In the world of business, buzzwords seem to rule the headlines. Optimize, disrupt, engage, drive—they pop up in headlines about leadership, HR, employee engagement, productivity, and the bottom line of your business.
What ties these ideas together? They all allude to the possibility of gaining something, of getting the upper hand—of winning. Yet, after all the articles you’ve read, how much time have you really spent ‘winning’?
This article isn’t about the next new leadership strategy or the latest piece of tech you should be implementing. It’s about you, your vision, and how not to lose sight of it amidst all the noise.
Filter for the vision
Fresh ideas can be a great motivator to take action, but without vetting them against the vision, they turn into a distraction. Here’s an example of how distraction can play out. A manager was called into a meeting with the upper management team to hear about their exciting new idea: they wanted to partner with another organization to share resources and expand their reach. They were excited, urging the manager to get to work immediately on a communication plan. Her first response instead was to ask questions:
- How does this fit into the visions for the two organizations?
- What resources are we sharing?
- What benefits will we each receive, financial or otherwise?
- How will we manage the combined financials?
- What are the expectations of each team?
The room was silent. They hadn’t taken the time to think it through. They had no answers, and the idea was dropped just as soon as it was picked up.
If you’re not looking at new ideas through the intentional lens of your vision, it’s easy to get pulled off track. Leaders and their team members should know this vision lens well enough to filter ideas for ones that fit and ones that are a distraction.
Theme over numbers
To avoid the same story happening at your organization, try implementing an annual or bi-annual theme. While setting goals and hard numbers is a great way to hold yourself and your team accountable, that shouldn’t be the first place you go when you develop your organizational strategy.
A theme is an idea you intentionally want to take hold in the behaviors of your team. The most powerful themes are often the most simple, such as “be intentional” or “simplify” or “progress over perfection.” And a theme has a longer lifespan than numbers-driven goals, and the newly developed behaviors won’t disappear if you fail to meet any specific goal.
A theme will work as a guide and a reference for all the major (and minor) activities within your organization and can help weed out initiatives that sound great but aren’t aligned with your vision. Pick an idea for your theme that reinforces your company vision and acts as a reference point to keeping your ideas and intentions in alignment with your vision.
Creating a theme can help you think ahead in a logical, intentional way. One way that organizations get sidetracked or find themselves stumped by a complicated, poorly planned initiative is reactive planning. As your business grows, it will inevitably hit roadblocks. Problems aren’t avoidable. But often, leadership gets stuck in a loop of reactive planning, responding to each problem as it arises, only thinking one step ahead or one step behind each challenge.
Reactive leadership doesn’t allow for intentional growth and can suck an entire organization’s energy down the drain. So the next time your organization comes up against a roadblock, step back and consider your options. Don’t run with the first idea that comes to you without thinking things through:
- Does the plan align with your theme?
- Does it make sense long-term?
- Does your team have the capacity to execute the plan?
- Why are you choosing this plan over others, how will it help, and what does your team need to do to make it happen?
Change your mind (set)
If your team tends to complain when asked to do the hard work associated with getting a new initiative up and going, it’s likely that leadership hasn’t explained the initiative in proper context. It’s difficult to accept tactical chores when there is no obvious and immediate benefit.
If you want your business to win and your vision to be realized, you must take time to allow your team see how new initiatives help fulfill the vision. Once understood, the detailed, often frustrating work of laying down the pavement toward functionality and success, can be met with much more acceptance.
For example, if you’re paying for a robust tech platform to track sales, marketing efforts, and prospecting, but you’re frustrated by the results, ask yourself if you’ve equipped your staff with the right training. Do they know why they’re going to use it? Do they know how to use it?
If they don’t have a clear understanding, you haven’t implemented the technology with a solid strategy, and you need to reverse your steps and start over. If they do have a clear understanding, ask yourself why they aren’t using it correctly (or at all).
Organizations waste massive amounts of money on tech they hardly use, not because they don’t see its value, but because they don’t make the time commitment to 1) train their employees, or 2) take accountability for its success.
Your job as a leader isn’t just to hold people accountable or set the direction of your organizational growth—it’s to take responsibility for the details, the strategy, and the planning. Your vision = your responsibility. Sure, you get to ask for help, but the ultimate success or failure falls on you.
Where to start
To get your organization, or even your brain, back on track, retreat to your vision. Start there and move forward. Always ask:
- “Does this idea align with our vision?”
- “Am I willing to put in the work to develop a strategy?”
- “How will I communicate this to my team?”
In the end, businesses get off and on track repeatedly as they grow and change. Remember to recenter your focus on your vision, even as it evolves, and resolve never to be above the “busy work” of strategy. After all, any idea looks like a good idea without a plan.
Photo by Ian Iankovskii
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