Chip Babst realizes that being on a first-name basis with all of your employees probably becomes impossible once a company reaches a certain size.
But Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir PC isn’t too big yet for him to know all 119 employees.
“It’s important to maintain that personal tie, recognizing that in larger businesses, that has to be done in a different way and is not going to be accomplished by one person at the top,” says Babst, the law firm’s managing shareholder.
He uses both formal and casual interactions to customize his approach to each employee to generate buy-in, set goals and check on progress.
Smart Business spoke with Babst about how to drive your vision with communication.
Q. How do you communicate your vision throughout the company?
The communication can be either direct or indirect. There are two ways to do that. One is through opportunities that you have to talk to significant numbers of people, whether it be at a meeting or a retreat.
The other way is making sure that you get around and talk to people on a one-on-one basis. During the course of a year, you should be in touch with many, if not all, of the people in the organization.
But in addition to that, if the people who are involved in management with you are coordinated in what you’re trying to do, then the message gets directed to everybody indirectly, which is, in many cases, more effective.
Q. How do you get others on the same page with your vision?
It’s a very personal approach, and I don’t know if there’s a formula that you would apply that’s one size fits all. You deal with individuals as they are. There are certain types of arguments that would be persuasive with some people and would not be persuasive with others.
I try to take the time to talk to people to find out not just what they think about the business but what they’re like as people. Just by getting to know people, you have a better feel for the best way to approach them.
Q. How do you set goals that reflect that vision?
Our goal process starts with you submitting to me what you think your goals should be for the following year. Then the management group will look at that and massage that as we think is needed. Sometimes it’s really not necessary to change it at all. Other times it is, and then go back to that individual and make sure that there’s buy-in on the goals.
We also at that time sit down and evaluate how they have done in terms of achieving their goals from the prior year. Those individual goals are coordinated with our business sector goals. That’s the way we try to implement the strategic plan, so it’s both at a group level and then at an individual level.
As you’re establishing your goals, you’re not doing that as the Wizard of Oz. You’re trying to do it through communication and taking the input from those people who best understand that particular part of your business and then making sure it’s coordinated with the other sectors of your business.
If you’re in a leadership position, one of your best traits should be the ability to listen and the ability to appreciate others’ input. In those cases where there may be conflicting views, try to make the best decision and then try to build consensus both among the advocates and the opponents.
Q. How do you check the process of those goals throughout the year?
Some of those goals will have a requirement to submit some update in writing during the course of the year. The other thing that I do try to do during the course of the year is get around to talk to individuals, particularly on goals that I think are important to what we’re trying to achieve and also goals that are important for what other people are trying to accomplish.
I just try to get around and talk to people during the course of the year on a less formal basis.
[If their goal isn’t being met], try to find out why. Try to engage them in conversation in terms of what can be done to make up the lost ground and achieve it by the end of the year. If something isn’t met, then
that’s something that has to be discussed and hopefully rectified during the next year.
Sometimes, frankly, you’ll set a goal in December, and by May, it’s clear that it doesn’t necessarily make sense anymore. We will change goals during the course of the year, as well. We don’t just rigidly stick with something if, given time and circumstance, it no longer makes good business sense.
They would come back to me and suggest that it be changed, and we would talk through it. Ultimately, we would try to make that decision together.
It’s not something that people have the unilateral flexibility during the year to say, ‘Well, I’m not going to achieve this goal, therefore, I no longer recognize it.’
HOW TO REACH: Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir PC, (800) 829-5695 or www.bccz.com