On a recent 710 WOR “Mind Your Business” broadcast, Yitzchok Saftlas (YS) spoke with guest, Jerel Benjamin (JB), CEO Of ProfitGOLD Group.
YS: What are the four points to energizing and empowering your team?
JB: A lot of times, small businesses think, “why do I need to empower the team? Everybody should know what we're doing.” And so, they think that they're getting a team that can motivate themselves, get moving, and just remain energized on every objective that they have to accomplish. That's not the case. So, when I say you need to energize and empower your team, I see a lot of people with questions. “How do I accomplish it?” That's why we’ve worked so hard over the years, to bring it down to four points. The first point is mastery in resetting the overall vision. The second point is mastery in the articulation of the action steps needed to achieve that vision. That rolls right into the third point, which is establishing relevant accountability as those action steps are being executed. And the fourth point is to develop reporting systems that will energize and empower, while also reporting on the activity, and the action steps being taken.
YS: Can you expand on the first point regarding resetting the overall vision?
JB: A lot of companies forget that you constantly have to reset the vision. Working off of one, unchanging vision is like telling your loved ones you love them one time and hoping they'll remember for the rest of their lives. It’s not going to happen. You have to keep repeating it. And so, the first step to empowering a team is really creating an almost repetitive mantra out of “what is the vision?” What are we trying to accomplish? A vision that is just based on revenue, “we need to make this much,” is not a proper vision, because that only really matters to the executives. Everybody else is getting paid what they're getting paid. Sure, they may get a bonus, but essentially, no matter how much the company makes, they're going to get paid what they're already getting paid. So, that's not empowering or motivating. A vision is something that when you state it, the people who work with you not only see it and understand it, but they can also see themselves in it. And because they can see themselves in it, they now can evaluate and approve of the vision, and from that point, become energized to follow your leadership. That’s really the key to resetting the vision. Are you saying it in a way where your employees are invited to embrace it because they see themselves in it? That’s how you energize and really empower a team. There has to be something tangible in there that they can grab onto that’s not just dollars and cents.
YS: How often should one be recommunicating their vision?
JB: The vision should always be recommunicated to the employees at least weekly. But as the owner of your company, find more creative ways to say it, so that it’s not just a formality that we say every Wednesday at the 10:00 A.M. sales meeting. Really try to incorporate it into the conversations. Whenever you are doing check-ins with your team, ask, “how is this objective moving us towards the overall vision that we have agreed upon together?” Use that creativity that led you to become an entrepreneur in the first place to find more interesting ways to communicate the vision to your team throughout the week.
YS: Why is it important to carry out the second point of articulating the action steps to achieve your vision?
JB: As a business owner who’s trying to get your team motivated, you have to realize that 85% of the population cannot visualize. So, with that reality, you also have to really realize only 15% of your team can really take your vision and know what needs to happen next. The other 85% are going to need some direction, even if they see themselves in the vision. That’s something that we always forget. We feel like everybody understands it. “You know your part in the vision. You know your job title. Now, go.” And then, we get frustrated when they don’t go in the direction that we would expect them to. That’s because we didn't articulate the steps. Now, it doesn’t mean we need to micromanage. You don’t need to give them steps 1-100. But, most people would at least love to get steps 1-5, so they can start moving in the direction required to fulfill their parts in your vision. Even though they see themselves in the vision, that doesn’t mean they necessarily know which foot to put in front of the other. So, the first thing we do as leaders, when we’re trying to empower a team, is we say, “my definition of excellence as we move towards this vision is,” and we define excellence as it relates to their role. Now, you’ve not only given them practical steps to take, but you’ve also created space to add their own genius and creativity. You’ve told them what excellence means as it relates to what they do. Now, they can start moving in that direction, owning what’s happening, and they don’t need you to restart their fire on those practical, tactical steps.
YS: How can a leader be sure that they are articulating those steps as clearly as possible?
