Opportunities Abound When You Capture the Hearts and Minds of Employees

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“When this place gets its head around what it takes to win, it’s an amazing thing that happens. Workers are thinking: ‘I've got to do my job better so I can help the company sell more airplanes.’ That’s the mindset we’re trying to create around this place.”

So said Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in an interview with Steve Wilhelm in the Puget Sound Business Journal (May 12, 2016). According to the article, “Inside Boeing's Plan to Tap Workers' Competitive Drive to Fight Off Airbus,” today’s 21st century marketplace competitive environment has left Boeing little choice but to divulge vital company information to all of its employees (and suppliers) if it wants them to fully engage in the business and the cost-cutting measures they must take if they are to remain a viable industry player.

“We never talked like this to our teams,” explained Conner. “We have changed and we are changing. The competitive mindset you have to have is really critical. You have to share things you wouldn’t have shared before, bring the reality of the marketplace you were afraid to do, reluctant to do. These are not the kinds of conversations that we’ve had with work force all the way to factory floor. We’re bringing the whole game to them so they can understand exactly how they fit into the entire system.”

What do they hope to accomplish by doing this? It’s an ongoing conversation I’ve had with a number of Fortune 500 executives. Being more open with their employees is an exciting turning point, bringing the hearts and minds of everyone working for a company into the fold. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, the reaction from their workforce, and the success that they have once they start sharing information with their teams.

People spend a lot of time and give a lot of themselves to their job, so they want to win but they also want to feel like they’re part of something special, something bigger than themselves. As leaders, we owe it to our teams to share the facts and let them know where the company stands – even when it’s not great news.

Knowing the truth empowers them to make the right decisions and to be part of the solution. If they don’t know the truth, how can they add value and provide the valuable insights you need to be successful? If we’re not honest with them, how can we ask for their hearts and minds and expect more than their hands from them?

This type of openness and transparency – sharing the business situation with everyone, whatever it might be – enables everyone to understand what’s going on and how they fit into the big picture, making their role and responsibilities more clear.

It creates a situation of empowerment, of being able to contribute to the success of the organization. I’ve seen it play out time and again in the business world. People really engage when they see the big picture and they’ll use whatever information you share with them to really help and be more successful.

Unfortunately, not enough leaders have adopted this way of thinking – primarily out of fear that the wrong people will use company information to hurt instead of help. That the leeches and loafers will use it for their own agenda. It’s not an unfounded fear; we’ve all seen situations where leaked information has been used against an organization. Where someone has gone to the press or online and used certain information to expose perceived weaknesses or offered up bad numbers as evidence of failure.

But in single-mindedly trying to protect the organization, you’re also missing the opportunity for the greater success that will come when all of your employees are on board; when they’re coming to work not just with their hands, but with their hearts and minds too.