Although typically thought of as a military strategy, leaders in other organizations must also win the hearts and minds of their people. The reality is that if you lose your people’s hearts and minds, then you will have lost their passionate engagement in the organization. They may still show up, but they will not devote their full emotional and physical energy to the job at hand. How do you win hearts and minds?
Speak directly. Like Voice of America, the U.S. government-funded radio broadcasts during the Cold War, you need a direct way of communicating with the organization’s people. Not all messages need to come directly from the top leaders, however mission-critical communications must. Use email or telecommunication to make it more feasible.
Make your message clear. Think about the one or two take-aways you want people to remember. Then plan carefully to ensure that your message is unmistakable. Use plain language, and keep it brief. If people need to take action, make the next steps unambiguous.
Challenge disinformation. You may not encounter an active counterinsurgency, but rumors and misinformation are probably inevitable. Don’t wait for rumors to die out on their own. Address inaccuracies and falsehoods that surface, so that people don’t get distracted or confused.
No platitudes. In the end, hearts and minds are won by what you do, not what you say. Listen. Provide a balance of challenge and support. Share decision-making. Encourage innovation. All of these efforts make a real difference in people’s work lives and build loyalty, engagement and satisfaction.
Don’t rely on charisma. Personal charm is important, but not sufficient. Humility, integrity and honesty are the foundational keys to keeping people on board for the long haul.
You may not be waging a war, but you do need to attend to the hearts and minds of the organization’s people. The payoff? Folks who not only are dedicated to their work, they also have enthusiasm and zeal for the work that is unmatched by your competition. That’s a battle well worth winning.
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