Ditch the “workforce”
My first suggestion is to ditch the word “workforce” altogether. It is out of step with the new model of business that many are now striving to create. It implies an “us and them” paradigm rather than the more integrated, less hierarchical model that most businesses now aspire to. The language we use in relation to business is important as it reflects our underpinning vision and values. Rather than “workforce”, consider using the word “community” which has more of a holistic, harmonious feel about it. In organisations, if individuals feel fully engaged and part of the enterprise, they experience greater motivation and wellbeing and an increased willingness to contribute.
“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” Simon Sinek
Be an organism not a machine
Since the 1900s, most businesses have been built on a mechanistic model – in essence, they are like a machine made up of different parts – finance, sales, R&D – which function independently to make the operation run. More recent thinking suggests that businesses are more like living organisms, with each part depending on the others for its survival. In the same way that a flower cannot bloom without its stem, roots and leaves, so a business cannot grow without all of its component parts. When you run your business in this way, everyone within it is important and all have an equal voice. Staff feel valued, supported and recognise their unique contribution to the business.
Speak the future into existence
Most people tend to regard language (the words we speak, write and tell ourselves) as describing the world. In InterBe’s Narrative approach, we use language to create the world not simply describe it. In other words, what we speak, write and tell ourselves calls the future into existence. If we speak about failure and difficulty, that is the reality we create for ourselves. So, if you want brilliant staff, speak consistently about brilliant staff. Recognise and acknowledge people’s strengths. Share your vision for the business in a powerful way. Do not criticise but instead praise, encourage and inspire staff. When you relate to your staff in this way, this is what will show up in your business without exception.
Relate to people’s potential not their past
All of us have a “story” or narrative about ourselves that is based on our past experiences. This “story” is the habitual, familiar place that we go to in our heads that informs us about who we are, who other people are and what the world is like. Often, these stories disempower us and hold us back. As a business manager, when you relate to your staff, focus on the potential you see in them rather than these past-based experiences. Just because someone was told they were failing at school doesn’t mean they will fail in the workplace. Listen out for someone’s disempowering narratives and encourage staff to live into their potential and not be held back by the past.
As a leader, by far the biggest contribution you can make to building a brilliant business community is to be authentic. By this, I mean becoming self-aware; recognising your own disempowering stories and what triggers them. When we are authentic, we learn to step outside these stories and consider our potential and our possibilities. When we live according to our possibilities, we inspire other people to do the same. A true leader connects with their values and beliefs, shares their vulnerability and is as committed to their own development as that of the people they work with. When you lead in this way you will inspire trust, loyalty and, believe it or not, love in your staff. These staff will then work with you to create whatever business you have envisioned.