Facilitating a session with the executive members of company X, I asked the respective team members to write the vision for the team on sticky notes. Your guess is as good as mine, the statements from each leader were like people from multiple teams. We enlisted answers trying to understand why the responses were so varied. After a litany of reasons and excuses were provided, we came to the conclusion that it all boiled down to communication.
Not just communication, but effective communication by the leader.
The impact of ineffective communication is massive on the team and should not go unattended. It results in the following:
- misalignment on what should be achieved.
- employees feeling lost and doing meaningless work.
- disengaged employees actively or passively voicing discontentment.
Even the big book says that where there is no vision, people perish. Leaders need to be able to align the team to the end state. If the leader is unable to define how the end state should look like, there will be no followers to carry the vision forward. Leaders should be able to grasp the why and how of achieving the strategic imperatives of the organization. Effective communication makes the difference between achieving team goals and missing them.
It is the role of the leader to communicate the vision to their team:
- The leader has to believe in the vision: Leaders need to be caught in the excitement of the vision. They need to see the possibilities and believe that the vision is achievable. Of course – the vision should be realistic and not just a pipe dream. As a leader, you need to grab the vision with enthusiasm and energy because this will rub on the rest of the team. The opposite is true if the leader lacks engagement, energy, and drive. I once worked with a leader who believed that we can catapult the Africa Office into the top HR offices across the globe. His vision was to develop his team to be among the top 5 regions. He wanted to have members of his team being selected into global projects because of the value add that he believed we could deliver. Many in the team reciprocated and took this challenge. We understood and bought into his vision and we made a difference not only for our region but also for the company globally.
- Use simple, precise and clear language: Many visions are lost in translation. Vision is trapped in jargon that no one understands. I have seen the impact of this and the time it took to get to grips with what the vision was all about. One of the leaders in another company took a moment during performance management facilitation to ask the rest of the team if they understood the vision of the organization and if they can articulate it. The response was a deep and loud silence. It is also not always about jargon but the use of single words without descriptors. Without a clear definition, each team assigns the meaning they think is relevant to them. Keeping it simple and clear is the way to go.
- Invite contribution from the team: Allowing input from team members demonstrate that the leader is open and listens to the views of others. Team members know what they are doing and how things should work. Their contribution to the development of the vision should not be underestimated. This level of engagement increases ownership to drive the vision.
- Communicate frequently: People are motivated by progress and achievement against milestones. It is for this reason that John Kotter encourages the celebration of short-term wins. These small achievements spur employees on and build confidence that they can achieve more.
Tex Hlalele is a Personal Mastery, Leadership & Organisational Effectiveness Specialist. He is the author of the book, Face the person in the mirror. Book Tex to help you and your team gain insights and possibilities for individual learning and organisational advancement on +2764 656 6174 or visit http://www.dreamsmadepossible.co.za/contact.html