Using The Billboard Effect To Develop and Obtain Employee Buy-In On The Leader’s Vision

by Jeff Wolf

Time to Read: 2 minutes

Warren Bennis, acclaimed scholar, author and advisor to corporation presidents said “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Well expressed, but it’s easier said than done. What’s needed are practical steps to develop a communicable vision coupled with practical steps to achieve employee buy in.

Notice that I emphasized the word practical, because unless the leader’s vision is easy to understand, believable and clearly stated, even the most imaginative vision will become just another page in the employee manual gathering dust.

Let’s first define “billboard effect” and how it translates into developing a workable vision that achieves employee buy-in. A billboard is the visual image of the leader’s vision. In few but meaningful words it paints a picture of what the company and its people stand for and what it wants to achieve. It is future oriented and describes where the company expects to be tomorrow and from there onward.

Next, let’s examine steps in developing the vision, then steps in getting the organization’s people to buy into that vision.

Developing The Vision

  • Highly effective leaders have big ideas. Small ideas are okay, but they’re not transformative. Big ideas help companies and employees face the challenges of tomorrow. This is no better expressed than Robert Kennedy quoting George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were, and say, ‘Why not?’ “Companies with leaders who have the imagination and drive to adopt big ideas are the Apples and Googles and Ubers of tomorrow. Those big ideas are nurtured by leaders who make astute observations of their companies and their industries, and then reflect and decide what visions need to be in place to handle tomorrow’s problems and opportunities.
  • Reflection is the stimulus that leads to big ideas, but leaders know that clear and careful expression of their visions must be committed to writing. The process of writing clarifies visions such that they can be robustly expressed in words that command the organization’s attention.
  • With the visions now distinctly articulated, leaders can construct and post billboards throughout the organization and express their visions during talks with members of the organization. These billboards, reduced to clear maxims, concisely reflect those visions. For example, “Our company will take whatever measures needed to assure that product quality satisfies our customers . . . or we will return their money without question.” That is both clear and unambiguous. And it sets the stage for transformation of the organization to achieve that vision.
  • Leaders should be prepared to tweak, modify, even change vision statements when those visions aren’t producing expected When it comes to visions nothing is set in stone. The mark of a highly effective leader is the willingness to forgo ego and do what is right for the organization. The best of leaders prepare alternate plans.

Buying Into The Vision

  • I would argue that the very first prerequisite for employee buy in is to simply listen to what employees think and say about their jobs and the company’s direction. Keeping an open ear is crucial. And don’t get distracted by their complaints. Remember that engaged employees, those who really care about the company, expose many of the organization’s problems and lost opportunities through complaints. This is a great chance for leaders to make positive changes based on worthwhile employee suggestions.
  • I would become suspicious if employees don’t gripe. That means their voices are being throttled, and that is the absolute worst situation of all.
  • Employees need positive reinforcement. They won’t buy into a faulty vision, one that is not productive. That implies going beyond the stage of encouraging them to speak freely. It means measuring how successful the company’s vision is working. Take the quality example mentioned before. How are employees (or managers for that matter) going to know how successful their efforts are without measureable feedback? That means providing them with yardsticks of performance. It entails, in this example, weekly or monthly reports on rejects, scrap, customer complaints and customer returns, with as much data as possible reflecting individual employee performance.
  • Additionally, to combat what I call “vision tedium,” employees need to know how effective the company has been pursuing its vision long-term. Quarterly and annual postings will tell the tale along with periodic meetings with employee groups.
  • Leaders should put in place a follow-up procedure (possibly an annual review) because employee buy in of vision is not a one-time event. Constant follow-up is required to assure that employees remain engaged, informed and responsive to emerging problems. One of the difficulties of either a mature or growing organization is that leaders stop emphasizing company priorities and changes in priorities. They may delegate vision just as they delegate tasks, but the two are not equal. Vision remains both the prerogative and responsibility of organization leaders.

Now is the time to enhance the leadership skills of the leaders in your organization.

