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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?