Execution, or the ability to meet goals and objectives, is consistently ranked as a top-3 skill that executives require of successful managers. Going through the motions to develop processes – whether that is providing regular updates or analyzing best practices of a system – are all fine and good, but if you can’t actually move the bar, it’s possible your sustainability program (or you) will get canned.
But reaching goals and milestones for a sustainability program that requires company employees to change their own workplace behavior to reach objectives is less about long hours at the office burning the midnight oil tracking data, and more about engaging in employees effectively.
Analysts at Zenger/Folkman, a leadership development consultancy, looked at data gleaned from thousands of performance reviews to determine the top four behaviors that improved manager ability to execute team-based projects.
Be clear and methodical
If you’re a sustainability manager, you need to take a breath and set aside time for strategic planning. If your CEO wants meaningful sustainability results, then defining those results through strategic planning, based on how the sustainability strategy aligns with company goals is likely the best path to effectively execute a sustainability strategy.
Don’t get distracted too early with green teams or waste reduction or the excitement of a budget for a carbon footprint. You likely need to start with a pow-wow with the C-suite on what exactly the company hopes to achieve, strategically, through the sustainability program, then perform a materiality assessment, and then develop an organized strategic plan to connect company strategy with stakeholder materiality.
The result will be a plan with a clear direction, action steps, and measurable goals – backed up by company leaders.
Set stretch goals and deadlines
By framing the activities inside of a clear strategic plan that ties to company success, everyone can see why they are being asked to change. And by setting realistic “stretch goals” and deadlines, employees see opportunity to do something possible, following a clear path.
Goal-setting is a solid motivational strategy, but don’t overdo it and stress employees out.
Give more feedback, especially more positive feedback
When managing people, or motivating them, feedback is crucial. If you want employees, on an individual level, to change their behaviors to help the company achieve its goals, then give individual employee positive feedback.
Tie employee action to positive feedback – and get personal. Thank departments for reaching milestones or goals. Celebrate participation in sustainability focused programs. And, if you are tracking departmental data and see a team not achieving the milestones set forth for, don’t send a memo.
Instead, sit down for a lunch and learn with the team and talk about the progress-to-date and their barriers to participation. Listening and positive feedback can move people to action much more effectively and quickly than emails and memos.
Resolve conflict and build team unity
Pairing individual praise and feedback for individual behavior change is doubly effective when people are also strongly tied together in teams. Successful teams “probably do all or most of the above – work assignments are clear and processes make sense, deadlines are ambitious but fair, and feedback is plentiful – but they also do something more. On these teams, it’s not just the boss motivating team members — the expectations of peer team members are powerful motivators, too.”
Managers that can build team culture around sustainability efforts – so that employees are proud to be a part of the larger organizations in part because of it’s commitment to social and environmental sustainability – will also aid in executing the sustainability strategy.
Contact us to start talking about sustainability strategy and how to go from tracking data to reaching meaningful milestones.