Who is rowing your boat?


There’s a cartoon of two Vikings on the back of their boat looking out to sea.

Behind them are their rowers paddling in opposite directions from each other (the photo shows the boat going around in circles). The caption under the cartoon reads, “We work so hard with these guys, how come we never seem to get anywhere?”

It might be beneficial for our Viking friends to turn around once in a while to make sure all of their “workers” were coordinating their efforts as a team.

Imagine an entire fleet of ships whose captains never look back to see if their crews were working together and following orders. You might have a few ships circling, some moving in the wrong direction, while a few others
the ships maintain their course in spite of themselves.

What difference would it make if captains hired their crews and worked with them. Not only would ships go faster, they would be more efficient en route to their destinations. Morale would probably be quite good and the possibility of mutiny greatly diminished.

Have you ever felt like your organization looks like the Viking ship depicted in the cartoon featured above? Do all your employees work (row) together? And, are you keeping your business on track?

Think of your organization’s “treasure map”—your strategic plan and business goals.

One thing is certain, an excellent strategic and/or business plan is not enough to keep some organizations going in circles. Great companies know their destination, understand the business landscape, employ the right people, and support them with the right directions and tools to perform their task at an extraordinary level.

Yet all of these key elements are meaningless unless there is effective communication within and across the
organization.

I know you’ve heard this before: communicate, communicate, communicate! Yet lack of communication remains at the heart of many organizational problems and often prevents companies from reaching their destinations before the competition.

It’s easy to get caught up in daily routines and tasks, which makes effective communication difficult. We are so busy steering the boat that we sometimes forget to work with the people moving the oars.

Here are some ideas that might help your organization stay on track and bring the team together:

• Regularly share financial information with all employees.

• Share information about new initiatives, achievement of corporate goals and community involvement to all employees, their spouses and loved ones.

• Engage employees at all levels in the strategic/business planning process.

• Allow employees to create and edit their job descriptions.

• Provide a meaningful employee handbook that clearly highlights programs, policies and benefits.

• Ensure that all staff members understand the organization’s compensation and reward system.

• Let employees see marketing materials and advertisements before the general public.

• Constantly ask for feedback and do something constructive with the information.

• Make sure all your employees understand a new product or service before they are supposed to service and sell it.

• Maintain an “open door” policy.

• And finally, before working with a consulting firm on strategic planning, a new logo design, new product development, organizational design, etc., first ask your employees for their ideas! They will always be your highest paid consultants for your business.

These communication ideas are all fairly simple, inexpensive, and should be part of the way you do business. People really appreciate being informed at work, knowing the direction of the company and understanding what is expected of them and the team.

If you feel like your business is going in circles, it might be time to check in with your employees to see if they really know what’s going on in your business. It’s amazing what happens in an organization when even a little direction is provided.

Perry is host of the national Success Wave podcast, business book author, keynote speaker, former ERC chair, columnist, member of the NEO Business Hall of Fame, and 2022 Cleveland 500 nominee.

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