I believe to be a leader is to enable others to embrace a vision, initiative or assignment in a way that they feel a sense of purpose, ownership, personal engagement, and common cause. – Melanne Verveer, women’s rights activist
Being successful in the conscious living industry, we excel at teaching others how to stay in line with their vision. We are great at sharing our vision with our clients and customers, yet one of the hardest parts of having a business in this field is walking your talk with your staff. We relax into these relationships and forget they need the same attention to stay in line with the bigger vision that you hold for your business. Your staff is there to support you through your meltdowns, and they are there to celebrate with you for your best sales day ever. In turn, you are witness to their biggest personal crisis and there to celebrate their biggest personal win. When you share that much time with another person, breathing the same air, you start to become family and unfortunately, it can model the unhealthy parts of that dynamic as well as the healthy parts. You can assume everyone is on the same page until suddenly you are not even reading from the same book.
As Susan Scott mentions in her book Fierce Conversations, “our careers, our companies, our relationship, and indeed out very lives succeed or fail, gradually, then suddenly, one conversation at a time.” The first thing to go in a company that is not lead by vision is communication around the basics – values, mission, and strategy. Everyone becomes so busy doing their job that we forget about maintaining basic communication.
In The 4 Disciplines in Execution, the authors tells us about the whirlwind that is our day job. “It’s the massive amount of energy that’s necessary just to keep your operation going on a day-to-day basis. And ironically, it’s also the thing that makes it hard to execute anything new. The whirlwind robs from you the focus required to move your team forward.” This whirlwind can also take the attention off the big vision of your business and drop you right into the distraction of the daily crisis. When that happens, we all revert to the baser, crisis management aspect of our personalities. Everyone starts to take sides and react to each other from fight, flight or freeze instincts. The stress level of your business skyrockets and productivity plummets. In other words, we are too busy to remember our vision, let alone hold to it and let it guide our decisions.
We do it to ourselves and worse – we do it to our teams. Your team is what makes your future growth possible. They anchor the foundation you’ve created and in turn, that holds space for you to find new opportunities for growth and revenue that is aligned with your vision. When any part of your staff is out of alignment with your vision, you end up circling back repeatedly to course correct. That becomes the time suck that stops you from moving forward on your own goals.
When your staff has internalized the goals of the company, then they are able to set personal work goals that are in line with the company. When they don’t understand the vision of the company, they will pull in directions that they feel are best for their position in the company. It may not be a lack of team work you are seeing, but a lack of team building.
The first thing in team building is to give the team a purpose. That is easy to forget because we can quickly assume that just be being in the room, everyone knows what you want. Yet everyone comes to the room with their own baggage and perspective of what is best.
Everyone comes with their own personal vision and agenda. The goal here is to set down that personal agenda and pick up the one for the entire team and with a shared vision that execution of that becomes organic.
Simplify Your Vision – Make it Executable
You have an ideal for your company, you know where you want to take it and why you started it in the first place. That is your vision. Keep it simple and easy to explain. Having one sentence that is clear and send the same message to everyone on your staff is the lynchpin of creating a team.
Each person that you bring onto your team has their own vision for your company and the reason why they chose to work with you. A simplified vision statement allows them to marry their vision with yours and make the success of the company personal. A good, simple vision statement clarifies your company’s future, size, structure, and market. It’s easy to be vague and all encompassing and not say a thing: “sell the best product and create an engaging experience for every customer that shops at our location.” Or you can create a masters’ thesis of your vision statement that no one can emotionally connect to: “we live by these six basic tenants to create a positive uplifting experience for our five core customer bases…..”
There is no formula for a vision statement, and it can take years to get it perfect. Start with a future vision that is simple and craft it from there with: what you do, why you do it, and who you do it for.
Vision Begets Strategy – Strategy Reinforces Vision
When you are looking at what your strategy is, you can get caught in the urgency of your daily whirlwind. When that is the energy behind your strategy, all your goals will align with the daily tasks that keep you going and don’t leave room for the goals that keep you growing. There are the important goals that drive your business forward and there are the urgent ones that live the daily process of your business and cause the most amount of pain when they are not managed. Your team will naturally focus on the goals that are imbedded in your whirlwind, as that is where their focus is and where their pain is.
