Developing Capable People – Fatal Flaw #3 – Carbon Copies


carboncopyThe line just under the title in the banner at the top of this page reads “Extend Your Reach, Multiply Your Effectiveness, Divide Your Work.” The objective of developing capable people is to expand your influence, get more done, and do less of the grunt work yourself.

It would seem to logically follow that the way to do this would be to raise up a cadre of others who are clones of yourself. After all, the logic would propose, if I can get this much done, lots more people like me can get lots more done.

But that is not the best use of your time and certainly not the best use of your effort nor in the end will it work very well. The reason you need to extend your reach is because there are people and opportunities that you cannot reach. And you cannot reach them because of who you are and how you do things.

Now, before you start to object, let me explain. We all have a set of unique gifts and an individual personality. Time and its experiences have honed the gifts and shaped the personality. We are therefore capable of doing some things very well and not doing others very well at all. We are amiable to some people and not so much to others. We attract some and repel others. Therefore, we need other people to complement us, to get where we cannot.

We are limited not only by time and energy. We are limited by gifts and personality even though our personal gifts may be many. Others can do for us what, in essence, we really cannot do for ourselves. That same principle, when we understand it and do something about it, will enable us to expand our effectiveness because we present a more complete set of gifts and capabilities.

But many leaders are uncomfortable working for very long or very loosely with people who are different than themselves.  We like to associate with others who are similar. We gravitate toward people who have the same type of interests, the same preferences, and the same temperament.

This proves my point. To try to multiply yourself through others who are just like you will only multiply the inefficiencies and the inadequacies. It will not compensate for them.

But there is another point. All leaders are terminal. No one will outlive themselves. Your tenure in your position (indeed, in life, too) is finite. You have a unique capability at this point in time that can serve your company or organization well.  But change is needed.

As gifted and capable as you are, there will come a time when someone with a different take on things will be needed to move the company or organization to the next level. Admittedly, leaders (especially politicians) have a hard time with this. Once we arrive at a place of power we tend to stay there, even when our effectiveness begins to wane. In the last post I wrote about this.

Those leaders who are most effective at developing capable people never limit themselves to candidates who are essentially clones of themselves…and they never try to make their followers into replicas. Why?

Because carbon copies are always weaker and carbon copies of carbon copies are weaker yet. If you’re in a location where copies are made by machines instead of carbon paper, the same principle applies. Even a photocopy is not quite as good as the original.

Thankfully, in leadership this should not be the intent because we are developing people who can go and do what we cannot (and need not). We are dividing our work because we are handing off responsibilities to others whose gifts and talents can better handle them, thus freeing us to do those things we can uniquely do.


3 types of confidence leaders must measure

confidence catOn the Velocity Channel I watched a reality show about a classic car restoration shop in Canada. In the episode I saw, the owners of the shop had hired an apprentice mechanic. After a few months on the job they considered him worthy of increased responsibilities, so they gave him a project to manage.

As I watched I found the apprentice’s reaction telling. I am reasonably confident he was more than capable of doing the work because the owners of the business have a reputation for high quality work and they are an old and very profitable company. They did not achieve success by being foolish.

The apprentice accepted the project then began the task of examining the vehicle to be restored so as to determine the scope and sequence of the project. For the next several minutes he called in more seasoned and experienced people around the shop, one by one, to look over the project, asking of them a series of questions. Most of the questions were the same ones he asked of the others.

So what was the problem?

Confidence, or more accurately, a lack of it.

It is entirely to be expected given his inexperience and short time with the company. He seemed to be a conscientious person so I am certain his motivation was to fulfill his responsibilities and complete the project on time and on budget. But it was a big jump in responsibility and he needed assurance and reassurance.

I heard the exchange between him and his boss when the boss gave him the project. The producers might have edited some of the conversation out so I cannot be certain I heard all of it. What I did hear seemed reassuring enough. But obviously he was not completely confident.

But there are three types of confidence that leaders must understand.

The first is Self-confidence – that certainty one has of their own abilities, judgment, authority, and standing within the company or organization. Let’s look briefly at each:

Confidence in one’s own abilities – the knowledge of and acceptance of one’s gifts and talents and the level of refinement of them proven by experience. It also implies an acceptance of one’s limitations. For most people, especially younger workers, there may be a large unknown factor here that contributes to a lack of self-confidence. Conversely, one with an inflated self-opinion may be over-confident because of a lack of confrontation with challenges in life.

