Ann, a business owner friend of mine, recently lamented the lack of loyalty in the business world.
She mentioned that several staff members had been lured away by signing bonuses and minimal per-hour raises. To combat the exodus, I suggested she build a gang.
At first she bristled. Then I explained that this type of gang is made up of people who are excitedly working together for a positive common experience within the business, not a group of hoodlums designed to scare people into sticking around.
Almost everyone has an inherent need for belonging. Whether your gang is a church group, fraternity, company or Internet group, you thrive and grow through connections with others. If your people feel independent and disconnected from the whole, you'll end up with anarchy.
To be successful, a gang must be a mosaic made up of different people, ideas and communities. It can't be a pyramid with you at the top. Gang members need an equal balance of rights and responsibilities.
They must have the right to express themselves without fear of retribution. And, they must understand that such freedoms are accompanied by a responsibility to respect others and be accountable for results.
Developing a gang is a three-step process.
Develop unified and diverse members
It's a seller's market, and turnover is an increasingly challenging problem. Consider the following when building that gang:
Unified Values. Your key values need to match with your gang. If they don't match, it may be impossible to positively influence one another. The question may be how you can determine if there is a values match. Try these four exercises:
- Write down the 10 most important things in your life.
- Narrow and prioritize your list to the three top values.
- Identify people you connect well with and compare how you perceive their values match with yours. You should see a great degree of correlation here.
- Seek gang members whose lists match yours.
Appreciate diversity and uniqueness. This is a key area in which "progressive gangs" vary from "traditional gangs." You are not looking for blind faith and conformity. You are looking for uniquely talented people who have the gumption to innovate, change and push new ideas.
Your gang members need to feel excited and engaged, that they are growing and contributing. The key question is, how?
Try to make your vision and purpose energizing by developing ways the organization can help the community. When you create a greater good and purpose, you magnetize people into action.
Match talents to the business mission. Your gang members have unique talents and gifts. Ask them where they see their strengths, interests and talents, both inside and outside the organization.
Recognize that growth is a bumpy road and challenge your gang to try new things and experiences. When there are setbacks, ask them to reflect on the lessons.
Finally, recognize your role as Chief Encouragement Officer. Find opportunities to tell others you are proud of their efforts and contribution.
Manage with tough love
With the benefits of gang membership come responsibilities. Your gang needs to deliver on the mission in the streets.
This requires difficult conversations and changes. While you need to be respectful, be direct when things go awry.
You are accountable for results and ultimately, your gang needs to deliver. Set expectations in the "slightly uncomfortable zone" and set up periodic checkpoints to evaluate progress. Insist that gang members deliver on their personal best.
Don't forget to share battles won and lost. Your gang needs to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. Share information and solicit input where appropriate when reflecting on "lost battles." Mike Foti (email@example.com) is CEO of Cleveland Glass Block and president of Leadership Builders. He speaks, trains, consults and provides executive coaching on leadership and personal development. Contact him at (216) 531-6085.