Let’s be honest, this year, 2020, has been a rough year. I know many employees and employers have been anxious about all the changes and challenges that they’ve faced this year. There is a sense of insecurity and fear for many, and this reminds me of a time in 2004 when the business that I was in hit a downturn.


Unfortunately, we had a business unit that wasn’t doing well, which meant we were faced with some hard decisions. We had to move forward without that business unit.  It was tough, and I know that there are other businesses struggling with this same issue as they head into 2021 and your company may be one of them. It isn’t easy, I know.


After we made the decision to shut it down, the challenge was that no matter how great our culture was, no matter how great the interaction we had with our employees, there was a real sense of loss and also of trust.  On a side note, one silver lining that came from this difficult decision was that a couple of people wanted to try to do the work of this business unit on their own, and we said, “Go for it!” and they became instant entrepreneurs.


As we moved forward — despite me reassuring our employees that this was the only change — there was still an immense amount of anxiety and insecurity.  We had a difficult time rebuilding trust.


I had to sit back and ask myself, “How are we going to rebuild this trust?”


First, I set a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious goal) and a vision.  At that time, we had this really hot technology called Altiris. I decided to focus on Altiris and to focus on growing our business outside of Michigan.


Second, we had an all-hands meeting. I said, “Here’s our BHAG we are going for, and here is the vision for how we are going to achieve it.” We also had just landed the state of Indiana as a client, and we were positioned to grow.


Third, at our meeting I explained the theme we were going to follow.  Our theme was based after Jim Collins’s book Good to Great, a must-read book.  His book asks the question, “Who do we want on the bus?” We asked ourselves:  Does this person have the right core values, the right attitudes, and the right performance? Then, we had to ask the second question Jim Collins proposed: What seats are available on the bus? We had to juxtapose these two questions. Just because it’s right to have someone on the bus, doesn’t mean we have a seat for that person.


At this team meeting we knew we had the right people on the bus, and we had them in the right seats. To illustrate this, I told them, “There’s a bus waiting outside. Everyone who buys into this concept, I want you to get on the bus.” It was my Braveheart moment. I walked out the back door and slowly people started following me. Then, the line moved faster as people realized there really was a bus outside and started to eagerly hop on the bus. On our way to a company lunch, I got on the bus microphone, and I explained why every person was on the bus. I explained what role the person had and what role that person was going to have. The distrust and anxiety began melting away, and there was a significant uptick in the culture after that moment. Years later, people still talked about the day we got on that bus.


The vision that I shared inspired the people on that bus, and they became incredibly productive. They achieved their goal for that quarter and many quarters after that. It was great!


Now you may ask, “Who cares about what you did 16 years ago? Who cares about your Braveheart moment?”

I hope you realize we can’t have Braveheart moments every quarter, but every quarter we can set goals and have an all-hands meeting. We need to share the vision for each quarter and how it relates to the BHAG. We all need to be marching in one direction.


As we wrap up 2020, get out there and announce your BHAG and your vision every quarter. Follow these three principles.


First, set a BHAG and a vision.


Second, have an all-hands meeting to share your BHAG and vision. This cannot be merely an email you send out to everyone.  You need to set up a well-organized and well-planned meeting. We want to see and hear people, and it’s easier to communicate that way.


Third, use a theme — like having the right people on the bus — to spark buy-in from employees.  Themes are critical for the success of the meeting. When everyone on the team — or on the bus — is committed to the vision, productivity goes up, and that’s when great things start to happen.


Written by: Wade Wyant

Red Wagon Advisors, West Michigan Scaling Up Coach