Contact us today for more information about our Leadership Development Program or to have Jeff Wolf coach your leaders and high potential leaders.

If you are having a meeting, conference or convention, bestselling author Jeff Wolf is available to speak about leadership and a variety of topics.

Contact Jeff directly at: jeff@wolfmotivation.com or 858-638-8260

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Seven Disciplines of a Leader Becomes an International Best-Seller

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According to Wiley publisher, Richard Narramore, “This book has the potential to become a standard text on leadership for organizations around the world.”

When Richard made that statement a year ago I never imagined that would happen and last week it did. Seven Disciplines of a Leader became an international best seller hitting the bestseller list in Australia, Canada, UK, Germany and the US.

I’m thankful, honored and humbled by this achievement in my quest to help people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness.

For those of you who bought the book and enhanced your leadership skills – thank you from the bottom of my heart.

For those of you who have not yet read the book and you want to enhance your leadership skills or want to become a leader the book is available on Amazon.

Wolf in the Workplace is read in 136 countries and to all of you, I appreciate your support and we now have a Leadership Development Program based on the book.

I’m also available to speak at your next meeting, conference or convention. Click here to learn more.

For more information, please contact Mike Adams at madams@wolfmotivation.com or call me personally at 858-638-8260.

Thank You for Your Support! – Jeff Wolf, President, Wolf Management Consultants

Five Fundamental Goals of Highly Effective Leaders

By Jeff Wolf

Time to read: 2 minutes

Leadership is a tough job, one that places you in difficult positions, facing vexing dilemmas. Regardless of your level – supervisor, manager, general manager, president or CEO – leadership is challenging.

Let’s examine five fundamental goals:

  1. Bring people together to work as a team. You guide your team, department, or group, and it’s not easy leading a group of diverse people. The workplace today is more diverse than at any time in history:  Each group has its ideas, values, and thoughts regarding what should be done and how to do it. Effective leaders work hard to build strong teams that accomplish great things. People who work together cohesively offer a competitive advantage.
  2. Motivate people to perform. You can’t lead without inspiring people to do great things. They must be willing to take that next step, the one that allows them to reach beyond their perceived capabilities and step out of the proverbial box. Each employee has distinct values and needs, wants and desires. Effective leaders spend coaching people one-on-one to find out what makes them tick, which challenges confront them, and which types of motivation will spur them to perform at a higher level.

    People are motivated in two ways: intrinsically and extrinsically. Extrinsic motivations involves outside factors: money, power or position. Intrinsic motivations comes from within: the desire for pride, a passion for one’s work, and the desire to do a great job.

  3. Take responsibility for bottom-line results. Regardless of your organization’s size or type (public or private), much of your behavior is driven by the bottom line. If you are in a leadership role, you’ve got to work with people to produce and achieve the results necessary to be profitable. Leaders are measured by their results, as are the people who work for them. Every organization has financial goals. If they’re unmet, the consequences may be severe.
  4. Make difficult decisions. It’s your responsibility to hire the right people, terminate the wrong people, and call people on the carpet to take corrective measures. It’s also within your purview to change the direction of your department, team or organization as the landscape changes in your business environment.

    You may also have to decide whether friends or former colleagues are doing their job. You may find yourself in the unenviable position of having to reprimand, issue warnings, and occasionally terminate staff. The people who report to you must be in the right job for their abilities. You may have the right people, but the positions they’re in may not be the correct fit, so you’ll need to make the necessary changes.

  5. Create positive energy. Team and company success depend on having highly motivated individuals who are excited about their work. Of course, no workforce operates in a vacuum. Employees need a strong leader with a positive attitude and enthusiasm. Employees work for people (leaders), not for companies. Conversely, employees don’t leave companies – they leave ineffective leaders. An employee’s relationship with a manager/supervisor largely determines the length of an employee’s stay. The main reason people quit is the manager’s behavior. A quality leader is the key factor in attracting and retaining top talent.

