Stop for a second and think about what is popular in the world today. What are the popular restaurants? Experiences? Trends? How are most people moving through the world today?
Consider the fact that we now live in a participatory world.
Years ago, it was Starbucks who taught us that we didn’t just want a cup of coffee, we wanted to share in the creation of our own cup of coffee. Howard Behar, the former President of Starbucks, is a good friend and has been a wonderful mentor to me. His stories about Starbucks taking off are a fascinating study in connecting with people. Starbucks didn’t want you to just order a “coffee.” They wanted you to participate in the process of making the coffee. So you and billions of others now have walked into a Starbucks to tell the barista that you would like a double of this with extra of that.
Think about Chipotle. They practically created the new “fast casual” restaurant market. When you walk into a Chipotle, you participate in the creation of your own meal. You walk down the line and pick your unique combination of the items they have to design your special meal. Did you know that the fast casual restaurant market has now reached more than $21 billion in size? Evidently we like the cost, the freshness and, I would add, our ability to participate in the process.
Forbes estimates Fantasy Football to be a $70 billion market. I’m in a loyal and committed (and the best) Fantasy Football league in the world, and I can tell you that we are not alone in our fascination with picking the players and competing with those around us. We don’t want to just watch the game; we want to participate in the experience.
And, of course, the greatest example in today’s participatory world is social media. According to a 2015 Daze Info study, there are an estimated 2.03 billion active social media users in the world with a high percentage of people spending 2-3 hours daily interacting on social networks. We want to share things, tell what we like, comment, and be part of the discussion. We are a participatory culture.
This is extremely important to remember as you begin to engage with the people in your teams and organizations. They don’t want things handed down from above. They don’t want a memo or email with news about their job. They want to participate.
This is the day we live in, and I would argue that we always have wanted to participate. And whether it’s Tony Hsieh at Zappos, Brian Chesky at Airbnb, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook, Blake Mycoskie with Toms Shoes, or the leadership team at Kiva, they all are collaborating with partners to create a great future together. They actively involve their people in the visioning, dreaming, and the aspiring for their future.
Why is this important beyond your team members desiring a voice in your visioning process? Your people, or the other members on your team, cannot possibly see what’s going on in your head. Everyone on the team lives only within their own heads. It takes work to align the group and get them sharing in the vision they want to design.
This does not mean that everything on your team or in your company needs to be by consensus or discussed by all, but these trends do reveal to us that your people want to participate. They don’t want everything dictated from above or delivered in a cookie-cutter sound bite. Where appropriate, they want to have a voice, a buy-in, ownership in the direction you’re heading. They want to participate in the creation of the culture.
Generationally speaking, Millennials (those 18-34 year-olds in 2015) are now the largest generation in the American workforce, and Millennials want to participate. They want to be aligned with each other and the direction you’re heading.
The best leaders help set the temperature within their team by inviting the team’s participation in the design of their desired culture. You can’t assume anyone gets it or understands what you’ve been thinking about for years. They must participate. It’s more effective when they join the conversation and bring their voice to the aspirations.
Jason V. Barger is a globally celebrated keynote speaker, leadership coach and author of Thermostat Cultures, Step Back from the Baggage Claim and ReMember. He is founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, a Columbus-based company that works with businesses and organizations worldwide. Connect with Jason online at www.JasonVBarger.com, via email at jason@JasonVBarger.com or on social media at @JasonVBarger.
- PS. If you liked this blog post, you may also like these!:
- Assessing Your Talents to Leverage Strengths
- Freaky Fast & Thoughtfully Great (Leadership Lessons From Jimmy John’s)
- Get Creative: Make Like Bamboo and Shoot