One key concept in The Alliance is “mission alignment”: managers and employees ought to define a mission objective that aligns the employee career goals and values with the company’s. A far cry from the “company man” era, where a notion of an employee’s individuality and autonomy was nonexistent.
In an interview with Chris and me at Inc.com, we explore some of the practical things managers can do to create the space for honest conversation about what your employees really care about. Here are are two excerpts:
2. Forget the notion that you and your employees must have 100% long-term alignment. “The key,” says Casnocha, “is to have sufficient alignment to get this particular tour of duty to work out.”
The phrase “tour of duty” is a term the authors borrow from the military and use throughoutThe Alliance. “The metaphor conveys the key concept that both military and business tours of duty have in common,” they write. “Focus on accomplishing a specific, finite mission.”
What might that mission be? For employees, it could be developing skills or gaining connections that help them transition to a different industry or job type. As a leader, it’s in your power to help your employees with their missions. Think about how much more motivated your employees would be, if they knew you actually wanted to help them make a career transition–even though the transition would mean that they’ll be leaving your company one day.
4. Depersonalize the key questions. Yeh suggests approaching your employees by saying something like this: “It’s my job to help you overcome bottlenecks and all the things that are in your way. What things are preventing you from accomplshing your mission, and how can I solve them?”
Phrasing the question this way enables you to emphasize the mission, rather than the employee himself. It allows the employee to describe what’s wrong with his job, without feeling like he’s critiquing his own performance or ability to adapt to challenging circumstances.
Casnocha says he learned a great conversational tactic from Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University. The idea is another form of depersonalizing questions: Ask an employee what “most people” think of a certain situation. Usually, the employee will tell you what most people think. But in doing so, she will also provide a glimpse of her own personal feelings. Specifically, Casnocha suggests these conversational cues:
- How is everyone feeling about what’s going on in the office?
- What do you think people are frustrated about here at work?
These questions allow you, as a leader, to follow up on whatever topics arise. But you can do so delicately, without pouncing on the employee who–even in sharing what “most people” think–has just displayed a great deal of vulnerability.