The authors McChesney, Covey and Huling define your “wildly important goals” with your team. To get out of the rut of your daily whirlwind they suggest starting with the assumption that, “(if) every area of our operation remained at its current level or performance, what is the one area where change would have the greatest impact?” With this focus, your team doesn’t have to debate the most important role in your business, and everyone can move onto bigger thinking.
The “wildly important goals” ideally are the measurable manifestation of your vision. You only need one or two goals to focus on at a time, otherwise your attention is fractured, and nothing gets done. If you are not sure if they line up with your vision, test the idea, will the execution and success of this goal get our company closer to our overall vision? If the answer is unclear, then it probably won’t and let that one go for a strategy that is a better alignment.
This Vision Doesn’t Stand Alone
If you think of your vision as where you are going, then your mission is how you are getting there, and the values and guides are the map you are using along the way. The sum of these parts is much greater than the whole and is the foundation you can lean on when every opportunity looks like the perfect one for you.
To ensure your vision is driving your growth, make it a part of your everyday whirlwind. Keeping it top of mind is key for team alignment. Put it everywhere, posters on the wall, a header on your written processes and procedures, your reviews, your hiring questions, openings to your manager meetings and even in your marketing. You want every decision weighted by whether it gets you closer or further from fully manifesting said vision.
Tying your vision to the goals everyone measures success by is another way to keep alignment in your team. Build your business dashboard in a way that lines up your success to your vision. If you are to become the largest independent retailer in your town, or have the most items, or be the store your customers turn to for their gift giving needs, you need the proof to show your success. Start your dashboard with that main measurement. Would you be a $2 million store, or over 100,000 items or have the most five star Yelp! and Google reviews? If you don’t quantify your vision, how do you know when you get there? Build in milestones to your success to grow into your vision.
Make those milestones known to your entire team and celebrate them with everyone who helped you achieve them. When we forget to stop and celebrate with the people who got you there, it is demoralizing, and it feels like the treadmill will keep going until you quit. Get off the treadmill, high five everyone on your team, share a treat and everyone jumps back on with even more enthusiasm.
Teach Your Staff What You Teach Your Customers
You teach your customers about quality, value, empowerment, trends, what will resolve their pain. You do this with the product you carry, the ads you place, the marketing, displays, etc. Do you teach your staff the same thing? When they come in for their shift, do they know why you moved the socks to the middle display? Do they know that new candle is top-of-the-line and you had to wait to carry it? Do they know that those carvings are Fair Trade? Do they know that those bracelets are a big money maker and they should promote them to every customer?
Your staff already believes in you, as they chose your place to work in. Empower them to help you fulfill your vision by making them aware of what you are doing and why. Build a team that not only takes direction, but gives feedback. Generating this sense of purpose is what many employers have found to be the greatest influencer on employee retention.
There Are More Good Ideas Than Time
Ideas are easy. They show up left and right with no warning and they try to steal all your attention. This is especially true when you get a hot one that seems to hook onto a growing trend. You want to get in before the trend peaks and starts to downslide, so you shift gears and become a slave to the idea. We all do it. We all get pulled into the great idea trap and that quickly can become addictive.
When you have a vision that drives your strategy, an idea is measured on its’ ability to get you where you want to go and not on whether it is good or bad. There are two factors that can tell you whether to go for an idea or not.
- Does is align with your vision?
- Do you have the resources to execute it?
You can quickly create an X/Y axis chart to challenge yourself and your staff on the viability of this idea.
The vertical Y line if the vision and the horizontal X line is the resources. This feels similar to the Important and Urgent quadrants in The 7 Habits for Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. The Important value axis lines up with your vision and the Urgent value axis lines up with your resources.
Having your vision part of your everyday whirlwind allows you to quickly asses each new idea, big and small without inner turmoil. You can quickly see if this is an Important idea. Something that creates future opportunity to get closer to your goal, and if this an Urgent idea; something that you have the resources to execute. If that is not in alignment with your vision driven strategy, it’s empowering and even freeing to say no.
When you lead with your vision, you give your team a reason to support and be engaged. A team that is present with you, all rowing in the same direction for the same reasons, is able to grow with you for the long haul. Inspiring your team in this way may just be your most important investment in your future.