Leader visibility programs? Old school. Leader involvement. New school.
While working with a client to develop PR strategies to get its CEO and other leaders out and about with key stakeholders, it became clear that visibility isn’t enough anymore.
Queen Elizabeth may still be able to lead by smiling and waving to adoring subjects. However, organizational leaders work under different expectations.
Stakeholders want to connect with leaders in more meaningful ways. Conversations, not speeches; informal show-and-tells, not packaged tours and being up close and personal, not congregating in auditoriums.
Leaders need to connect with the troops. With command-and-control leadership dead, leaders must use influence skills to get stakeholders to take action. To do this well leaders need to listen to and interact with stakeholders more intently than they have in the past.
Yet, interactions take time; valuable time that many leaders can’t easily spare because of all their other commitments. And overworked knowledge employees don’t want to take time out of their day if they feel they’re going to fall further behind.
The answer? Think and act little, as in micro-involvement. Yes, little is the new big. And the benefits can be huge.
Consider micro-financing, micro-learning and micro-breweries. Yes, there’s also micro-managing—which is directly opposed to leader involvement.
However, in the space between micro-management and macro-leadership, there’s room for leaders and employees to benefit from micro-involvement, especially if it follows in the footsteps of macro-leadership.
Macro-leadership is the vision thing. Macro-leaders—generally senior leaders in the C-suite—define the future they want to build.
They create and clear the path to get there. These leaders also influence others to join them along this path. They work to create committed employees, customers and investors.
To influence effectively, leaders need to get stakeholders on their feet, walking on the path and taking job actions to experience the vision, goals and change the leaders have defined and are creating.
The next step is being side-by-side with employees, involving them in shared activities with informal conversations.
This involvement is powerful on a number of different levels. For employees, they see the leaders’ commitment, increase their understanding and feel like they’re on the same team working together toward common goals.
For leaders, they get valuable, real-time unfiltered feedback. Plus, they start to build stronger personal connections with employees.
Traditional involvement activities take a huge chunk of time. Here’s the value of micro-involvement: Leaders and employees can set aside short blocks of time—30 to 90 minutes—to do meaningful activities together.
“Involvement is rewarding for our leaders and our employees,” says Heather Rim, VP of corporate communications at Avery Dennison.
She added: “The collective experiences translate into business benefits—better rapport, understanding and trust between employees and leaders, which especially makes micro-involvement activities well worth the investment of time and other resources.”
Some examples of micro-involvement actions include:
1. Doing tag-alongs to visit customers.
2. Joining a project planning meeting.
3. Evaluating a new vendor.
4. Using company products together in either a real or simulated situation.
5. Sharing meals in the company cafeteria.
6. Enjoying a micro-brew at a local pub.
7. Walking around the campus or business park.
These tactics or similar actions can work for any size or type of organization, whether an established company like Avery Dennison or a start-up.
For example, on “Fun Fridays” at one start-up in Silicon Valley, the CEO/founder joins employees to walk to lunch at nearby food trucks.
Micro-involvement makes involvement more convenient, engaging and doable for everyone in the organization.
Perhaps more important, you’re sharing diverse new points of view, strengthening relationships and building stronger foundations for greater credibility and trust. PRN
Liz Guthridge is managing director of Connect Consulting Group, a change coaching and consulting firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.