One of the realities about the current role of leadership – and times when we’re not dealing with a crisis such as a pandemic – is getting your team to buy-in to your values and mission. Whether you are an association leader, running your own business, or you’re running a household. You must have buy in to succeed.
Here are the things that I have learned over the last several months:
I share our financials and other relevant numbers with my team every month. I probably do it more than I should, however, I believe that it’s very important to share the numbers and the trajectory of the business on an ongoing basis. People want to have certainty in their lives and in their career and that’s why I do it. Our booking sheet – which includes commissions and new accounts – is open at all times and everyone has access to it.
We’ve got a great group of association executives and communications professionals on our advisory board, including public affairs people and lobbyists, that help us out and give advice and they receive a quarterly report from us about the trajectory of the business and our financials.
This type of transparency is very beneficial. You can’t make stuff up. It’s there in black and white and, one way or the other, your people are going to see it. The information makes it very easy for me to tell the story about the business and how it’s going. Frankly, the transparency part is more for me. I don’t have to keep things from people. I don’t feel like I’m hedging my bets or modulating what I’m saying. I can be very candid about what’s happening because everyone can see what I see and it’s all out there for everyone to know.
Transparency also provides certainty and clarity for the team. They understand where you’re going and the decisions you might make because they’ve got the numbers right in front of them. They may even help make a decision for you. A few years ago, I was getting ready to hire a new salesperson. Our business development team members have anywhere between three to five accounts and this number of accounts is based on the volume, scale, and rhythm of each account. Once we have three to five accounts per person, we start to look and say, “Wow, maybe we need a new person to help us sell on the behalf of our clients.” What I learned from sharing the numbers is that I get feedback from the team. You know what they said when I mentioned hiring a new team member? They said that the best thing for us at that time was to expand our bandwidth, collaborate, and work a harder to get through that moment. It turned out to be a better solution than hiring at that time. We had another gear that I didn’t know until I had our sales team, who are familiar with the numbers, provide their feedback. By the way, they got more business opportunity because of this because they had more sales.
When you’re transparent, and when you share the numbers, you are building a decision-making infrastructure in your organization from top to bottom and that’s a really good thing.
Don’t make promises. It’s very difficult in this day and age to say, “Hey, no one’s going to get laid off!” Can you really promise that? If you can, congratulations! Otherwise, don’t. I tell my team what’s happening; however, I don’t make promises that I can’t keep. Your team is watching your every move. If you say something offhandedly the team member is going to take it to the bank as gospel especially if you say you’re transparent and candid. In this day and age, it’s really tempting to paint a different picture than the actual reality and to talk about things rather than conveying the uncertainty, concern, or vulnerability that you have as a leader.
Don’t make promises that you are not able to undertake. This is also very helpful when it comes to client relationships, too. Be candid with them to avoid surprises.
Refrain from pulling the, “But I’m the boss card.”
There’s a tendency, especially right now, to get in the middle of things because there seems to be a push for a “proactive leader” mentality. However, most of these things are those that you don’t really need to get involved with.
“Fire this consultant! Make this change! Get into a new product area!” These things, long-term, can become a distraction or make the business suffer. Continue being a long-term boss, one who knows how not to get in the middle of all the things. Allow your team to do the job you hired them to do. They’re motivated to do it well so let them do what you hired them to do. They won’t disappoint you.
It is important to develop a long-term vision. I’m spending a lot of time right now listening and watching to see what others are doing, especially in the association space. Association leaders are much more accessible right now. I’m calling them, asking questions to see how things are going, and getting their perspective in certain areas. Right now, you can reach folks and get them on the phone to have conversations that we may not be able to have 60 to 90 days from now.
How do you make adjustments, change the narrative, and update the deliverables to align with what your audience wants or needs from you?
I’ll give you an example how we’re doing just that. Recently we launched a new system to evaluate virtual sponsorships opportunities. We’re going to give the association an evaluation of the opportunity, recommend inventory and pricing for virtual sponsorships. We’re also going to provide a sales option to sell these sponsorships for you! There’s not much of a difference from what we’ve been doing over the last decade, however, it needed to be framed and adjusted to what our clients’ needs.
Transparency, promises, and long-term vision are not new. These things have always been important and even more so now. Your team is watching you. My guess is your people are looking at whatever is in front of them so you need to get out in front of things more because that’s your role as the leader of the organization.
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