Confidence in one’s own judgment – job satisfaction and happiness with life choices play into this. It is impossible to keep personal and professional lives entirely separate. We are what we are and what happens outside of work affects how we feel which affects how we perform on the job. If people have made good decisions they are confident of making more. If not, well then, their abilities to pull the trigger on hard choices will be affected. Whether on the job or off, decisions one has made either build self-confidence or erodes it.

Confidence in one’s own authority – This has to do with how well a person has been backed up by superiors when they’ve had to make decisions. The right to make decisions and pursue actions is critical to developing capable people. People need to know…and be confident or…the power that have to do the job. Keeping folks on a limited power budget (limiting their right to make independent decisions) indicates a lack of confidence (this may be perfectly called for. I am NOT suggesting that you give complete autonomy to anyone unless you have complete and utter confidence in them.) I am suggesting that most employees and associates know there are limits. Not knowing can promote a lack of confidence. The unknown, in any realm, almost always provokes fear and fear promotes caution and slows the pace.

Finally there is confidence in one’s standing within the company and relates to authority. In the case I wrote of in the beginning – the apprentice was assigned a complete project – his challenge was to understand the extent and limits of his authority and what he can and cannot do. And he needs to know what the company will do if something goes wrong and how they will reward him if it goes right. If he suspects he is being set up or manipulated, confidence will drain away quickly.

Self-confidence, in the context of the workplace, directly impacts Task-confidence, that certainty one may feel about their ability to complete the job. I am convinced that most employees and associates really do want to be successful and do a good job. Indeed, a study of Millennials here in the US has shown that job satisfaction, the feeling one gets from doing a good job in a position that matches personal values, is as high on the scale of importance as is monies earned. An otherwise confident and self-assured individual may become quite quivery when they are asked to embark in a new and untried area.

Company-confidence is the certainty one has that the company will not surprise them. No one likes surprises. Leaders don’t like them. Employees and associates don’t like them. It is best to be completely frank in the very beginning about expectations and dangers.

So, what about the apprentice and his many questions? Well, his response is clear evidence of a lack of confidence. Since I was not there when the project was given to him and I will assume that the producers edited everything for time and content, I cannot know for sure what was said. What I heard sounded good enough. The boss sounded like he had confidence in the young man. But there is always a need to consider how we communicate and reinforce confidence in our charges. We must be explicit and say precisely and completely how we feel.

Words mean things. Words are absolutely critical. When you are handing of a responsibility to someone, say exactly what you expect, when you expect it, and what you will do or not do.

But implicit expressions are very important too. How you conduct yourself after the hand off, whether you are meddling, inquiring, or pestering them or whether they feel abandoned, or whether they know you are a resource for them communicates how you really feel.

Developing people is your major job. Measuring the confidence levels of others is an oft-employed skill. How do you do that? I’ll tell you on Monday.


Gold all over the floor – the most valuable asset in your company

clerkA typical home improvement store here in the United States is over one hundred thousand square feet in size, cost almost $20 million to build and $5 million to stock. Other big box stores would be similarly equipped and valued.

With shelves fully stocked, all well-managed businesses conduct periodic inventory counts. From the smallest Mom & Pop corner market to a large retail outlet to a manufacturing facility, owners, leaders, and managers all need to know what they have in order to value the business, determine what supplies or products will be needed and when, and curtail shrinkage due to theft or damage.

Yet strangely, few businesses ever formally look at the most valuable asset they possess.  Indeed, every business that employs people almost always over-values material goods and undervalues the people who handle the material goods.

I once directly asked the manager of a big box store what is the most valuable asset in his store. He immediately thought of…and listed… the products that sold at the highest margin and with the highest volume.

It never once occurred to him to consider producers over product.

In every store, every factory, and every organization there is gold all over the floor. The people who work for you are the most valuable assets in your company. Without them, very little if anything happens.

They put a people face on the company. The previous two posts on this blog emphasized that. Customers come where they are treated respectfully, with friendliness, and with courtesy.

