Leaders at all levels, whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, your lack of vision is killing your employees, your team and your company.
“But I do have a vision”, you may say.
The complaint from everyone that they can’t understand your vision is valid and you need to listen. Here is why…
It’s often the communication of the vision not the lack of it
“I just don’t understand the vision”.
When you’re team or employees are muttering these words under their breath, you have a problem. The problem is that they feel directionless or they haven’t bought into a direction.
What does that mean in terms of your business? It means although on the surface things may seem okay you are heading for some challenges in the future.
What is interesting is that in all my encounters through my middle management roles I held I could understand the employee complaints. Being the responsible middle manager, I would bring this feedback to the attention of the leadership and often they had the following responses:
- What the f*ck do they mean? Isn’t it clear!? I know what the vision is
- I don’t know how to make it clearer
- Why can’t they just worry about delivering and doing their jobs
- I don’t really know what the vision is (you’re in real trouble if you hear this one)
- Why is that so important?
The last point of why it’s so important? Well here are some things that will start to happen
Your projects and products may start to fail
You may find that slowly your team(s) will start to flounder in terms of delivering on time, on budget and fit for purpose products and services. There will be a misalignment of priorities between teams and departments. There will be context switching as different managers, team leads and individuals make the calls they feel are right which are often clouded by personal interests. Without a stake in the ground and an overall goal that everyone is aligned to, how do they know where they are heading?
You’ll essentially create inefficiency through lack of alignment and this will often leave you scratching your head as to why it is so slow or hard to do what you deem is simple.
Your team may start to lose motivation
Part of understanding a vision and aligning teams behind that vision is that they can understand how their work is adding to the bigger picture, e.g. you’re a QA tester checking a behaviour and you can understand that the quality of the product is vital to delivering a software product aligned to the vision: “To make a contribution to the world by making tools for the mind that advance humankind.” Steve Job’s Apple had a vision.
If that was your company vision everyone will know to advance humankind with tools, the quality will play a part. Even if it’s a departmental vision of “Provide the best user experience for our products with reliable, user-friendly and effective systems.” It will still align your team to believe in a goal and that a menial task can still align with something bigger than just the individual and mean more than the paycheck. The vision doesn’t need to be a sentence or a statement but whatever it is, make it clear.
Your people may start to leave
Aligned very much to the above, people ultimately want to work for those that inspire. Feeling unmotivated and uninspired often comes from our leaders. If you’ve ever played a team sport and you’ve been down in a game, there is often a leader figure, a captain sometimes or just a teammate who can rally the troops through words of encouragement or an amazing play. When that happens you can turn a game around all out of that one inspiring moment.
If you’ve watched a political leader sometimes, whether or not they are morally right or wrong, it is how they inspire those around them through their vision and how they speak to it.
Great leaders in the political world build visions, inspire by sharing this through speech and propaganda.
Even in business there great examples such as Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey or Elon Musk to name a few, show they have a way of creating and sharing a vision. Funnily enough, these people are often referred to as “Visionaries”.
When you watch and hear these people you do feel inspired. And I know not all business leaders necessarily are amazing speakers that can inspire through speech but it is clear that a good leader will always have a vision for people to follow.
If they cannot feel inspired by you eventually, if they are worth their salt, they will leave to find that inspiration. Of course many will stay, a lot of those people are the kind that won’t help to move your business forward.
So what can you do about it…
Create a Vision
You don’t need to find the most inspiring vision to start with. The key is to start. You can create a vision in many ways. They don’t need to be perfect but they need to be there. Some ideas:
- Create a vision statement – use this to build the right goals and then break it down into areas of focus or portfolios and then what projects or work needs to be addressed to achieve those goals up the chain. Too hard to create a statement? Then…
- Create the right focus areas – skip the vision statement and at least work out which areas you want to focus on. Once you have those break them down. Look at them and PRIORITIZE them in terms of business value and importance so that your teams know what they should do. Not sure where to focus or start? Then…
- Talk to your team – if you can’t formulate the vision on your own… DON’T DO IT ON YOUR OWN. The more you can share this with your team the more they will buy into helping solve what is important. Your leadership teams should know what is important collectively and if not this is the chance to get everyone on the same page
Once you’ve got this what next…
Communicate the vision properly and consistently
Stop doing and take some time to lead. Not enough leaders invest time in leading their team and building a vision.
Take the time to plan out where you are going and how you want to share that with your people.
The key is trying to understand where you are now and where you want to get to. Once you do that you should know what is missing and what your focus needs to be in terms of projects or work or tasks to get there.
Then publish it to everyone. Hold a long forum or meeting, publicise the material electronically and discuss it with people. Do all of the above not just one. Show that this vision and the plan to get there is important. Once you have this shared to all, there is no confusion or conjecture about where you are heading. Sure there could be in some of the details but overall you should be able to go back and measure your progress against this plan.
And what if it isn’t right the first time? Do it again, do it regularly. Some people call it long term planning, yearly planning or roadmap planning. Call it whatever you want. Just do it.
People want to be led
So lead them. Give them the Vision to follow. Don’t let it get out of control because you didn’t spend the time to communicate what is in your head. And if nothing is in your head then spend time getting a vision in there. The success of your company depends on it.