Management trends come and go like fashion. But coach employees how their work matters, and watch results climb. Management consultant Katerin Le Folcalvez shares the secrets of a successful enterprise in the first of the three-part series.

When Tony Hsieh joined Zappos as CEO in 1999, the company was a bit player in online retail. But instead of simply focusing on boosting sales, Hsieh worked on the company’s culture. He wanted customer service to be everyone’s job. He wanted to find business applications for the lessons learned by academics who had studied happiness. He wanted to spur employees to grow personally. The results: Zappos landed on Fortune’s list of the best companies to work for, and was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion.

What Hsieh tapped into, which he talks about in his book, Delivering Happiness, is one of the secrets to successful enterprises: The best companies get the best from their people by showing them why their work matters. Here are two ways they do that:

Don’t push for results, create a common cause

When leaders strive only for results — getting a new product to market in 10 months, for instance — they become directive. That can get things done. But it’s not the whole solution.

The best companies leverage top performance not with orders, but by creating the conditions where people want to do their best. This requires a mutual commitment between employee and employer. The employer must commit to the employee’s happiness (like in the case of Zappos) and the employee must, in turn, commit to the employer’s strategic goals.

Don’t just manage, coach

Managers are often very good at communicating responsibilities to their people, and at evaluating performance in regular reviews. But the best companies do more than that. They also coach employees.

For those firms, it’s not just about evaluating performance, it’s about making sure each individual employee understands how he or she fits into the whole organization, how what he or she is doing is important to everyone in the firm.

That’s a coaching approach more than a management one. It’s not, “Do this and this and this by these dates, because that is your job.” It’s “This is why everything you’re doing matters to all of us here, and why we hope it matters to you.”

What processes do you use to show your employees that their work matters?

Connect with Katerin and other executives through the Insigniam Executive Forum on LinkedIn.

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