They sell…and upsell…product. The philosophy behind self-service stores is that people know what they want and will find it for themselves. But there are many times when a customer needs help and they don’t find it from a smartphone.  McDonald’s Hamburgers is somewhat famous for the ‘Do you want fries with that?” mantra. But upselling is a legitimate component in sales and accounts for huge margins in sales. If I buy a new washing machine at Home Depot, I don’t want to get the product home and discover I don’t have the hoses or fittings to connect it. Upselling is providing a service to the customer by pointing out everything that goes with a product or service.

They solve problems. True enough they create a few as well, but they fix things. It is their creativity, energy, and insight that bring improvement to the store. It is a foolish leader or manager who thinks that he or she can think of everything.

They extend your reach. They work in your stead representing the interests of the company or organization. And they extend your reach, multiply your effectiveness, and divide your work.

Never take them for granted. Never. It is all too easy to do so. We get caught up in reports, processes, and accounting to the extent that we just don’t always remember who makes things happen. So the next time you’re taking inventory, don’t limit it to counting widgets and whatzits. Enlarge your vision to see those who work for you and with you. You don’t merely count them, you count on them entirely.

Valuing your business depends on the worth of every asset and determining that may not be as simple as counting items, but it is imperative nonetheless.


Leadership Challenge #1 – the innocently rude sales clerk


customer serviceRemember the challenge from Monday? Here it is. My response is below.

You are the owner/manager of a retail department store. Your store is busy so high sales volume also means a lot of returns.  One of the new employees is tasked with handling the checkout register and for restocking items as they are returned when checkout traffic permits. The employee has gone through the company’s orientation and training but has been working the floor only for a few weeks.

You are working the floor, walking the many departments to watch for problems, help where needed, and answering questions. You see a customer browsing the rack of trousers in the men’s wear department. The customer has focused in on one garment and has pushed surrounding garments aside so he can look more closely.

The new employee approaches with an arm load of clothes to restock. She approaches the customer looking at trousers and says, “Excuse me.” Then without waiting for a response from the customer, she pushes the trousers he was looking at back together, spreads others apart, inserts the ones she is carrying, and walks off.

You see the customer’s look of surprise. As the employee walks away, the customer turns and leaves too without selecting a garment for purchase or even looking further.

What would you do?

Here’s what I would do?

  1. Try to find the customer before he leaves the store and apologize. Do not justify the employee’s behavior. Do not try to explain. Just apologize and offer a 10% off compensation. This addresses the effects of what happened immediately.
  2. Find the employee and speak with her. Do not wait until next week or even think about trying to address this in a public meeting. Give her the benefit of the doubt. It is unlikely she considered what she did as rude. She was probably just trying to be efficient and conscientious. She does double duty on the floor and at the cashier’s counter so she was likely trying to get through floor duty so she could get back to the counter. Guide the conversation but do not reprove, at least not at this stage. If you take the time to inform and train now, and see her do it again later, you can be sterner then. But now, explain what happened and why the customer felt the way they did. Then explain what should be done when stocking or restocking merchandise.
  3. Review your training and orientation curriculum. Make sure that it covers situations like this. Do not assume that employees will understand. Some will. Most won’t. They aren’t naturally rude or thoughtless, well most aren’t anyway, but they can be blind to the bigger picture. Change whatever might need to be changed. Add whatever might need to be added to address the finer points of customer relations and service on the sales floor.


Leadership Challenge #1 – The Customer Service Fail

customer serviceYou are the owner/manager of a retail department store. Your store is busy so high sales volume also means a lot of returns. One of the new employees is tasked with handling the checkout register and for restocking items as they are returned when checkout traffic permits. The employee has gone through the company’s orientation and training but has been working the floor only for a few weeks.

You are working the floor, walking the many departments to watch for problems, help where needed, and answering questions. You see a customer browsing the rack of trousers in the men’s wear department. The customer has focused in on one garment and has pushed surrounding garments aside so he can look more closely.

The new employee approaches with an arm load of clothes to restock. She approaches the customer looking at trousers and says, “Excuse me.” Then without waiting for a response from the customer, she pushes the trousers he was looking at back together, spreads others apart, inserts the ones she is carrying, and walks off.

You see the customer’s look of surprise. As the employee walks away, the customer turns and leaves too without selecting a garment for purchase or even looking further.

What would you do? And most importantly, Why?