JB: The first strategy of breaking things down for articulation, while still empowering the person, is what we call “chunking.” As I said, we define what excellence looks like as it relates to that person’s role, and then we start “chunking off” little sections of what it would take to accomplish that excellence. Now, in order to achieve that, we set different waypoints to mark their progress. “At waypoint one, we have to make sure that we get this part accomplished. Then, waypoint two, means that this particular aspect has been accomplished.” The key is, don't give them 42 waypoints. If at all possible, keep the waypoints at 3-5. Now, when you want to make sure that they're on course, you can go to each waypoint and check that they have reached it at a set time. This gives you a reference point that the two of you can agree on, without having to micromanage. Now in between those waypoints, make sure the employee knows that they have the freedom to use their own creativity and genius, as long as they reach each waypoint at the set times. That will create dialogue, where if it's not clear, the employee is empowered to ask for clarity. And the more questions they ask, the better, because they're using that as fuel to empower their action steps moving forward.
YS: Can you explain the third point of establishing relevant accountability?
JB: “Relevant” is the key word in that step. Relevant accountability ensures that accountability in your business is based on the vision that everyone has participated in. In an online store, we can measure sales and success by clicks and all those types of things. That's a type of accountability, but it's not relevant to the vision by which you brought everyone in. You created a vision that they can see themselves in and be a part of it coming to fruition. Measuring success simply by “how many clicks did we get,” only means something to one sector of the business. So, here's the key that I always try to get business owners to do. Let the person that you're speaking to be a part of establishing what that accountability is. Once you establish the vision, ask them for their part in it. Ask them what they believe those waypoints should be. Once they speak to you about that, now you're establishing accountability. “What do you believe I should see by waypoint one?” What you're actually doing, and this is the psychological spin to establishing relevant accountability, is putting them in a position where they will own the outcomes, because they set it themselves. And when they're able to say, “I believe, based on your vision, that you can expect to see waypoint one at this date and time,” you have now given them the most empowering incentive to achieve it, which is their own words. That is really the mastery of a leader, because now you're not trying to sell every step.
YS: How can one achieve the fourth point of creating reporting systems on activity?
JB: As a business owner, the worst thing you can do, is to set expectations, and then not give your team the room to meet them. When it comes to creating reporting systems on activity, you have to avoid the tendency and temptation to start looking at all of the tactical steps your employees are deploying to reach their waypoints. And the way to avoid that, is by establishing or creating reporting systems that are focused on those waypoints only. Say, for example, you've talked with key people on your team, those key people understand the vision, and you had the conversation about the waypoints and when you're going to see certain activity to hit the overall vision. During those conversations, you let the person know, “I will be inspecting A, B, and C, at that waypoint.” What you’ve done is create a system where you can check on the activity. So, let's say the person sets waypoint one a week from now and says you can expect to see A, B, and C. The way that we solidify that as an executive, is we say, “great. Then on Friday at 3:00 P.M., I will be looking solely at A, B, and C.” What we're doing is, we're creating a definitive line on what will be inspected. Because, as Chet Holmes said in The Ultimate Sales Machine, “people respect what you inspect.” So, make it very clear what you want to inspect. That gives you the certainty that they are moving in the direction of your vision. Now, if you're a business owner, and you're doing that, don't change the goalposts during the process. If you're going to create a reporting system, “system” is the key word in that phrase. It is your job, as a leader, to be very clear on that from the outset, because it is very disempowering to a team when they feel that the goalpost is moving.
YS: Should management still be checking in along the way to make sure that everything is on course?
JB: Communication throughout the process is fine. So, if the person who's assigned to a task is communicating with management back and forth, that's okay. However, you need to make sure that they’re not using that communication as a way to shift accountability back onto you. But, when you do check in throughout the week, you should be going to whatever platform you have agreed upon for them to input their progress. If you are that concerned about something that they're working on, then don't just set weekly checkpoints. Create a set of midweek checkpoints, because you can create a system at the outset with whatever frequency you need. But you need to stick to it. Don't disrupt the flow. Stay in your lane, and that person will continue to feel empowered. If you start breaking the rules, then they're going to feel like you don't trust them, and that will result in a downward spiral.