This week I spoke to a group of leaders in the consulting industry on Engaging Followers; a fascinating subject given that the world has been turned upside down when it comes to who’s really leading and who is following.
In our reputation-driven economy, research like the Edelman Trust Barometer tells us regular employees and “people like us” have a huge amount of credibility when communicating with the outside world about your business or organisation. That credibility exceeds that of the CEO.
If you’re a leader, it’s always been important to engage your followers. A highly engaged workforce means greater employee buy-in to decisions, lower rates of absenteeism and staff turnover and a huge array of other benefits.
It’s now critical because your staff are your most important reputation ambassadors. What your staff say to their mates at footy training or at the school canteen packs a mighty punch in terms of your business reputation. Their comments can easily undermine slick marketing campaigns and other communication from the corporate level of your organisation, simply because they are highly relatable and believable.
Stand-out leaders know engaging their teams is not a nice-to-have; it’s crucial for business survival.
Engaging your followers starts with trust – and research shows trust in authority is on the decline.
Having a fancy title or your name on an office door does not guarantee trust from your team. Relying on authority or technical expertise isn’t enough to get people on board. There also needs to be a focus on building meaningful relationships where staff feel valued, listened to and safe - even if they make minor mistakes.
You might have experienced a culture where there was a lack of trust. I certainly have and it wasn’t a nice place to be. On the other hand, some organisations are able to create strong and trusting relationships between the various levels of the business. You can feel the difference as soon as you set foot in their door.
Those organisations are likely to have highly engaged teams; employees who can’t help but say positive things about the business when they’re away from work.
Whether the organisation has done it strategically or not, they’ve unleashed the power of their greatest reputation weapon – their staff.
We can all learn from that and do the same.