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Ken Keller: In 2014, eliminate your alignment gap

Posted: January 25, 2014 11:00 a.m.
Updated: January 25, 2014 11:00 a.m.

One goal every owner should have is getting and keeping employees aligned within their company. It’s a tall order -- and it is never finished -- but the operational and financial gains are worth the ongoing effort.

To see if a gap exists in your company, simply ask five lower-level employees what the top three goals are for 2014 in the company. My bet is not one will be able to answer your question with anything other than “to make a profit.”

Key to securing alignment is reducing the gap between ownership and employees. This gap can be closed with effort and focus on: having a common language, having the same priorities and providing dignity and respect for all.

Quit Speaking Foreign Languages

Two very different dialects are spoken in business. Owners speak about “cash flow,” “profits,” and “a solid balance sheet.” Employees speak about “paychecks,” “vacations,” and “expectations.”

Why don’t employees think and talk about company financial matters? It’s usually because the only time the owner brings it up to employees is when there are financial difficulties.

Company finances don’t have to be the world’s best kept secret. If an owner wants employees to care and do more to help the company’s financial situation, invest in teaching employees how the key result areas having a significant financial impact.

One former client told me that when he brought on a new employee, he was granting yet another person with a license to spend company money. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Have the Same Priorities

Owners have priorities related to finding and keeping clients, billing and collecting money, and delivering products and services to keep the company running on a daily basis.

Employees have priorities too, and those vary depending on if the employee is engaged or not. The goal is to have as many engaged employees as possible on the payroll; this employee type is far more sympathetic to company priorities. But they need to know what the priorities are.

The solution is to create and communicate the annual goals of the company. This is the responsibility of the owner and the management team.

But communicating is not enough; the goals have to be understood, and that will only happen with consistent follow through.

Treat Everyone with Dignity and Respect

Many owners seek the approval and respect of their employees, customers and vendors and sometimes forget how easy it is to lose it. Employees want the respect of ownership, as well as from their co-workers.

If you are an owner, strive to act with this in mind: “People may not remember what you did or said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

Owners need to realize and accept that very few employees will ever know or care about the burdens of company ownership. It’s lonely at the top for a reason.

No employee wants to simply be known as a “worker bee” or “a cog in the machine.” They want to be recognized for the contributions they make.

Treating individuals with dignity and respect costs nothing, yet it can yield huge rewards. The Ritz Carlton hotel chain infuses all who want to work there with a philosophy: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Those that cannot or will not act in this manner usually go to work for the competition.

It’s only February. It is not too late to take these three action steps and put them to use to have a better 2014 than you had planned.


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