"Transparency is the foundation of everything we do."
If you want to attract good people to your organization, you need to provide a clear sense of what you stand for as an organization, what change you’re working to make in that world, and how those joining your organization will be a part of that change. If you want to retain those people – if you want them to feel a connection to your firm that’s greater than a paycheque, you need to keep sharing that vision, over and over again, in a way that resonates with them.
Michele Bailey, President & CEO of Blazing THE Agency may be one of the best entrepreneurial examples of what this clarity of vision looks like realized. And she’s sharing her insights in her first book, It’s NOT All About You, It’s About the Company You Keep.
Written as a personal-memoir-meets-workbook, It’s NOT All About You, It’s About the Company You Keep is a testament to the power of passion as it pertains to entrepreneurial success. While the first 80 pages of this little book follow Michele’s rise (and challenges) of growing a thriving advertising firm, the back half of the book includes page long tips and tricks on how to bring similar stories to life in your own business.
While loaded with lots of great takeaways, the one theme that runs through the entire book is the importance of clarity; for you, for the team, and for the bottom line.
Clarity for All
"The value I add as a Leader is to hold the vision, keep to the strategy and make sure we're all following the same course."
It’s easy, when running an entrepreneurial organization, to get caught in the weeds. To, as the adage goes, “work in your business, not on your business.” Michele’s message is pretty clear on this – your role as the leader is to own the vision, to share it, and to help your team members connect with it in a way that resonates for them. Each and every one of them.
There’s really two key parts to this:
1. Define a vision that resonates with you, personally.
2. Help employees determine how it resonates for them.
Paint a Vivid Picture
"I find that when I put my goals to pen and paper, cut out pictures, glue and paste them on the page, then post them where I can see them day in and day out, amazing things happen."
Michele Bailey swears by the value of “vision boarding“. In a first (for me), she’s even taken the well-known concept one step further and created an annual Vision Board Scrap Book, dedicating different pages to different aspects of her business, career and life. (Michele outlines her process, step by step in the book – providing really valuable insight into how and why to do one yourself.) So what’s the point?
Visuals are powerful. We think in pictures; we see stories in pictures. Pictures ignite our passions and aspirations in a way that words can’t always do. Even more importantly for leaders, pictures get everyone on the same page. Whether it’s a traditional vision board, images of staff incentives, or even building a visual collage to represent your brand feel, I encourage you to consider ways to integrate visuals into your regular communications – with staff, clients, and the public at large.
Lift the Fog
"We encourage open dialogue so they know which job they want in the company, and we then lay out a path for them to follow to obtain the skills or training they require for the promotion."
Michele appears to agree with me that one of the crucial tasks of leadership is to regularly help team members pull their heads out of the weeds and see the bigger picture (if only briefly). No, we don’t need an entire company of strategists, and that’s not what I’m saying here. We do know, though, that people are more productive and more focused when they know what they’re working towards and why. Double that motivation again when they were involved in defining the objectives in the first place.
Connecting with your direct reports in regular dialogue around where they’re going, how the company can help them get there and why it’s mutually beneficial to do so builds loyalty, increases employee retention and improves general company morale.
Do you know why your employees work with you? Do you know what they want to achieve here? It might be time to find out.
It’s NOT All About You, It’s About the Company You Keep could be just another “how to be a good manager book”, but the difference is that Michele’s been there. She’s been building, refining and leading her practice for over 20 years. The stories in her book are raw and unpolished, providing a rare peek behind the curtain of entrepreneurship; the good, the bad and the ugly. And Michele’s tenacious personality – along with her passion for her people and her business – shines through.
In my experience, entrepreneurs can be broadly defined in one of two categories – those motivated by the exit, and those driven by passion. If you think you might be in the latter camp, pick up the book. I guarantee you’ll enjoy the stories, and you just may learn something, too.