“The next level.”
Your company is always trying to get there. It’s the place where all the winners hang out and toast each other. Everybody who is anybody is at the next level.
But what in the blue stratosphere is it? And where is it? Without context, it sounds like a summer action flick. Or the title of a new-wave album from the ’80s.
Well, to get to the next level without teaming up with Bruce Willis or learning how to play a keytar, you first need to define it.
“The next level” can mean different things to different companies, but the common theme is improvement in performance. Here are some ways to do that in several critical areas.
The first level: Core values are attractively framed and placed conspicuously on a wall.
The next level: Living and breathing your company’s core values every day.
Getting there: You, as the leader, need to set the example in building company culture. What does your organization stand for? Once you’ve defined the core values that you’re willing to go to the mat for – hiring, firing, recognizing, rewarding and reviewing against those values – it’s time to put them into action.
Discuss your core values with your team ad nauseum. Solicit and tell stories of your team members living the values. Recognize when people act on the values, and let them know when they aren’t.
The first level: Giving employees impromptu pats on the back and addressing problems as they arise.
The next level: Creating a formalized system of metrics-driven feedback.
Getting there: The first step is to make sure that job descriptions are well defined. That’s harder to do in a smaller company, where team members often have to wear different hats. But well-defined job descriptions help set the stage for creating metrics by which to evaluate performance, and then creating regularly scheduled reviews to both celebrate areas of achievement and discuss ways to improve areas of lesser performance.
The first level: Addressing employees when a problem arises.
The next level: Facilitating regular discussions that constructively solve both process and people issues and that also celebrate the positive.
Getting there: Whether you realize it or not, there is a glass panel between you and the company. You are the leader. You are the one deciding who your company hires, retains and fires, and that’s intimidating to anyone who isn’t you.
If all you do is peer out from behind your wizard’s curtain when something goes wrong, you take on the role of judgmental overlord. And yes – fear is a motivator. But it’s usually not the best idea to use it as a go-to move.
The better tactic is to get visible and be proactive. Talk to your people. If you have a small company, informal huddles can facilitate the discussion. Larger groups may require a more formal setting. But it’s essential – however you do it – to actively engage your people as a matter of personal policy. If employees learn to accept you as an open communicator, they won’t dread hearing your footsteps coming down the hall.
Pete Honsberger is the director of client services at CultureShoc. If you need assistance on how to build better teams contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.