Employee engagement seems to aim at mediocrity while employee activism aims at distinction. Employee activists are problem solvers and collaborators. Employee activists raise their voices to be heard inside and outside an organization. Backing up their voice is talent and results.
This is the premise started earlier as we explore the Weber Shandwick report “Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism.”
Activists: What’s on Our Minds?
When you hear “activist,” what comes to mind?
Whatever words come to mind, some may be positive and others not so much. We will have a perception of what an activist is. We need to at least identify our bias so we know where to open our mind to understanding what an activist can really mean.
And then there is the type of activist.
- Civil Rights.
- Poverty Elimination.
Many areas engage activists. As we think through each, we identify names of people who have been or are activists. The spark moment is we realize activists have much more than passion. Activists have focus.
Organizational Terminology: A Sidebar
Let me just state upfront – I do not like the words employee, workplace, or workforce. Each sounds so industrial and we have evolved beyond these terms in our organizational thinking. For me, citizens and community work better. We are citizens of organizational community, which means we carry a responsibility along with the freedom we have.
I will save these new terms for a later conversation, but we need to shift our thinking and actions much more, and this is one of the reasons why embracing an activist mentality in our organizations becomes even more important.
Employee Activists: 5 Actions for Effectiveness
Employee activists are core to any successful business and organization. We will continue the activist conversation here.
If Millennials and other generations are becoming activists within their organizations, then there is a certain responsibility to embrace. Activism in voice only becomes hollow. Activism with results creates lasting change.
As an employee activist, we need to take time to define our focus along with what we want to achieve for ourselves and our stakeholders. In thinking about what will make an effective employee activist, five key actions come to the forefront.
First Action: Define beliefs and philosophy.
Activists know what they stand for and how they will lead in their actions. This can be no different for employee activists.
Knowing what you believe to your core will guide many actions. Your beliefs should align to the organizations you join. Your beliefs should be your guideposts in good and challenging times.
Understanding your philosophy sets the theory and attitude of how you will lead. Theories are tested by actions and then evolve as we learn from our experiences. Our attitude is really our mindset in how we solve problems, collaborate with others, and approach the work we need to do.
Effective employee activists know what they believe and how they will lead.
Second Action: Know Your Stuff.
Good activists know their stuff. They understand the research and can communicate it succinctly and effectively. More than being armed with passion, activists are prepared with relevant data and practical knowledge about the issues and challenges at hand.
Effective employee activists need to know their stuff. Read. Absorb. Learn. And then build meaningful actions to leverage and use the data in a results-driven way.
Third Action: Balance Selfless with Selfish.
Activists can be accused of being selfish, of being a single issue individual. Everyone has an ego, and activists may have a healthier one. However, the existing ego is balanced with the larger mission. The mission or purpose holds the ego in check and keeps activists collaborating to make progress.
Employee activists need to embrace the larger mission while keeping their individual conviction grounded. A great way to do this is in the first action – know your beliefs and philosophy.
Effective employee activists are centered in the greater purpose, keeping all relevant stakeholders at the core of progress.
Fourth Action: Build Coalitions.
No activist succeeds alone. Activists use their beliefs to navigate turbulence. Activists keep their egos in check while being competent in the initiative being pursued. Without collaborative coalitions, nothing moves forward.
Employee activists build and activate coalitions. Using the information learned to excite others about what is needed will be essential. Having a vision of what a different reality means is critical. Each of these activities move potential participants to Champion Collaborators, a term I use in Activate Leadership to define the right combination of being active and engaged in a project.
Building a coalition of Champion Collaborators empowers real change, much broader and sustainable than anything that can be done alone.
Fifth Action: Keep Reactions in Check.
Activists are good listeners. Although very passionate, they respond rather than react. Emotionally filled facts and an engaging, learning attitude accomplishes so much more than a dour mood or quick snipes.
Effective employee activists take the high road. Aligned with the higher purpose and centered in being mindful of their own temperature keeps conversations moving forward in a productive way.
Effective employee activists rise above tense conversations and observe the reactions of others while sensing their own. Keeping their own in check and being proactive in responding keeps the focus on the right elements of progress.
The Activist Journey
Thank you for joining me in this exploration of activism and what it means for teams, leaders, and cultures. If my thoughts seem incomplete, know that I am learning along the way. My desire is to explore what an activism change means and gain your insights along the way.
I believe this mentality shift from engagement to activism raises the bar in working with others to achieve profitable and purposeful things. Employee activism is an essential element to make this shift real and meaningful.
Employee activists will create real change. To do this, a certain responsibility exists. For substantive change to happen, employee activists need to be effective. Without effective employee activists, we will remain or return to mediocrity. Our wellbeing cannot afford this.
What actions do you believe effective employee activists need to take? Join in the conversation!