I will answer this on Thursday and I want to hear from you. I’ll select from the answers I receive and post them along with mine. This is NOT a test so there are no right or wrong answers. It is an exercise in leadership training and discussion is the name of the game. Send your answers to me at

9 things your associates and team absolutely need to make the journey towards vision. What Lewis and Clark shows us about effective leadership and the pursuit of vision.

lewis-and-clark-paintingUndaunted Courage is one of the great stories in American history. When Merriweather Lewis and William Clark departed St. Louis in May, 1804 on what was then called the Corps of Discovery Expedition, they actually failed in their stated purpose. Commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson to find “the most direct and practicable water communication across this continent, for the purposes of commerce” their 2 year journey did not find a contiguous water route across the continent.

Nevertheless, their expedition can be regarded as successful because they did find much more and they did extend the sovereignty of the fledgling United States government over the continent. They made the trip to the Pacific Ocean and back, gathered information about the resources included in the Louisiana Purchase, and made notable contributions to science. Their skills as leaders are beyond question and their accomplishments as explorers and emissaries of the President are beyond question.

It is their ability to handle the unknowns of the journey that concern us here. Lewis and Clark were highly competent strategic planners. A close examination of their journals and the testimony of those who accompanied them attest to that. The embarkation into the unknown, to boldly go where no one had gone before, testify of excellence in the entire team, leaders and followers.

The very word “leadership” implies going somewhere, doing something. If vision is the ultimate destination planning is the key to a successful journey. Travelers need the following 9 things.

  1. They need an idea of where they are going and that it makes sense. It must connect in some logical manner with the overall business one is in. A commission from the President helped, but that alone is inadequate. One must connect the dots, to employ a tired phrase from the vocabulary of consultants. The trip must make sense.
  2. They need a reason to make the trip with you, preferably more than one reason. “Because” is not good enough. Neither is “I said so.” This is the first step into buy-in, that intangible bot oh so real element of voluntary cooperation and energetic enthusiasm.
  3. They need to know that the journey is not a trip to fantasy land. Always deal in facts not opinions, in truth not speculation. The unknowns hiding in the future are threatening enough. The assurances found in the familiarity of past patterns and manageable surroundings are sticky. Breaking free of them demands that something desirable and real lay within reach.
  4. They need to know what to expect along the way. Even if you don’t know, they need to feel like you can handle it. Effective leaders never let on they are in the dark or without answers. Their fears will probably be bigger than real life. Fear and anxiety magnifies the unknown and you can bring it down to manageable size.
  5. They need an answer to the question “Are we there yet?” The enthusiasm found in launches of new ventures soon wears off. Celebrate incremental progress. It helps cut the journey into manageable into pieces.
  6. They need sustenance on the journey. Your input here is absolutely critical. Stay connected. Stay communicative. Stay engaged. Stay positive. Stay optimistic and expectant.
  7. They need courage and motivation to continue the trip. See #’s 5 and 6. Weariness sets in. Don’t press too hard or too much. Allow downtime and recreation which “re-creates” the initial feelings of excitement and renews enthusiasm.
  8. They need assurance that the trip is worth the effort. If you’re not sure, if you’re discouraged, and you transmit that to your team, they will be discouraged and uncertain, too. Keep the vision foremost in your thinking.
  9. They need a reasonable expectation that it will be successful. No one likes a lost cause. Participants in suicidal missions are hard to find. Everyone needs to feel significant and that the things to which they give their lives and efforts need to be worthy of their best efforts. If the objective is not, don’t even bother. Give yourself only to things which will make a great deal of significance when you succeed. Don’t ask others to do anything else.
  10. They need to know that you can handle surprises. You do this based on your history with them and, if you’re new, by pulling off wins. If you exaggerate, if you fail early on, the journey will be even more difficult, perhaps even impossible.
  11. They need to know they can meet the milestones set for the itinerary and why they are missed. Don’t be over-optimistic here. Your staff functions in the real world, or at least they should, and so must you. Use your experience to set reasonable and realistic goals remembering that if anything can go wrong, it will.

Lewis and Clark pulled it off. You can too.


5 phases of your role as leader

Illus 1
Illus 1

The expectation that leadership can be a singular role is unrealistic. We wear a lot of hats. We manage, we motivate, we correct, we monitor, we inspire, we facilitate, we coordinate, we focus, we bark, we growl, we whisper, we articulate, we define, and we execute.

