Baggott who co-founded ExactTarget Email Marketing, a 300-employee company, and who more recently co-founded Compendium Blogware, where he serves as CEO says that employees need to, first and foremost, believe in your integrity as a leader. If they trust that you will tell them the truth, it is then your obligation to inspire them by showing them that they can achieve the personal satisfaction and advancement that they are looking for in their careers.
Failure to motivate your employees with your words both written and spoken can result in a stagnant company, Baggott says, which can lead your best and brightest workers to look for new challenges elsewhere.
Smart Business spoke with Baggott about why inspiring and motivating employees has to start at the top.
Inspire with your communication.
Always be honest when communicating. You never have a chance to get your integrity back.
Be consistent. You can’t say one thing one day and totally shift gears the next day. You have to be ‘on-message’ and clear. You have to be consistent and visionary.
People want to aspire to something, so when you’re talking about things, you have to be aspirational. ‘We’re going to make the best widget in the world’ isn’t so aspirational, but how people are going to benefit from that widget, that’s where the aspiration comes in and makes people excited.
People want to find value in what they’re doing. I just had a young woman who I met a year ago, right as she was graduating college. She was going to move to New Jersey and work in a large pharmaceutical company in corporate finance.
She was all excited, she was a corporate finance major, and she reached out to me after eight months and she said, ‘Get me out of here.’ She was in an organization where she sat in a cubicle and people counseled her on her career in terms of decades, like, ‘Don’t mess up here, and in five years, you might get to be a director-level person.’
It wasn’t inspiring, it wasn’t a meritocracy, she knew wasn’t going anywhere, she was surrounded by 20-year veterans who were completely unmotivated, just doing their jobs and getting the heck out of there. There was nothing to look forward to, particularly for young people, who probably aren’t looking at their lives in terms of decades.
They expect to have many jobs in their careers. You have to give them something that says, ‘This is really, really cool; this is changing the way people are doing things, and your role in this is really important.’
You have to tell them that if you do a good job, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you’ve worked here, if you’re worthy of a promotion or leadership role, you’re going to get it.
Set the stage. It becomes really important for the leader to set the stage. You do that in a lot of ways. You have frequent communication; you share information with all employees.
Specific strategies we’ve executed have been things like monthly meetings. Every month, we bring the entire organization together for lunch, anybody who is out of town calls in for kind of a review of all major areas of the company. Everyone sees what everyone else is doing, and when they see we’re all rowing in the same direction, those monthly meetings really help.
I’m a big fan of being an industry leader because your team wants to be associated with a winning team. The more you can project that you are a winning team, the better it is. So your PR efforts, your conferences and meetings, and I’m even a big fan of blogging, these are the things that show your people that you are winners and a winning organization. You set the culture of winning and that you are leaders.
However, the bigger the organization, the harder it is to set and maintain that kind of tone.
There isn’t a magic bullet for that. You try to talk; you try to manage by walking around. You do talk to people and try to solicit feedback.
You want to create that kind of culture. If you surround yourself with yes-people and put up this barrier of inapproachability, people won’t approach you. You’ll get that result. You have to be able to be approachable and accept and act on ideas. You have to let people constantly know that you are accessible and that you care about this. It’s showing people that you care. That’s the biggest thing. It’s the about the health of your organization.
Make yourself visible. People like people. I was recently at a conference, and we were talking about the social-networking phenomenon. I made the argument that it’s not such a new thing; it’s just different.
In the old days, in the small organizations in olden times before we had megacorporations, everybody knew everybody. We shared our lives together. Then we went through this phase in probably the 1920s or ’30s with the formation of big conglomerates that institutionalized everything business and hierarchies and unions and we kind of lost that touch.
Now, we have new tools that all us to get face-to-face with people, but you can leverage tools like blogging and video and e-mail to get your message out to people with a personal touch.