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The key to re-engaging your employees (isn’t what you’d expect)

As many teams are returning to work in some form, business owners are facing an uncomfortable realization. The old frustrations with your employees—the ones you’d forgotten about or maybe only realized with a period of unprecedented space from your team—are still there. The things that weren't working before still aren’t working, with the added complexity of managing the ever-changing effects of the pandemic. And many business owners are finding themselves saying, “I don't want to go back to the way things were.”

This moment is an incredible opportunity to reset. It’s a chance to identify what your business looks like at its best—what you and your team look like at your best—and use that to do things differently. And this all starts with engaging your employees.

But how do you do that? Well, the first step is realizing that you're actually the most important piece of the puzzle in defining your culture and team engagement as your team comes back to work. Every frustration about your people boils down to them not doing things the way you’d do them yourself. 

Think about it. You created a business that’s so successful, you literally couldn't do it by yourself, so you had to hire people. And that’s both your point of liberation and your point of disaster. Because if you just hire people without making sure that they’re aligned with your way—with what makes you successful as a company—there goes your reputation, there goes your return business, there goes your nights at home with your kids, because you're having to micromanage. 

People engage with their work when they identify with the values behind it all. Without established company values, there’s no foundation for culture, and a system is nothing but a checklist. So, do you know your company values? Because you can’t expect anyone else to engage with your values unless you do first.

And if you don’t know your own company’s values, you’re not alone. Most EMyth Clients come to us without any idea of what beliefs and principles truly drive their business. A simple way to uncover your defining values is to write your company story.

Your business can become a place where words such as integrity, intention, commitment, vision and excellence can be used as action steps in the process of producing a worthwhile result. How do you give your customers a sense that your business is a special place, created by special people, doing what they do in the best possible way?

Michael-GerberMichael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited

Your company story defines what your business is at its best, what you company stands for, the spirit that sets you apart. For example, one of our company values at EMyth is “Risk uncommonly genuine.” It’s the promise made by our leadership and through every team in our business to be honest, to tell it like we see it—even when it’s hard. We make it in the name of continual innovation as we pursue our mission to provide the most comprehensive, well-orchestrated coaching experience for our clients. And it can be hard, but that commitment is what it takes to be good coaches: It’s what sets us apart. Every member of the EMyth team could describe a moment when they needed to be uncommonly genuine to help move our work forward. 

So, to define your values, start by thinking of your absolute favorite story about your business. Maybe it was a project that went unexpectedly well, or a new product with which you, your team and customers were exceptionally pleased. That’s your story—those moments. Now really consider:

What made that experience exceptional? 

What detail(s) matters to you most in that story? 

Which of the principles that guide you in life show up in that story?  

What was the spirit of that experience that you want your employees to champion?

How did your customer’s experience connect with your values?

What makes this your story is that the end result aligns with what’s most important to you. And if you could recreate that story 50 times over, it would be a real expression of a team that’s engaged with the way you do things on the most foundational level. 

If you have trouble doing this with your own company, start by thinking about a company that you really like. As a customer, what do you experience when you interact with that company? If you had to make a list of what you think their values are based on your experiences with them, what would you write down? Do those values apply to your business? Do you want them to?

Once you have a clear idea of the values you want lived through every system in your business, bring these to your team. Present your company values as: “This is how we do it here when we’re at our absolute best.” Inspire them to become part of the story. Use it to get them excited and to rally support. We promise, not only will you see an increase in team engagement, you’ll also feel a sense of relief and pride over building a culture that reflects how you want to serve your customers.

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Jayne Speich

Written by Jayne Speich

With a background in training, adult education and public policy, Jayne became an EMyth Coach in 2004. She’s passionate about supporting a diverse, community-centered economy through building the capacity of EMyth Coaches to help small businesses take root, grow and thrive.

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