Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

How Are You Helping Your Employees To Be Your Organization’s Heroes?

When it comes to movies, TV shows, and novels, it’s usually pretty obvious who the hero of the story is. But what about in your organization’s story? Do you recognize who plays the role of the hero for your organization? That was the focus of my previous piece, which I’m grateful to see received a lot of attention and enthusiasm from the readers of this blog.

As I read the comments and responses to this piece, I began to wonder about something. If we understand that our employees are the heroes of our organization’s story, why then do so many employees feel disengaged at work? Why is there a persisting lack of meaning or purpose connected to the efforts and contributions made by those we lead?

Of course, the easy answer to such a question is to simply cast blame on an aloof or uncaring leadership; of organizations being run simply to cater to the whims and self-interests of those on top at the expense of those on the lower rungs. Certainly, the public revelations made about how Goldman Sachs has devolved from a focus of serving their clients to a more self-serving one would seem to support this.

And yet, a more realistic view of today’s organizations reveals that such leadership and cultural attitudes tend to be more the exception than the norm. When it comes to demonstrating that your employees are the heroes in your organization’s story, the disconnect we’re seeing here stems more from how we communicate that message than our lack of understanding of this concept.

That amid the sea of distractions and increasing demands for their attention, leaders are not ensuring that their message and actions communicate in a meaningful fashion their role as the guide/mentor in their organization’s story who will help their employees overcome the challenges before them in order to achieve their shared goals.

After all, most leaders understand soon after taking on this role that it’s their employees who have the real power of deciding whether their idea remains just that – an idea – or whether it becomes something more because they embrace it and help to transform it into your collective new reality.

With this in mind, here are three questions to help you assess how effective you are in reinforcing the key role your employees play towards your organization’s success:

1. How familiar are you with the challenges your employees will face?
As I described in my piece “Identifying The Real Hero In Your Organization’s Story”, the role guides/mentors play in helping the story’s protagonist succeed in their quest is to use both their understanding of the bigger picture as well as their awareness of how the journey’s challenges will impact the hero to help them arrive at their destination.

While most leaders are rather adept at communicating their strategies or vision to their team, what they tend to overlook or not make more time in their day for is understanding what concerns, doubts and even challenges their employees will face going from where they are to where they’re expected to be.

Granted, some of these will be more an expression of fear than a genuine challenge, but even fear of change is an obstacle that needs to be overcome and something you need to show your employees you will help them to accomplish in order to reach their shared goals.

2. What are you doing to help facilitate this change/execution of your new plans?
Most times, the reason why people roll their eyes when they hear their leaders talking about some new strategy or vision is because often times that’s all it seems to be – talk.

Remember, that regardless of the size or scope of your plans, it’s your employees who will not only end up doing the heavy lifting, but who will also undergo the greatest change as a result of the story you’ve communicated of where you want your organization to go.

As such, it’s critical that – in keeping with your role as the guide/mentor in your organization’s story – you provide your team with the necessary resources and support to fulfill the objectives of your plan.

3. Are you setting the stage for your employees to feel triumphant at the end?
No matter what type of story it is, the ones that are the most uplifting and inspiring are those where we get to see the hero overcoming the obstacles they faced and celebrating how the journey not only made them stronger, but made them who they were meant to be.

Following through in this analogy, it’s equally important that as the leader, you ensure that there are specific milestones or guide posts where you can gather your employees to celebrate their accomplishments. Of course, these celebrations should not simply be about what the organization has gained. Rather, they should also serve as a revelation of how your employees have benefited from their collective efforts.

Certainly, there’s been much written and discussed about how the best leaders are those who celebrate the accomplishments of their team and not just their own personal achievements. When looked through the lens of this story structure, it becomes even more apparent why this gesture is so important and valued by those you’re meant to serve.

In their book “Encouraging the Heart: A Leader’s Guide to Rewarding and Recognizing Others”, James Kouzes and Barry Posner write:

Stories put a human face on success. They put the behavior in a real context and make standards more than statistics.”

In looking at the stories leaders create to communicate not only what they’d like their employees to accomplish, but where they’d like their organization to go, we can also appreciate how the act of creating these stories can serve to remind us about our roles as the heroes and guides/mentors of our organization’s story, and the interdependence we have with one another to ensure a successful outcome from our collective endeavours.

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  1. On April 10th, 2012 at 2:58 PM Lyn Boyer said:

    Tanveer, Thanks for another thought-provoking and well-written article. I went back to read the previous one about identifying the heroes. These are both very important.

    The next step is how to tell the story…how to attach significance to what the heroes do and tell the story in a compelling way that reflects the values and mission of the organization. I believe it is important for leaders to take charge of the stories and tell them in ways that make everyone proud to be part of the group.

