How to help employees proudly wear the letter “A”

by | Nov 7, 2016 | Blog | 0 comments

letter-aImagine you have a trusted cadre of individuals who boost your persuasive powers with employees.

For example, these individuals spread out to take the pulse of their peers, relaying to you what they hear and suggesting ways to respond.

They also get the word out, tailoring your messages to fit the persons they talk to.

Because peers are often considered more trustworthy than those in the C-suite or in a corporate office, those in your cadre are extremely influential. Through their conversations and behavior, they help others think differently and take actions that advance the organization’s goals.

When you count on this cadre, you experience at least a triple win. You, your cadre, and the organization at large— all benefit. Here’s how:

  • By leveraging the skills and exertion of others, you effectively extend your reach at a relatively minimal investment of your time and money.
  • The individuals you rely on — whether they’re agents of change, ambassadors, or advocates (more about this later) — have an opportunity to learn and grow on the job as they practice their influence skills.
  • Employees who are on the receiving end of the listening, informing, and influencing are more receptive to the attention because it’s from peers in the language, mode, and manner that resonates well. And as a result of these brain-friendly techniques, employees are more willing to follow through and take action.

To turn this imaginary situation into reality, you need to decide which type of the letter “A” you want your special cadre to wear – agent of change, ambassador, or advocate – and the specific goals and objective you want to achieve.

Then you need to set your cadre up for success, and make sure you follow through to support them. Otherwise, they’ll dissipate faster than hailstones after a summer storm.

First though, what’s the difference between these three “A’s”? In a nutshell, the primary roles are:

  • Agents of change: Serve as a catalyst to stimulate people to change their behavior.
  • Ambassadors: Represent a function (or organization at large) in delivering persuasive messages.
  • Advocates:    Act as interpreter of the function (or organization) and share key information to influence and advance a cause.

For more about the distinctions between ambassadors and advocates, check out Mike Klein’s LinkedIn post “Advocacy” vs “Ambassadorship”: Hint, There’s a Difference.

Whichever “A” you carefully and conscientiously choose, you still need to provide an appropriate environment, which in my experience is easier said than done.

These five environmental elements are critical in attracting quality agents, ambassadors and advocates, setting them up for success, and sustaining them and their successors over time:

  1. Volunteer: Ask individuals to volunteer. In other words, don’t force anyone to take one of these roles if they don’t want to. It’s okay to suggest they volunteer, especially if you think they can benefit developmental opportunities in the role.  
  1. Clear role: Make sure you define the role, name it accurately and describe it to individuals in advance. They need to know what they will be expected to do and the amount of time it may take. Because individuals will be adding these tasks to their regular job and other commitments, they’ve got to determine if they’re willing to volunteer.
  1. Specified time: Set term limits, such as 12 to 18 months so individuals and their managers will know they have a fixed time for the role, which they may extend (if appropriate). This way, this extra job won’t become a burden. And in this case, planned turnover can keep the role fresh and result in better outcomes.
  1. Support with tools: Provide tools, templates, and other guides appropriate for the letter “A” the individuals are wearing. This reduces the learning curve while also ensuring consistency if execution by all the individuals. Also, make sure you offer up tips and techniques that are applicable for personal development to make their experience worthwhile.
  1. Recognition: Regularly acknowledge your volunteers for their effort and results, including thanking them. Praise is a huge reward for most people, giving them a hit of dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Dopamine sends signals to other nerve cells, which encourages a repeat of the behavior. For more about this, check out Plant seeds of praise to improve performance and Master the 3 R’s: recognize, reinforce and reward.

You want your volunteers to wear their letter “A” proudly as they perform a valuable role for their peers, the organization and you.

How do you shape your organization’s environment for success?


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