You’ve got a clear vision and some solid goals for your team. And that’s a great start. But does your team know what you’ve got in mind?
Jeff, the CEO of a large corporation, is passionate about his vision for the company and the impact it could have on the world – so much so that it seems crystal-clear and urgent to him. But he recently called me with a head-scratcher. Having just come from a meeting with his executive team, he was frustrated. “I was shocked to learn they still don’t know my vision,” he said. He went on to share how he’s insisting they own responsibility for instilling the message throughout the organization. “At our weekly executive meetings, they are responsible for sharing at least five new ways they communicated it to their teams that week.”
“How’s that working out?” I asked.
“Well, there’s always a couple who go above and beyond, noting 30 or 40 ways they communicated the vision. But the majority of them have one or less to share.”
Understanding what he was demanding out of his executives, I asked what he was doing to clarify the vision to his employees. “Well, I send out a quarterly e-mail about the company’s financial standing and direction, and many people respond to it,” he explained.
Given his limited communication, his executive team’s lack of enthusiasm wasn’t terribly surprising. I encouraged him to try some new strategies. Rather than relying mostly (or solely) on them to get the message across, I suggested he lead the way in spreading the word to the masses. “You might consider blogging weekly to let everyone know what’s happening,” I suggested. “And perhaps even share a bit about yourself – like your challenges, concerns, celebrations, frustrations and need for ideas – so they feel more connected to you and what you’re trying to achieve.”
“Nah, I do it the old school way,” he said. And he’s not alone. Many leaders are hesitant to embrace new modes of communication, but with all this effective technology on hand, why not use it? I told him about the results another CEO received from blogging, twittering and using Facebook, but Jeff still wasn’t interested.
With more than half his workforce preparing to retire in the next two years, Jeff understood the importance of setting a clear vision and providing a transparent workplace with a free and open exchange of information. He also understood that doing so would likely increase communication and collaboration across the various generations, leading to knowledge retention. That means he wouldn’t have to hire all the retirees back as contractors (at twice the rate) just to keep his business running smoothly. But he has yet to use the tools at his disposal.
Here are a few ideas to ensure your vision is clear:
- Social media is the strongest avenue for communicating, and more importantly, connecting, with your team. If you don’t get a big reaction on your first attempt, don’t give up. Get some feedback from your employees. Check out what leaders who are successfully using social media are doing to stand out. Then make some adjustments to your approach and try again. Let your team watch you fail forward; it shows your humanness and makes them want to follow.
- Hold a company-wide meeting via webcast every week to share company progress and setbacks – and allow for Q&A (remember, you’re a team, so you’re in it together!) This keeps leaders on the hook when it comes to a strong focus on the vision. It motivates them to monitor progress more closely, and therefore reward it.
- But don’t rely completely on technology. Get out of your office and let your employees see your face. Walk around and listen to what they are saying. Ask if they know what the company is trying to achieve and if they understand their role in the plan. Seek to understand – so you can be sure that you are understood.
Are you pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, trying new technologies and gaining new experiences to lead the way? Take a step into unknown territory. It’s exciting!
Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations
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P.P.S. Book launch party: “Can Anyone See Me?: Unveiling the Hero Within” will be launched on June 2, 2011, at The National Press Club in Washington DC. Interested in getting details as soon as they come out, email email@example.com – subject line: “June 2011 Book Launch Party”