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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.
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: email@example.com or 858-638-8260
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 858-638-8260 or www.wolfmotivation.com
Leadership in Crisis: Take 8 Steps to Avoid Pitfalls first appeared in Wolf in the Workplace, the newsletter of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.
In the news, we read countless stories of rampant political corruption, financial mismanagement, government bailouts, pandemic layoffs, investment fraud and unadulterated corporate greed.
As leaders, we must avoid potential pitfalls, making a concerted effort to keep people motivated and productive, while building teams and reducing stress.
To maintain a healthy, disciplined work force, take eight steps:
Step 1: Flaunt your honesty.
Today’s leaders must be honest, forthright and “ooze” integrity. Workers want their leaders to be role models whose allegiances and priorities are beyond reproach.
Leaders must have a strong character and integrity, which means “walking the walk” and “talking the talk.” The moment they bend the truth, they lose their credibility—and they’ll never get it back.
Step 2: Focus on your people.
People make a company. Without highly motivated and inspired employees, you will struggle to survive and thrive.
Great leaders motivate people to work together and achieve goals, instill confidence and earn employees’ trust—a commodity that can never be bought.
Step 3: Develop a vision.
Have a clear, compelling and inspiring vision—and communicate in a way that motivates and inspires people to work as a team toward common goals.
Clearly define and paint an exciting path to the future, while providing ethical and logical reasons as to why you’re moving in a specific direction. Articulate a clear framework and provide a cogent message that delineates each person’s role in realizing the vision. This builds support and enthusiasm, creating a culture where people are aligned and eager to help achieve goals.
Spark people’s imaginations of what the future holds.
Step 4: Correct negative habits and behaviors.
People leave organizations because of the boss. Poor leaders create a climate of negativity, coupled with rare—or no—praise and recognition. The inability to keep one’s word, poor treatment of people, taking credit for others’ successes, and blaming others to cover up mistakes a leader has made—are behaviors that result in high turnover and a lack of engagement by those who stay.
By failing to delegate or empower people, poor leaders then micromanage others’ work. Their inability or refusal to develop a culture of trust deprives people of opportunities to grow. If this behavior goes unchecked, there may be a point of no return that destroys a once-productive company. Poor leadership is often correctable— if swift corrective action is taken.
Step 5: Invest in training.
Most first-rate leaders aren’t born with extraordinary abilities; rather, they develop their skill sets by learning, practicing and refining them daily.
Leaders must commit to working hard, adopting a positive attitude, and seek constant learning. They must remain flexible, adapting their leadership style as circumstances dictate.
Aspiring leaders must create a development plan, put it in writing and then “work it.”
- Read the best books and attend the best training courses. Vary courses so you can experience a spectrum of skills.
- Learn the areas in which you must improve. We see some of our weaknesses, but it’s impossible to identify all of them. Working with a coach is a powerful way to improve your skills.
- Learn what your company looks for in its leaders. Study a competency model that identifies desired strengths and characteristics and practice them. If no such model exists, seek out successful leaders, and talk with them to understand how they became successful.
- Volunteer to lead small projects that provide useful leadership experiences. You’ll gain confidence and enhance skill sets.
- Use 360° feedback and other assessment tools to identify leadership competencies and skills. This provides a valid measure of the areas that require work.
- Always be curious. Seek new opportunities and experiences; try something out of your comfort zone.
Step 6: Develop leadership programs.
Use coaching to enhance the capabilities and performance of leaders, high potentials, and top producers. When leaders coach, people become more confident and motivated, which leads to higher performance and productivity. Leaders build relationships of trust when they support people so they can be all they can be. Organizations with a strong coaching culture develop higher engagement and performance.
A coach will ask: At what do people excel? What are the weaknesses, potential, limitations, desired directions? A coach works one on one with key personnel to stop bad habits and start positive ones. Participants can discuss what’s working—and not working—in confidence, and the coach holds them accountable and supplies support.
Step 7: Retain high performers.
Great organizations view employee retention as a competitive advantage, and they work hard to retain their most talented people. They understand that talented people are their most important asset.
Retention starts with culture. If you want to keep your top talent, you must create an inspiring and energizing culture of which they can be a part. This means having an organization with shared values, openness and honesty, thereby creating trust and allowing talented people to share ideas, and then recognize and reward their successes.
Step 8: Have fun!
You and your people should be excited and energized about going to work every day. After all, you spend one-third of your time at work.
Fun in the workplace must be part of your strategy. Working hard and having fun are not mutually exclusive. So, appoint two CFOs; the traditional CFO and the chief fun officer, who creates ways for people to have fun at work.
People rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it. Having fun also impacts the bottom line. Fun breeds creativity, energy, productivity, innovation, and profitability—a win for all concerned.