretionary effort. Remember to thank them immediately. Follow these strategies and you will become the leader people CHOOSE to follow, not HAVE to follow because of your place on the organizational chart.

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