Recognise This! – Giving people a reason to believe is far more effective than telling them what to do or how to think.

It’s seems lately I’ve written about the weekly New York Times “Corner Office” column, well, weekly. The featured chief officers have lately been truly inspirational leaders with sound advice.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one enamoured of these columns. John Hollon in TLNT beat me to it this week with his feature on the column about Jim Whitehurst, president and CEO of Red Hat.

So, why am I calling out John Hollon’s column instead of the original? Because John cut straight to the main point, identifying “the best definition of employee engagement you’ll see anywhere.” John rightly pointed to this comment from Mr. Whitehurst as that great definition of engagement:

“Somebody once told me — and this is some of the best advice I ever got — that for any business there are three levels of leadership. One is getting somebody to do what you want them to do. The second is getting people to think what you want them to think; then you don’t have to tell them what to do because they will figure it out.

“But the best is getting people to believe what you want them to believe, and if people really fundamentally believe what you want them to believe, they will walk through walls. They will do anything.”

Do you spend more time telling people what to do, how to think, or why they should believe?

If you can get them to believe – to buy into what “it” is that you as an organisation are trying to accomplish – you don’t need to spend near the effort on telling them what to do or how to think. They’re already there, likely one step ahead of you.

How do you get them to believe? How do you convey to them what matters most to your organisation and, critically, why they should care about it as you do? I firmly believe the foundation of this kind of belief is reliant on the employee knowing that what they do contributes to making that vision a reality. If you don’t think you play a role in creating that success, why would you ever “believe?”

Recognise your employees for efforts, contributions and behaviours that help you achieve your organisational vision and mission. Give them a reason to believe.

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