The business world is slowly waking up to how essential high levels of engagement are to business success, growth and sustainability. In fact, research by Deloitte has found that matters regarding ‘retention and engagement’ is the second most important point on the minds of business leaders, only topped by building global leadership.
Effective employee engagement and building a positive culture has a significant impact on innovation, quality, productivity, talent retention and, ultimately, profitability. According to a study conducted by Gallup in 2012, companies with engaged employees outperform their competitors by:
- 10% on customer ratings
- 22% in profitability
- 21% in productivity
Looking at the above, it is quite alarming to think that Gallup found the global employee engagement figure to be as low as 13%. As opposed to the positive effects of high levels of engagement mentioned above, low engagement levels contribute to:
- High talent turnover
- Compromised quality
- Low ratings from customers
I believe that high levels of employee engagement can only be achieved by cultivating a culture of brand ambassadorship. At TowerStone, we define a brand ambassador as an individual who has an intimate knowledge of the organisational purpose, products and services and fulfils his/her role in the organisation with passion and pride. Brand ambassadors are active participants and smarter decision makers who live the behaviours that organisations require for long-term success.
For me, the most important aspects to recognise in this definition are “passion” and “pride” i.e. it requires heart. To establish a culture of brand ambassadorship, we have to understand that our team members’ hearts has to be both inspired and enabled, which also requires that we lead with heart.
What does this mean practically? I would like to offer a few points to lead by to inspire brand ambassadorship.
In order to lead in a way that grabs the hearts of your team members, you have to also bring your own heart. You have to possess a tenacious passion for the growth of the business and of the individual. I fundamentally challenge past beliefs that you have to smother emotion to make objective, informed decisions. Your passion for the business will both inform and drive the decisions you need to make to ensure its success. And even more importantly, if others see and feel your passion as a leader, it can ignite the same passion in them.
You have to care about your team members as people. Not the kind of care that merely scratches the surface, but a genuine interest in their growth and their well-being. If you care about what is important to them, they are far more likely to care about what is important to you.
Passion and care will remain only good intentions if you don’t communicate your vision consistently and constantly and establish channels to receive feedback. Not only must you communicate your vision and care for the business, but also for team members as people. Always remember, you are the message. People will read you more than they will read your emails. If you focus on being conscious, you will recognise the mirrors in front of you i.e. how people respond to you.
There can be no growth without vulnerability and, as the leader, it is your responsibility to set the example. If you are not prepared to admit your mistakes and weaknesses and actively work to collaborate and develop yourself, why would others? You have to inspire your team members to step out of their comfort zone to grow themselves and ultimately the organisation.
Means and ability
As I mentioned above: the heart has to be inspired and enabled. Establishing a culture of brand ambassadorship can’t be all talk. Remember the old saying “you have to put your money where your mouth is”. You have to invest in your own development and the development of your employees. Firstly, they have to see you investing in yourself to be inspired to grow. Secondly, you have to provide them with the means (e.g. equipment) to do their job to the best of their ability, and the functional and soft skills to perform and inspire others. You need to give them the tools and teach them how to use these tools with maximum impact.
The essence of all this is that the golden thread of your daily example is the one thing that can tie a culture of brand ambassadorship together. If you don’t care, team members won’t care either. If you don’t display and communicate your passion for the success of the business, they will also treat their responsibilities as a mere job as opposed to a personal purpose. Without true brand ambassadorship, sustained growth becomes virtually impossible.
Brian Eagar is the founder and CEO of TowerStone, a leadership centre.