A couple of posts ago I wrote about our position of responsibility at the top of the organizational system. Then I wrote about our place out front, the visionary whose outsight provides direction and focus to the energy and the efforts of the team, department, business, organization, or company.

Earlier in this series I’ve written about strategies to implement the vision and the tactics that provide tasks lists and daily objectives for everyone. This is where the majority of our work will take place.

Check out illustration #1 again. Your oversight takes on two dimensions. The inspirational and motivational side of your work depends upon the capacity of those who work with you, your associates and employees, to grasp the purposes of your business or organization. If they had the vantage point you have and the understanding you possess, your job would be simpler and easier.

But they don’t.

And they shouldn’t. Indeed, they can’t.

Your position at the top and out front equips you for your role at the bottom. Yes, you do have the enviable place of prestige and visibility as the “head” of your department, company, or organization. Yes, you do have the visibility that comes from being the point man (of course, I know that you very well might be female but the term point person seems unwieldy so permit me the non-sexist use of the humanitarian “man.” If point person makes this more palatable, then please read it as such.)

But I can tell you from experience that most of your time will spent in the execution of the strategic plans at the tactical level. And therefore much of your roletriangle leader function version 2 as leader may indeed be consumed by managing the people and the things they do, the things they should do, and the things they do that you don’t want them to do. Who would of thought that your climb to the top places you most often at the bottom?

The principle at play here is:

“To get what you EXPECT you must be faithful and diligent to INSPECT.”

How that is done is the subject of much we talk about in leadership circles and the next topic on the horizon here at The Practical Leader. This diagram illustrates where your role works itself out in real life.

Yes, you and those who serve in management do indeed need to control process, contain expenses, and monitor progress. Yes, you do need to engage your top-level people and focus on the producers within your organization. But because your circle of concern is always greater than your circle of ability (what you want to see completed is more than you can do yourself) you must employ others both in the “Let’s hire some people” sense and in the “I’m overwhelmed and need to learn how to delegate better” sense.

The director of one organization I worked for followed his mantra of POTC – Plan, Organize, Train, Control. It worked for him, somewhat at least, but he was highly suspicious of the competence of anyone and everyone he’d hired so he spent most of his time and energy controlling. The work suffered because he simply could not leave anyone alone and it bottlenecked at him who had to assign, monitor, and approve almost everything.

But control is necessary to an extent and only to an extent. If you are a control freak I can predict that your organization will stifle and suffer. I want to add two more letters to the POTC mantra…another C and an F.

POTCC – Plan, Organize, Train, Control, Coordinate and Facilitate.

Effective leaders know very well how to coordinate and facilitate the efforts of those who work with and for them. They know how to light a fire under almost anyone without getting burned (BTW that is the subject of my next book due out later this year).

Those five letters P –O –T –C –F outline the next several posts. Planning is up on Thursday. See you then.

3 leadership lessons I learned on board the USS Midway

USS-Midway-0-San-DiegoIn mid-January of this year my son and I spent the better part of a day touring the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier berthed in San Diego harbor. I’ve been on naval vessels before but none as large as the Midway.

As awe inspiring as the Midway’s war making capabilities were, both Nathaniel and I were particularly interested to learn about the systems for housing the crew and maintaining morale. Accommodations for seamen was Spartan and crowded necessitated by the large number, about 5000, and the crowded confines of the ship.

There were three things that struck me.

First, there were two officers directly in charge of human relations. Those officers’ sole duty was to listen to the crew, answer questions when they could, and be an understanding and reassuring face when they could not. They had to be sensitive enough know when silence was a better response. They spent their days and nights roaming the ship talking to people. There were other officers whose duty it was to make sure the jobs were taken care of. It was their duty to make sure the people were taken care of.

Second, there were chaplains in charge of the spiritual condition of the crew. Their job was not merely a traditional obligation for religious ritual. The long tradition of handling stress in confined duty has proven that people are more than flesh and sinew. There is a spiritual dimension to everyone, even if some are less sensitive to it than others. The chaplain’s role is not conversion but conservation, to preserve the well-being of people whose hard work and difficult circumstances are more than physically draining.

