The Buck Stops Here: Owning Your Organization Vision

vision statementMission statements and vision statements are a part of any business start-up in our times. The danger is that these words have become such a part of the jargon that very often they hide a lack of clarity.

An entrepreneur may often assume that they have communicated the essence of their idea with a pithy vision statement, whereas the employees may struggle with translating that into real world action.

As a friend of mine likes to joke, every company seems to have a vision statement to be the number one in their niche; no one sets out to be number two! Then what do employees make of this lofty goal even if they do come with unadulterated enthusiasm.

The truth is it is extremely rare for any two people to share a vision completely. And if two people do share a vision, there are no guarantees that they have personalities that mesh with each other or that they’ll be able to work together effectively. And yet every time a company starts, it starts on that hope of a shared vision and an ability to collectively make the vision come true.

Does this mean every enterprise is a lost cause? The answer is an emphatic NO!

Starting the Journey:

The founder has a vision and he or she hires the best people to help achieve the vision. The big hurdle to cross is that the founder has to be able to articulate the vision clearly so that people not only buy into the vision, but want to work towards achieving it. There are huge challenges here, as we can well imagine.

However, the successful leader is one who is able to sell their vision and find passionate buy-in. Those who can combine clarity with passion can be effective in offering a clear picture of what they hope to create.

While the elevator pitch will come in handy whether selling the idea to potential investors or employees, a strong entrepreneur will have to have the substance beyond the pitch. Do not leave it up to the employees to fill in the details of your canvas.

It’s not enough to say “we will bring the world’s best ecommerce store with the largest selection,” you need to create the tools and the process to make sure that you offer the road map to be followed.

How to get there is usually where people disagree and while one person may want to develop tools that are unique and cool, and maybe costly, others may want to partner and look for other ways to get the tools. Some may see the focus as marketing and others as design.

The Hand at the Helm:

The person at the head has to take ownership of the vision and the direction and take it from there. This is when the strong vision of the leader comes into place. Sorry, there is no easy answer to this, you can’t short cut this and it rests entirely on your shoulders.

Whether it is determining the direction to take or the course corrections that will be needed along the way, the person with the vision will ultimately have the much needed big-picture perspective.

The key critical component is for the owner of the business to understand the critical strengths/weakness of the company. They have to understand where the company has been, the things they have tried successfully, ideas that have failed, ideas there were successful and use all the data collected to fulfill the vision.

The second important part of this equation is the way to work with the people/crew you’ve hired.

While the responsibility is on your shoulders, it would be foolish to not take the input of the smart people you’ve got in your staff. Ask them question, process their input and offer your own ideas. In the communication and interaction you’ll help them understand your vision and get their valuable insights. You have to listen to understand, even if you don’t always agree.

When employees understand their ideas are appreciated and accepted where relevant, you will get more highly motivated employees. It is when they see a lone-ranger approach of top-down ideas or a mix-and-match approach of trying several ideas out that you may lose their support. Both those approaches indicate lack of clarity and conviction and employees will be right in seeing it as a sign of long-range trouble.

As the founder with the vision, there will be hard moments when you cannot delegate some decisions. Change management can be particularly difficult. If you find that what you’re doing is not working, take the steps necessary to stop that and create a new blue print.

Don’t give vague directions of things needing to change or people needing to be more proactive as those are not easy to translate into action. Communicate your goals and markers clearly and give employees the tools to reduce the stress and friction of the steps that are need to make the change. Set KPI’s and metric that are clear to show wins, it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

Finding the Treasure:

With a clear vision, the right map and a willing crew, you will make your enterprise a success. Whether you define this in terms of market position, market share or brand recognition, keep the end-goal as your guiding star.

Some have compared the way to manage the starting and creating of a business to the reality of handling the details of the wedding while preparing the long-term realities of marriage. Another possible analogy is to think of your destination while packing for the journey – leaving cold climates for the Caribbean means handling the here as you anticipate the later. Translating your vision into a successful reality is pretty much the same!

Written by: Shirley Tan


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