“If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.”
– Steve Jobs
People involved in the work of any organization, large, small, or somewhere in between, need to know how they fit in with the purpose of the enterprise. This doesn’t get any easier with growth. In small startups, everybody’s doing everything, including taking out the trash, and the customer line of sight is short, and straight.
But as we grow, it’s virtually inevitable that people will begin to lose sight of where they fit in and how their contribution matters.
In the 21 years that Contented Cow Partners has been in business (no, we can’t believe it either), we’ve worked with some companies that grew substantially, by acquisition, organic means, or both, during the time we worked with them. I remember, specifically, one CEO telling me, “When we had 300 employees, and I knew every one of them, it was easy for most of us to make the connection between our work and our customer. Now that we’re twice that size, we have to work four times as hard to keep that connection as strong.”
And he wasn’t far off in that assessment.
Without regular and vigorous reinforcement, many employees ultimately reach the conclusion that their contributions really don’t make that much of a difference, and the decline in their effort is at hand. People who have come to believe that their role isn’t all that important fail to shout “stop” when they discover a defective product or process or when a disgruntled customer walks out the door—and they definitely don’t hustle.
I live in a hurricane and tropical storm zone. Often, during these events, we hear announcements on the news saying that only people in “essential positions” need report for work at any number of government agencies, including some schools. Now, deep down, who in the world wants something they spend 8 or more hours a day doing to be deemed “nonessential”?
Today – as in, today – pick one person on your team, and talk with them about their customer connection – their line of site. If they can’t articulate how their daily work matters to your customers, first – don’t hold it against them. It may not be their fault (hint, hint). But don’t just tell them how it matters, create an opportunity for them to experience how it matters. Get creative with it.
And hey, do this: send us an email, and let us know what you come with to help that person see how their work matters. OR – what you’ve done in the past.