    There is no shortage of good employees today; however, there is a shortage of inspirational leaders and inspiring places to work. Leaders are seldom energy neutral. They either energize their employees, or they act as energy vampires, sapping workers’ motivation and enthusiasm and contributing to low morale.

Wolf Management Consultants is a premier global consulting firm specializing in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. Our expert staff is available to partner with you in key fundamental areas:

  • leadership development
  • executive coaching
  • employee engagement
  • talent assessment, selection & development
  • teambuilding
  • succession planning
  • organizational development
  • change management
  • strategic planning
  • performance management
  • sales training
  • speaker for your meetings & conferences

Contact us today to discuss how we may partner together for your continued success: Mike Adams madams@wolfmotivation.com 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com

The Disciplines of Excellence

Time to read: 2 minutes

Ted, new salesman for a travel accessory company (toiletry kits, carry-on bags, and packing organizers) expanded sales in his region by persuading travel agents to sell his line of products. It was an unusual outlet and so successful that the company included sales pitches to travel agents in all other regions of the company.

Ted did what all successful leaders do: They open their minds and consider new (even outrageous) possibilities that help them succeed on their jobs, whatever those jobs might be. This same thinking applies to every level of the organization but is especially important for organization leaders.

The outrageous part helps them think outside the box. If they’re in sales, they consider unusual outlets for their products or services. If they’re in operations, they consider new avenues for cutting costs. If they’re in customer service, they imagine new ways to satisfy customers. Their receptive approach considers all manner of possibilities.

Although leaders vary in their definitions of excellence, and how best to achieve it, most agree that excellence is a never-ending pursuit and that whatever their challenges and opportunities are today, they’ll change tomorrow. Leaders often face nine challenges:

  1. Communication. Clarity enhances achievement. People respond to leaders who unmistakably communicate organizational objectives and methods to achieve goals. Without this crucial first step, organizations falter; with it, and the steps that follow, they have the opportunity to succeed far beyond what they may have considered possible.
  2. Accountability. Operational and financial measurements and clear lines of responsibility for results are mandatory if the organization is to have the ability to keep on track with its plans. This extends from the very bottom of the organization to the top. Everybody must be held accountable for top notch performance.
  3. Engagement. People who are actively and mentally engaged with their jobs and receive the help and direction they need are convinced that their individual contributions are meaningful and they will extend their efforts to contribute to company success.
  4. Activities connected with the company’s mission and strategy assures that everybody in the organization understands the important yardsticks for company success. Alignment helps employees focus on the most important tasks at hand. Associating each employee’s job with company goals motivates each to reach just a little bit higher.
  5. Direction. Along the same line, direction is what keeps strategy, planning, and execution aligned. Without it disconnects occur, and what at first seemed a clear path becomes muddled.
  6. People feel an inherent desire to “pass the torch” successfully, but often have trouble doing it. Highly effective leaders keep all members (new and old) of the organization in touch.
  7. Measurement and control. Without management guidance events can “feel” out of sync. The elements of control, both operational and financial, assure that the organization has the ability to quickly identify departures from plan and take lasting corrective actions. A plan without measurement and control is no plan at all.
  8. Frustration. Great leaders have the ability to sniff out problems before they get out of hand. Part of that comes from measurement and control; but that leaves out the adverse reaction employees experience when they do not have the means to handle their own work. Inadequate instructions are a leading cause as is the inability of managers to clear roadblocks for the people working for them.
  9. Risk Management. There’s a need, often unaddressed, for determining profit variability versus the projected growth rate. In most organizations, 80 percent of the problems (costs and headaches) are associated with 20 percent of the products and services offered. Left unattended, that 20 percent can severely restrict company growth.

An excellence program is an organized approach to grow the ability of leaders to deal with an ever-changing and challenging environment. The program needs to grow with the business and enable leaders and their employees to align plans and activities to support the strategies and achieve stated goals. An excellence program will address the nine issues mentioned above.

Excellence means this: Innovate, measure, learn.

