No, this is not a religious call to action or a George Michael reference. I started thinking about how ‘you gotta have faith’ in the aftermath of the Badger/Hawkeyes game. The coaches and players made several references to ‘having faith’ and ‘believing’ they could beat Iowa. This was when none of the pundits thought they could follow up the emotional win over number one Ohio State with a strong enough effort to win at Iowa. (I have to admit I was one of those.) As I read their remarks, I couldn’t help but make the connection to business.
As a team, both coaches and players need to have faith to win. As a company, both management and employees need to believe the company can achieve its goals in order to succeed. This sounds simple, but how do you build this connection? Management needs to have a clear vision and a well thought out strategy, then effectively communicate this vision and strategy to its employees. Employees then need to buy in and believe in both the vision and strategy, and be motivated to act. There’s really nothing new here. So why do companies fail at this? They fail because it’s hard to get everyone to fully execute until they truly believe they can achieve the goal.
Recently, I attended one of our First Business seminars focused on effective corporate communication. I was surprised to learn that most people need to hear things seven times before they fully buy in. I must admit, I think this is a place where I have personally failed. I can think of several occasions where I’ve worked on an idea for a long time, and when it was finally rolled out to the whole staff, I assumed the moment everyone heard it, they got it and totally bought in. But how could they really believe the goal was achievable when they just heard it for the first time? It might not seem readily believable because it’s different than the current reality. Management needs to demonstrate that it’s plausible and that it can be done. They need to explain why they believe it and share the analysis they went through to convince themselves.
Management really needs to pay attention to the content and number of times the message is delivered across the entire organization – senior management to front line employees. They need to discuss the goals, and how they can be attained, in different settings, such as all company staff meetings, department meetings, one-on-one’s, etc. Eventually, the plan will be seen as realistic and achievable. That’s when employees will be able to visualize reaching the goals, and will then really execute the plan to achieve the goals. Whether it’s a business goal or sports-related goal – say completing a marathon – you have to believe you can do it, or you won’t. Henry Ford, a visionary who was doubted by the world when he set out to build an automobile affordable to the common man, put it this way, “If you think you can do a thing, or think you can’t do a thing, you're right.”