3 Ways to Inspire Others to Follow You

Purdue University Marching Band

Leadership includes encouraging different perspectives, getting everyone marching to the same beat, and measuring success by asking big picture questions.

Today’s post is by Karyn Schoenbart, CEO of the NPD Group and author of MOM.B.A. (CLICK HERE to get your copy).

As a leader, my responsibility is to inspire people to believe in our company’s vision and want to be a part of it. I like to position this in terms of what the vision means for our organization, clients, and employees, because it’s important that people understand how the vision affects them and what they can do to contribute. Frequent and motivating communication is key, but just communicating it isn’t enough. I need to walk the walk.

For example, when we decided to become a more customer-centric organization—offering solutions instead of just data—I wanted to personally demonstrate what this meant. Our strategy involved getting in front of executive-level clients and uncovering their business issues rather than just their research problems. I led by example, visiting over 50 clients worldwide in a three-month period. My team and I took pictures with the clients and documented examples of the new things we were talking about. I encouraged others to do the same, and we shared the case studies and photos on the company Intranet. Before we knew it, everyone was talking more about clients’ business issues and actually getting out of the office to hear from customers.

1. Encourage Different Perspectives

I was once asked: “What role does sharing the rationale for your vision play in getting people on board, and how do you overcome different perspectives based on different experiences and biases?” The first part is easy, but the second part of the question had me perplexed. Why would I want to overcome different perspectives? I explained embracing different perspectives makes for a much richer discussion and better ultimate outcome.

William Wrigley Jr. built a company and a fortune by selling chewing gum in the U.S. and around the world. In 1931, Wrigley was interviewed in the American Magazine and stated he preferred an employee with a backbone who was willing to challenge him and sometimes tell him, “I think you’re wrong.”

“Business is built by men who care,” said Wrigley in the article. “They care enough to disagree, fight it out to a finish, get facts. When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”

2. March to the Same Beat

While different perspectives are essential, it is also critical the leadership team is aligned on the best path forward. An important first step is to establish who the decision-maker is versus who is providing input. I once had a coworker who said to people: “You’re not listening to me.” This was not exactly true. Our colleagues were listening, they just weren’t agreeing.

As a leader, I work to ensure people’s points of view are heard and digested. I paraphrase back what they said, and if I am not able to incorporate their point of view into my thinking, I explain why we are going in a different direction. I spend the extra effort to encourage buy-in so everyone in the room walks out united.

3. Measure Success by Asking Big Picture Questions

There are some things in business, like financial objectives, which can and should be measured. I value client and employee satisfaction surveys and use them as inputs to staffing and planning. These surveys not only help the leadership team, but they also help employees. Having said that, not everything worthwhile can be assessed via a metric or scorecard. A leader must focus on the big picture.

I regularly ask myself: What is our long-term vision for the company? How can I make this a shared vision with my team? What extraordinary things do we want to accomplish to achieve our vision? How can I help motivate people to want to contribute? What changes to our culture do I need to encourage so employees are motivated? How do we all share in the success of the company? So, in addition to quantitative metrics, I rely on the answers to these questions to ensure we are on track. To me, the ultimate measure of success is that our company is healthy and growing and our employees share in our vision, are engaged in pursuit of that vision, and feel ownership for achieving it.

MOMBAKaryn Schoenbart is CEO of the NPD Group, a global provider of information and advisory services. She’s the author of MOM.B.A.: Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next (CLICK HERE to get your copy). To learn more, visit: Adapted with permission of the publisher, Motivational Press, Inc., from MOM.B.A. Essential Business Advice from One Generation to the Next by Karyn Schoenbart with Alexandra Levit. Copyright (c) 2017 by Karyn Schoenbart. All rights reserved.

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Photo: The Purdue All American Marching Band by David Bergin

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