As the co-founders of People Spark, we’re leadership junkies. We’re always listening to Ted Talks and podcasts about leadership, and we’ve lost count of how many articles we’ve read and clever quotes we’ve memorized on the topic. Over the last few months, we’ve attended several conferences and heard various speakers share their wisdom about how to be a great leader.
One of our takeaways from all this leadership talk? Buzzwords abound.
Culture. Alignment. Engagement. Words like these come up every time someone mentions leadership. Calling them “buzzwords” doesn’t minimize their importance; they’re repeated because they ARE important. But while experts constantly drop buzzwords, no one says much about how to put buzzwords to work. How do you create alignment? How do you build a strong culture? How do you drive engagement? And more importantly, how do you know if you’re doing it well?
As these questions buzz in our brains, we’re sharing four clear definitions, straightforward strategies, and measurable milestones—all of which you can start using in your business right now.
One quick note about measuring milestones: Simply communicating with your team is NOT a milestone. The key question is, did they understand your intended message? Shifting your thinking from, “Did I share?” to “Do they understand?” is a game-changer for tracking success.
Now, let’s dig in.
Simply put: Everyone at the company and every business function is pulling in the same direction. All work, processes, and behaviors drive toward achieving clear business goals.
How to get there: Communicate clearly and often about big-picture goals AND incremental progress. Explain how an individual’s specific actions and behaviors move the company forward.
How to measure: Ask questions like, “How does your work help achieve the goals of the company?” or “What do you do every day that most impacts the success of our business?” These aren’t trick questions; they’re a foolproof way to gauge if people really understand what you’re telling them.
Simply put: Culture is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a specific group of people. Pay attention to your team’s behaviors—that’s your company culture in action. Does the current culture support the business goals? If not, look out.
How to get there: To change the culture, change the behaviors. Define what’s important to the business (values), then identify the specific behaviors and actions that support those values. Share this information widely, and give regular feedback and recognition to hold the team accountable.
How to measure: Notice the behaviors happening across the company to make sure everyone’s acting with the company’s goals in mind.
Simply put: Engagement = effort. Highly engaged employees are motivated to work hard so the business succeeds.
How to get there: Give leaders the skills to have thoughtful, intentional coaching conversations which boost morale, productivity, and retention across your company.
How to measure: Employees go above and beyond their required responsibilities. Their performance is consistent, and consistently high, because they care about the company—and because they know leaders care about them, too.
Simply put: Servant leadership is about making sure that your team has the knowledge, information, skills, and resources to achieve the business goals.
How to get there: Remember the cardinal rule: It’s not about you, it’s about your team. So, ask, don’t tell. Listen, don’t lecture. Be curious. Request feedback—and be open to hearing it.
How to measure: Reflect on your conversations with your team. Who talks more—you or them? Do you know what they really need to do their job or are you making assumptions? Do employees communicate honestly with (or about) you or other leaders?
We hope that this buzzword breakdown turns tired leadership language into something meaningful—and useable. (On that note, here’s a bit more on the roadmaps we develop so clients can turn business speak into business strategy.) And we’re curious: What leadership jargon do you hear again and again? Which words are useful—and which ones just make you cringe?
Ready to move your company forward with a People- and Strategy Roadmap? Book a free call with us today.