  2. On April 10th, 2012 at 4:11 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Hi Lyn,

    I absolutely concur with you. In fact, the subject of how leaders should go about telling the story in a manner that connects and draws meaning to everyone in the organization is the subject of another post I wrote recently, "How To Create The Story Behind Your Organization’s Purpose".

    As I mentioned in that piece, all leaders and their organizations do have a story to tell, one that helps to communicate their shared purpose – of why what they do matters. Understanding the roles leaders and their employees play in that story – and the interdependencies they share – will go a long way to helping that story move from being a nice tale to their shared reality.

    Thanks for the kind words, Lyn. Glad you enjoyed this piece and my previous one that examines the roles we play in our organization's story.

  3. On April 11th, 2012 at 2:39 AM Raymond said:

    I was immediately attracted with the article after I read your title. I think, the most basic and important thing about leading a team or a company is to always maintain a stable, good relationship with your workers. With these, your employees will be more than willing to help you achieve your goals and make your visions turn into reality.

  4. On April 11th, 2012 at 10:02 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Absolutely, Raymond. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  5. On April 12th, 2012 at 10:46 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Excellent post tanveer, especially in light of the fact I just returned from visiting a client – successful numbers wise, but the head of the fish is not exhibiting the leadership skills you advocate. Man I have learned a lot reading your posts. It will be interesting to witness how successful my client will be long-term, then again I am assisting with their marketing: hee, hee…….

  6. On April 12th, 2012 at 1:54 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thank you, my friend, for the kind words.

    For me, one of the greatest things we can do is to help others learn or gain some new insight which serves to improve their lives. It's why I'm always grateful to hear that someone has benefited from the insights I share.

    My thanks again, Jim, for the gracious compliment.

  7. On April 13th, 2012 at 5:34 AM momgrocery said:

    Great article to identify and make use of heroes in our organization with morals and values of the organization to achieve success as well.Thanks for sharing!

  8. On April 14th, 2012 at 1:00 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks; glad you enjoyed it.

  9. On April 15th, 2012 at 7:09 AM Praneet said:

    Great post my friend

    I feel best way to make employees heroes for your organization is to motivate them and understand their feelings

  10. On April 15th, 2012 at 9:58 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Praneet; appreciate it.

  11. On April 22nd, 2012 at 8:16 PM EPearce said:

    Thanks, this was a useful perspective on employees and stories they hear that reinforce (or change) the corporate culture. I used your blog as a jumping off point for a blog on these concepts in the context of mentoring. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Kim Wise & Elizabeth Pearce

  12. On April 22nd, 2012 at 9:37 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Elizabeth; I'm glad you enjoyed this piece and that it inspired you to examine these ideas in the context of mentoring.

  13. On April 23rd, 2012 at 1:11 PM Ammara Wasim said:

    Hi Tanveer!
    Awesome post. Your post is very helpful for any organization’s success. Thanks for sharing.

  14. On April 23rd, 2012 at 2:29 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    My pleasure, Ammara; glad you enjoyed it.

  15. On May 23rd, 2012 at 2:21 PM Claire said:

    Celebrate their accomplishment is a great idea but I hope this is easy to implement. If you do this for every single employee, it would take lots of time and effort keeping track of their accomplishments. Maybe it's better to celebrate their team or department's accomplishment instead.

  16. On May 23rd, 2012 at 3:29 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Actually, Claire, it's not hard at all, provided that the efforts you're expecting your employees to make contribute to your shared purpose. If so, their contributions impact not just those directly around them, but the organization as a whole.

    Remember, that in an organization's story of what their purpose is, it's the employees who are the heroes because it's thanks to their efforts that a leader's vision becomes reality. Not making an effort to celebrate that accomplishment not only diminishes their contribution, but the value and meaning of the vision put forth by the organization's leadership.

  17. On May 24th, 2012 at 12:59 AM Claire said:

    Thanks Tanveer! I was just thinking of companies with so many employees. I guess they have department heads or managers who will handle this. But, I totally agree with you that employees are heroes in an organization and their accomplishments should be celebrated. I am an employee too and just thinking about being a hero motivates me to do more for our company. 🙂

  18. On June 6th, 2012 at 2:46 PM Jamie said:

    Do you have any suggestions for ways employees can feel connected to the messaging of an organization? I'm going to be running an hour and a half Messaging Workshop, based off our newly created Messaging Guide, and was trying to brainstorm ways that the staff can feel connected to the organization's brand/messaging/mission. I thought of creating their own personal brands and seeing how they align with our organizational brand and then having them put their personal spin on our elevator pitch (without changing it too much). Slightly unrelated, but this article got me thinking of the staff connection to the organization. Thoughts? I want something fun and engaging! Any ideas from anyone would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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