How many CEOs and business leaders have spent countless hours in meetings and retreats crafting a vision for their organization? Millions! Or maybe even billions! This is, of course, necessary to have something that spells out the future direction of the company over the next 3 to 5 years. This is going to be the short, clear statement that tells everyone in the organization where we are going. It is our roadmap of success.
The vision is aspirational, it’s where we are going as a team, it’s where the leadership is taking us.
The problem is that after all that work and effort, what happens to the vision statement? In many cases, it gets put into a nice plaque or displayed on a wall for everyone to ignore as they walk past. The vision is aspirational, it’s where we are going as a team, it’s where the leadership is taking us. The vision must become a rallying cry and a persuasive message of excitement and progress. The thought process which has become our vision must then become something we can see, feel, communicate and execute.
Here are some tactics to consider when attempting to turn your vision into reality:
1. Every top-level executive must become a master salesperson for the vision
The direction of the company starts at the top. Everyone on the CEO’s team must become a seller of the vision. When they meet with their regional people or VPs, they must emphasize the vision somewhere and someway in that meeting. You have to let people know how important this is to you and our success. I will tell you right now that you will get really tired of doing it. Your mind will begin to whisper to you that it has been talked to death and everyone knows that it is important. That would be false and a fallacy. Humans and their brains are designed for excitement and repetition. We have to keep beating the drum at every opportunity. When you get tired of beating the drum, you are just getting started.
2. Make sure all the roles of your direct reports are defined and clarified
The reason this one is so important is that selling the vision to people at every level should be a role requirement. Every time a staff meeting is held at any level in the company, there should be some kind of vision component included. It could be further clarifying the vision and why it’s important, it could be just simply repeating the vision, it could be asking the staff to come to the meeting with ways they have implemented to further the vision into their daily roles. Preaching the message of the direction of the organization has to be part of everyone’s role in the company and it must be a non-negotiable accountability activity.
3. Make sure all your direct reports are carrying the vision forward throughout the organization
Whatever the messaging is, it needs to be consistent and consistently delivered clearly and often throughout the entire company. I have seen many times, where a lower-level management person disagrees or dislike the vision or the language and refuses to keep selling it or preaching it to their people. This cannot happen, and you have to make sure you have people who will not let it happen. I know my wife was checking out at the local Walgreens and the attendant would not say “Have a happy and healthy day.” She promptly told my wife she didn’t like saying it, so she wasn’t going to say it even though her superiors told her she was supposed to. Unbelievable. This is why upper-level managers should attend training and communication meetings at all levels as well as “shop their own store” from time to time to see how managers are selling the vision and how customers are being treated. If you want your vision to be turned into reality, you have to be a relentless zealot about this.
4. Top management needs to provide regular updates on progress
All levels of the organization should have leaders who report up the org chart on progress around the vision. These updates have to be hard-wired into the operations of the company. In other words, they are just as important as sales, service or inventory. There should be no excuse regarding activities around the vision with all levels of employees and then those updates being shared up. Then, the executive leadership should provide quarterly updates to the full staff around the progress that is being made regarding turning the vision into a reality. Everyone needs to know what they are doing is of the utmost importance every day and how it ties into the overall success of the company.
5. Find various way to sell and communicate the vision
Another thing you have to navigate along this course is to avoid boredom among your constituents. This is another human brain pitfall. Think about your favorite movies. You have probably seen them more than once, perhaps you have them on DVD or digital or perhaps you just stop on that channel when you see it on the television. The thing is, you’ll never see it quite the same way you saw it the first time. The advantage for you, as a leader in the company selling the vision, is that you are not a movie. You are not set in stone as far as methods of delivery. Over the course of your vision’s life, you will need to become creative in the way you present and communicate it. This must become a personal challenge for you as a leader. Perhaps, you have a video produced, you work it into an update, or you recruit staff for a role-play or skit. Whatever you choose, you will have to work harder and harder as time goes on to keep it fresh, different and exciting.
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