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Crafting a Leadership Message

October 27, 2011
Related Topics: Strategy and Management

In my short stint writing this on-boarding blog, I’ve been told many times — both by sources and co-workers — that leadership in an individual is desired at each level of employment.

So it should be of little surprise that most of the on-boarding books you’ll find out there are directed toward executives — leaders who are stepping into high-profile roles.

I, on the other hand, have not stepped into my editorial role as a leader — or so I thought.

This, at first, made it a challenge to find proper blog fodder for posts each and every week. Seldom did I feel that the published material on executives stepping into new positions applied to me.

But the longer that my personal on-boarding experience as an editor at MediaTec has gone, the more I realize that I — even in my associate role — am looked to as a leader every single day.

What is important for all on-boarders — and, as a result, leaders — is making sure to craft your leadership vision, or message, early on at an organization. By failing in this regard, new hires are passing up an opportunity to create an identity as an important team member in an organization.

New employees can create this message in a number of ways. They can verbally express it, show it through their work ethic or through the quality of the work they produce. In any event, it’s important that new hires be upfront and clear on what goals and visions they have for their work at an organization.

I bring this idea of crafting a leadership message up for one main reason. Being the sports junkie that I am, it’s incredibly difficult for me not to notice the parallels between the sports world and on-boarding.

Earlier this week, news became official that Theo Epstein, a 37-year-old Yale graduate and former general manager for the Boston Red Sox, was named president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs.

For longtime Cubs fans (myself included), Epstein is viewed as the savior — with a penchant for statistical analysis with the Red Sox, he was able to break the team’s 86-year “curse” and help them win a World Series in 2004. The Red Sox won the World Series again in 2007.

The Cubs, a team that hasn't won the World Series since 1908, are hoping Epstein’s guidance can help them do the same.

At his introductory news conference Tuesday, Epstein was clear in his leadership message: The Cubs were going to produce a winning franchise by building the team through young players and a stout farm system. They would not rely on short-term solutions instead of taking into account the long-term goals of the organization.

This was important for key stakeholders in the Cubs organization — and for the fans — to hear.

It was important that Epstein, with the heat of the local media on him, made his vision and message clear. It’s been reported that he also spent his first couple days in town meeting with other key stakeholders in the Cubs’ front office to communicate his message.

Now, I realize that not every hire will be accompanied by a press conference, where reporters are demanding clear answers to the direction your employment will take.

Herein lies an important on-boarding message nonetheless. As we are all aware, many on-boarding programs are loaded with routine and orientation, often leaving little room for the individual to show what he/she, as the new hire, can contribute to the on-boarding process.

Even at middle and lower levels of an organization, employees should be invited to share what their visions and contributions could be. This shouldn't just be left for executives or high potentials.

In the end, allowing on-boarders to present and craft a leadership message early on will give them something to work toward; will keep them more engaged; and will make the on-boarding process much more collaborative and productive in the long term.

As for how Theo’s message is put to action with the Cubs, we’ll have to wait and see.

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