Space is at a premium on board so cabin space is not handed out willy-nilly. The size, location, and amenities of one’s cabin was an indicator of importance and value. Both sets of officers, the morale officers and the chaplains, were granted larger accommodations indicating their significance.

The third thing was procedural. The Captain of the ship had free reign of the ship from bow to stern, above and below. But there was one place he never ventured into without asking permission…and he asked permission of someone below his rank. It was the dining room for the CPO’s, the Chief Petty Officers. Judged by everyone in the know to actually run the Navy, CPO’s had their own dining room into which the Captain never entered without permission. He always waited outside, asked to speak to the ranking chief, and sought permission before entering.

Why do I find this significant? Because more than anything else, this demonstrates a powerful principle – that you never violate the autonomy and sovereignty of people in their appointed role.

When I worked at Lowe’s, the manager of the flooring department showed up in my department, millwork, and began rifling through our file cabinet. With no explanation whatsoever he began removing files. Since I was not in charge, I had no authority to inquire as to what he was doing or to prohibit him from doing it. But it surely did annoy my department manager when she found out.

Why? What he was doing was preparing for a store audit by regional auditors, something that had to be done every year. I checked around and in every department where he went in and rifled the cabinets he was met with the same antagonistic response by the managers of those other departments.

What should have been done? After all, the store manager did have to make sure the store was ready for the audit. Sending a guy in to remove outdated files of dead sales was an efficient way to handle the job.

But it was highly ineffective. And it damaged his standing with the many other managers inside the building. What he should have done was get on the phone and call each one (there are only 5), inform them of the up-coming audit, explain that he was sending a person around to handle the job, and ask for both their assistance and cooperation.

When he did not do that, he proved that he had little respect for the autonomy and sovereignty of those other managers, a stupid mistake. The Captain of the Midway made no such error. He knew the significance of making sure other leaders knew that he knew their role was significant and took the actions necessary to reinforce it.

  • Appreciate the influence morale plays on overall performance. People are not machines.
  • Acknowledge the spiritual dimension of those who work for you, even when they are not religious. It’s part of the set of values that influence how people make decisions.
  • Never violate the autonomy and sovereignty of those you’ve placed in positions of responsibility.

You get 5000 sailors to do their jobs and do them well by paying the price. It is an off-budget expense but it pays unbelievably huge dividends.

NOTE: This article first appeared several weeks ago in The Practical Leader newsletter. If you’re not already a subscriber, it’s sent out free of charge at least twice a month. And, you will receive articles normally never included on this blog. Special content, personally delivered, no charge, what could be better? Simply use the subscription form at the top right of this page and in a few clicks your free subscription will be set up.

Leadership’s happy family – Vision, strategy, & tactics

basic diagramOne non-profit agency operating in Africa opened restaurants as part of its fund-raising strategy. A charitable organization working on the African continent developed a focused vision and successfully imprinted it upon those who worked in the organization both in the US and in Africa. The board and the organization’s director turned their attention to the pursuit of that vision. They developed comprehensive strategies for pursuing the vision and for funding the project.

Part of the fundraising strategy included operating businesses in the country within which they pursued their charitable work. Some of the businesses they opened are restaurants. The restaurants provided jobs for local residents and profits from them funded the administrative costs of the organization. More than one local business advisor suggested that the restaurants would produce higher revenues if they were less family-oriented (this means that “girls” would be hired to shill for drinks). Since the charity had already defined its values as being wholesome and family-focused, the suggestion was never even considered. It simply did not fit in any way so their response was an easy and simple no.

A defined and articulated vision builds the fences within which your company or organization can range.  Once the vision is in place…and not a moment before it is in place…strategies can be devised and tactics can be implemented.

The qualifier is NOT that it works. The qualifier is that it fits within your strategic plan’s criteria and that it should work.

But it might not. Do not allow you and your company or organization to become inextricably wedded to a tactic. They come and go, work then don’t. The vision is the only constant. Everything else is not.

Churches continually struggle with this but companies do too. We as leaders and managers are always in tension between the forms we’ve inherited and their present viability.

That’s why we need a continuously operating EVALUATION LOOP. See the accompanying diagram. This clearly illustrates the major distinction between leadership and management.