Innovate purposefully. Innovation is problem-solving, and everyone has the ability to solve problems. This discipline provides principles and measurement tools that are used to help leaders set clear goals and align daily activities to meet them. These goals should align with company priorities. Then employees will be able to use their innate creativity to meet or exceed goals.

Learning. First, step back and gain perspective on the factors that affect performance. It is achieved through a series of discovery exercises, exploring externals (competitors, industry, economics) and internals such as goal performance, stakeholder feedback, corrective measures, SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).

Measure and learn means: 1) deriving a repeatable methodology to drive leadership, 2) assigning external coaching for accountability, 3) providing a system to align the activities of team members, and 4) establishing a community of like-minded people to accelerate learning. When these elements come together, leaders will see enduring change.

Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness. A dynamic speaker and highly requested executive coach, he was named one of the country’s top 100 thought leaders by the prestigious Leadership Excellence Magazine.

Take A Summer Vacation This Year

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by Jeff Wolf

How many times have you heard your boss tell you that? In fact, how many times have you told your employees that?

Come on, fess up. Either case is as rare as a drenching rain in the Sahara. Let’s face it. Too many bosses discourage employees from taking more than a day off or a weekend here and there. And even then they don’t discourage a barrage of phone calls from work and many will expect employees to check their email several times a day. A two-week getaway to the Far East? Not a chance.

Every year, the media reports on surveys showing that large chunks of U.S. workers don’t plan on taking all their vacation time. Why does this happen, when it’s part of a worker’s compensation package? Large percentages of workers wouldn’t pass on a company-sponsored life insurance plan, or forgo a paycheck for all of December, so why are so many people willingly (or perhaps not so willingly) giving their paid time off back to their employers?

Forbes Magazine contributor Kristi Hedges nails the explanation: “The idea of a skimpy vacation as a worthy sacrifice or badge of honor is culturally embedded. The U.S. is the only rich country to not have legally mandated paid vacation and holidays.” She goes on, “science tells us that this is a very bad idea. Increasingly, studies are showing that breaks of any kind are not only good for you; they can actually increase productivity and well-being.”

Long Vacations Benefit Both Company and Employee

To create a lasting change in their organization, and maybe even greater society at large, leaders must fully embrace the practical benefits of vacations. Good leaders will be more inclined to not only grant, but also encourage employees to take not just a couple of long weekends here and there-and maybe a week off in the summer-but longer vacation time. Employees come back from a full week (or two or three) of time off when they were able to truly disconnect from work energized and recharged, with better ideas, a fresh perspective, lower stress-levels, and genuine excitement to tackle work challenges that can become overwhelming without time to recharge. Truly effective leaders recognize the value of paid time off, and understand it’s key to a productive and engaged workforce.

Here are specific steps leaders can take to make sure this happens:

  • Issue specific company policies that encourage all employees of the organization to take all vacation days due them, and in any increments they prefer.
  • Be clear the time off must not interfere with mission critical work, but also be clear that one person’s week off shouldn’t incapacitate a well-run department, and that while every department has busier times on the calendar, it is normal and expected that departments will experience slower times periodically throughout the year.
  • Require that all managers and supervisors conduct short meetings with their employees explaining the vacation policy.
  • Ask employees for feedback regarding perceived problems with the vacation policy. Since many employees may feel constrained to speak up, use a suggestion box where they can offer suggestions or voice complaints.
  • Assure that all complaints and suggestions are answered by a third-party, such as Human Resources.
  • Follow-up yearly to make sure the new vacation policy is working.

As we head in to the height of the summer, when friends and family frequently plan reunions, couples get married, families with children have the freedom to travel, as leaders it’s our job to help facilitate these getaways. Your employees will thank you for it, and ultimately, your bottom line will thank you for it too.

Jeff Wolf is the author of Seven Disciplines of a Leader and founder and president of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC, a premier global consulting firm that specializes in helping people, teams and organizations achieve maximum effectiveness.

Contact us today to discuss how we may partner with you to develop your current and future leaders or to have Jeff Wolf speak at your next meeting, conference or convention: Michael Adams madams@wolfmotivation.com 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com