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Oct 4, 2011

An antidote for the uncomfortably numb

Line of sight especially critical in uncertain times

By Claudine Kapel 

The omnipresent news about economic upheaval can leave even the most stalwart of employees feeling more than a little uncertain about the future.

The onslaught of gloomy financial news, be it global, national or local, can leave people overwhelmed by the seeming enormity of the challenges. For example, a recent column in the Globe and Mail warned that, for now, nasty is the new normal for stock markets. And unlike the Pink Floyd song, all this turbulence can leave people feeling “uncomfortably numb.”

So how can organizations sustain performance and productivity in the face of market uncertainty?

The key is to build and reinforce line of sight. To deliver their best, employees need to understand how their jobs connect to the broader objectives of the team and the organization. This creates a critical link that can help employees stay focused on what matters most to the business and its customers.

Think about the employees in your organization. How well do they understand:

  • What is expected of them?
  • How they contribute to the success of their team or their unit?
  • How they help shape the customer experience?
  • How they influence the achievement of organizational objectives, either directly or indirectly?
  • How they make a difference?

When employees understand these vital connection points, they have better context for what they do and why it matters. Line of sight is empowering because it ensures employees are not operating in a vacuum. It fosters clarity around how the business operates and how decisions are made.

As a result, line of sight creates the foundation for better performance. It helps ensure employees understand work priorities and why they’re important. That leads to more focused effort and better use of time and resources.

Line of sight can promote higher levels of collaboration and team and more effective problem solving. When employees understand how the dots currently connect, they can more readily identify who needs to be engaged to resolve a challenge or bring about a process improvement.

Line of sight also fosters higher levels of trust. Greater openness and less secrecy supports better employee engagement. By enabling employees to connect the dots, organizations can more readily engage employees in creating solutions to business challenges.

Employees appreciate being treated like adults – and like important stakeholders in the business. They are more likely to deliver their best – and stay focused and committed during turbulent times – when they feel valued and respected by their employer.

Because when people recognize they can at least influence the well-being of their corner of the world, numbness ceases to be an option.

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit

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