Leaders are primarily (but not exclusively) concerned with the overall direction of the nature of their business. Managers are primarily concerned with the implementation of the strategies and tactics. The best managers are also competent leaders in their own right because they know how to keep people enthused about the job and make productive corrections when they aren’t. The more effectively leaders can imprint vision upon their associates and employees, the more efficiently managers can implement strategies and tactics. Why? Because it makes sense.

The logical connection between all three – vision, strategies, and tactics – builds confidence within those you work with because they come to really believe that you know what you’re doing and you know how to make things happen. No one and I mean no one, responds well to confusion or disconnect between what you say and what you do.

So…don’t allow confusion to enter. Marry the vision to the strategy and raise the children (tactics) in a happy harmonious home.

6 secrets to keeping your team working for the same goals.

road closedDoes your right hand know what your left hand is doing and why it is doing it?

In assisting organizations, businesses, and individuals in developing and implementing an effective vision one of my first questions is what is your vision for this company? After hearing their definition, I will ask the department heads, the associates and assistants the same question.

It is seldom the same answer. But it should be. The right hand knows not what the left hand does or why.

This is the inherent problem with vision statements. They tend to arrive from somewhere up the chain, migrate onto a plaque or posters hung on a wall, and fade from memory.

Why am I harping on this?

Because the people who work for you and with you are, for the most part, intelligent, conscientious, ethical people. (I know, I know, there are some low level employees who seem incapable of processing anything so far-sighted as a vision statement, but I’ll address that condition later.) The people you’ve recruited and hired are responsible and you have every right to expect them to honor their sense of responsibility. They deserve to know what the vision of your company is, will better serve the company when tey know it and what it means, and are better served by the company when there is consistency between what you claim to be and what you actually do.

So, processing the IMPLICATIONS of a vision statement is not unrealistic if, and it’s a big if, those implications are defined and explained in real terms.

So here is what I recommend:

  1. Take the vision down off the wall and burn it into the collective and individual consciousness. The vision cannot and must not be a mere corporate or organizational document relegated to the archives. It must be something every person who makes up your organization understands and can connect to real work and life in the company. Repeat it often, apply it always.
  2. The vision must become part of your brand. They don’t call it branding for nothing. The brand, which in cowboy circles in burned into a cow’s hide so anyone and everyone who sees it know whose it is and what it represents. There must not be disconnect between what you say you want to be and what you are. This causes cynicism to displace enthusiasm. The brand becomes confused.
  3. Do not displace the vision with platitudes. It seems that every industry and every organization, even religious ones, develop their own dialect and promote the use of jargon. “Bringing the whole world to the foot of the cross” sounds so noble but is not anything everyone can grab onto. Platitudes and jargon often deliberately keep the relationship between the vision and the activities that make up the day fuzzy and indistinct. As you will learn the next several posts, the vision directly impacts what everyone does and why they do it. Effective leaders are scrupulous about making the connection and making sure everyone understands how this job relates to that statement.
  4. Find ways to regularly determine if everyone on your team is on board with the commitment to vision you’ve made. If not, why not? Do they not understand it? Do they not agree with it? Check out this blog post where I explore this more.
  5. Restate the vision in other than its written form so others can see how comprehensive it is. When a customer found the window coverings specialist at Lowe’s, that specialist was discussing her department with the assistant store manager. The customer complained that his order was complete and installed except for one small part which was still not installed even though it had been 5 weeks since he reported it missing from the original order. “Take care of your customer,” the manager said to the specialist. “Lowes takes care of its customers.” This is incarnating the vision in everyday activity and relationships and it is the primary venue wherein that glorious sounding statement on the poster meets real life.
  6. Celebrate incremental advances toward the vision. This is one of your most powerful tools as a leader. When you connect what an employee or associate does and make the celebratory connection to the overall objective it powerfully displaces cynicism (see #2 above) and replaces it with a sense of success. Everyone wants to be part of a winning team. Keeping score lets everyone know just how well they are doing (another reason I hate 6 month performance appraisals if that 6 month interview is the primary time you talk to your people). Read Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager if you want to see how this is done.

It’s time for your own personal performance appraisal. How well are you doing each of the above 6 jobs? If you thought your job was primarily with numbers and forms, how does knowing these 6 things change your perspective about your work and how does it alter your task list today?