When Dan Neyer turned his attention toward a greener vision for his company, he knew a solo approach wouldn’t get him far. Even though he says a vision starts inside the leader, employees are vital to achieving it.
“Ask your employees and get input from them,” says Neyer, founder and president of commercial real estate and development firm Neyer Properties Inc. “Because ultimately, the ability to have a vision that comes to reality is not one person. It’s really a collective body.”
The key is to get input and secure a shared goal, which Neyer does this through individual conversations with his 20 employees. This personal attention continues through the vision’s fulfillment as he helps employees tie their goals to the corporate outlook, leading the company to 2008 revenue of $50 million.
Smart Business spoke with Neyer about how to get your employees’ input to gain their buy-in and achieve success.
Get employee input on the vision. What we have done in the past is we have involved every employee in the process. We’ve had a couple half-day exercises where we go through what we’ve accomplished to date, the typical SWOT analysis — the strengths, the weaknesses, opportunities, threats — where we see where we’re going. But then have an open discussion, which helps get the buy-in because they’re part of the vision instead of being told what the vision is.
We collectively come up with a vision that everyone can endorse and support, and it’s a vision further than most people want to accept initially. The goal is to convince them that we need to go beyond our own perceived limitations to achieve a greater vision than they could see themselves.
I can do that by myself, but effectively, I need buy-in from everybody around me because if you don’t buy in, it’s not going to happen.
Get buy-in by living the vision. Certainly communication is the key and making sure that vision is understood and realized by each individual. [Make sure] the individual knows the benefit that it ultimately provides for themselves and the company.
So very often I read vision statements and they’re just mounted on a wall, which, to me, doesn’t do a lot. You have to live, breathe, act and communicate your vision every day and explain how your decisions are based on reaching your vision. If you don’t have the cause-and-effect relationship, the vision is never thought of and no one knows what it means and no one acts upon it.
In our discussions for [going green] I said, ‘This is why we’re doing it: It ties to what our goals are, our mission and our vision, so we must follow that direction.’ There were certain people who said, ‘Well, it costs more money.’ Yes, it does cost more money, but really, it’s a long-term investment, and we will make the commitment because in the long term, we will receive the benefits.
You have to take the time as necessary for them to understand to their level, not necessarily your level. You have to meet people where they are, and it means different things for different people.
I think on an individual level, it’s good for a leader to talk to different employees and ask them what the vision means to them. But it’s better on a one-on-one level versus being in the middle of a group session, because that can [make] people uncomfortable.
For us, making the commitment toward the green building also means a commitment in our space. We have recycling programs. We have instituted a policy of … paper elimination. You can’t just talk the walk; you’ve got to follow it all the way through.
And you’ve got to keep it simple. If it’s complex, it’s not going to work. You need to energize them, giving them a sense of making a difference.
Tie individual goals to the vision. We ask each individual to set their goals for the coming year, and then they meet with their immediate supervisor and review the goals, agree to the goals and then tie them to the overall vision of the organization.
And then quarterly, the individual and the person that person reports to meet and discuss how they are reaching their goals or not reaching their goals and what tactics are important. So it’s better than a New Year’s resolution, which is forgotten about two weeks later.
A simple example may be, under the premise of ‘leading development solutions’ in the marketing department, part of marketing skills are to make sure that we’re not just the leader and no one knows about it. So part of the goals of marketing would be, ‘How do we enhance the internal and external knowledge that we are leading the area in our approach to things?’ and tie in to that.
There would be specific items that talk about quantity of articles, certain seminars or discussions we’ve had with outside parties, and other measurements. So it can’t be subjective. For it to be measurable, it has to be quantifiable.
[If] it’s more or less, ‘OK, here are your goals,’ if it’s not tied to the overall goals, then it’s not effective. We raise some questions such as, ‘How does this goal compare to last year? How does it tie to the vision?’
When we do the year-end performance reviews, we help set the stage of each individual, what their accomplishments were, what the hope and expectation is for the next year. It’s kind of like an ever-evolving approach.
How to reach: Neyer Properties Inc., (513) 563-7555 or www.neyer1.com