Would Increasing Employee or Customer Engagement Improve Your Business?

Part I: Be Vulnerable.

What? This article was supposed to be about getting others more engaged why are you telling me I need to be vulnerable? It’s about them engaging more not me. Vulnerability is for weak people not for results-oriented business people!!

Engagement happens when people trust you. People trust you when you show them you are open and are human.

A Business Example : Alan Mulally shared a story at Stanford Business School about how culture change was a key to turning around Ford Motor Co. In the mid 2000’s Ford had lost billions (I don’t matter it really matters if it’s £ or $s when we’re talking billions). At the weekly global business reviews the leaders showed up with charts about their unit’s performance. They were coded in green (on track), yellow (off track but plans identified to fix it), and red ( off track and no plan identified to fix it). Most of the charts were green – how can this be when the company had lost billions?

 Alan challenged the team to be more honest about how things were going in their respective businesses. This is vulnerability – admitting to your boss and a group of peers that you didn’t have all the answers. Shortly thereafter Mark Fields admitted that the Ford Edge launch in Canada was RED, there was a manufacturing issue that they hadn’t been able to solve. He was brave to say it. What happened next would dictate the culture. The team quickly jumped into solution mode, offering their teams’ expertise to solve the problem. Within mere weeks it was solved and the launch back on track!

People don’t do this because they are afraid of being fired, seen as being stupid, being embarrassed, ego/pride gets in the way, trying to prove yourself, being undermined, having it used against you, not being worthy…..

Being vulnerable means:

  • Being honest you don’t have all the answers, being brave to admit it publicly
  • Leaders need to make it safe for someone to say ‘I don’t know’

How to be vulnerable:

  • The ‘highest’ leader should role model it for others
  • Share something about yourself that others might now know (Rob Goffee calls it ‘sharing an allowable weakness’ – you don’t want the CEO to admit he doesn’t know what strategic thinking is)
  • Ask what might appear to be dumb questions
  • A paired exercise could be in 3 minutes each share your answers to:
    • What’s your perfect day?
    • Given the choice of anyone in the world, with whom would you want to dine?
    • What do you value most in friendship?
    • If you could wake up tomorrow with one skill or superpower or quality, what would it be and why?
  • A fun group exercise is sharing your answers to the follow with each other:
    • Your 2 biggest leadership challenges
    • Your 2 biggest business challenges
    • Dreams/passions
    • 2 most positive influences in your life
    • What keeps you awake at night?

 Brene Brown in her book DARING GREATLY talks a lot about vulnerability for better leadership, well worth a read.

Part II next month…