The power of line of sight

A new Korn Ferry report shows how leaders can transform the employee experience by establishing a clear view for stronger performance.

A janitor in NASA once described his job to a reporter as “helping put a man on the moon.” A seamstress at a motorcycle apparel company, in a conversation with Korn Ferry, said she’s stitching suits that “keep people safe.”

These interviews happened on two separate occasions, but that have one important thing in common: a clear line of sight.

“Line of sight” is how an employee sees how their individual role fits into the bigger picture—the thread that links people, teams, and organizations. When employees have a clear line of sight, much like the janitor and the seamstress, they understand their company’s purpose and how their work contributes to business goals. In turn, employee engagement increases, leading to stronger performance and better organizational outcomes.

In today’s disruptive environment, experts say, the most successful organizations will be the ones with a clear line of sight among employees. “Line of sight inspires both leaders and employees to take initiative and use their talents to meet company objectives,” says Guangrong Dai, Senior Director of Research at the Korn Ferry Institute, Korn Ferry’s research arm. “But for organizations to establish a strong line of sight, they first need to convey a compelling purpose.”

As Korn Ferry research shows, a strong sense of purpose helps people see their work in a different light—to make sense of their role and how it relates to the greater mission. When their leaders communicate a clear purpose and vision, this role then becomes less of a job to make ends meet and more of a vocation in service of a higher purpose, Dai says. “Their job becomes more meaningful, which keeps them engaged and committed to the work,” he adds.

Establishing a strong line of sight can change how people approach and connect to their work. In its new report, The Power of Line of Sight, the Korn Ferry Institute, in collaboration with the HEC Paris Purpose Center, reveals how leaders and their organizations can activate this line of sight to transform the employee experience. The paper, which analyzes data from Korn Ferry’s Leadership Style and Climate survey, finds that line of sight is strongest in teams where leaders clearly communicate an overarching purpose. But when that communication is weak, the analysis shows, so too is the team’s line of sight.

Leaders, in other words, play an important role in shaping the meaning of work. And in this post-pandemic world, experts say, a strong line of sight is critical to an organization’s success. “Clarifying and mentioning line of sight is a powerful leadership practice to activate purpose,” says Jean-Marc Laouchez, President of the Korn Ferry Institute. “It is the hidden link between good, yet conceptual intent and actual motivation, action, and outcome.”


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