There is noeasy recipe that guarantees a successful vision-in-action. It's an organic process, not a once-a-yearevent. You can only be willing to try various approaches, keeping those which typify the vision and create the desired results, and toss or replace those that don't work.There are, however, a few starting ideas that improve your chances of bringing the vision to life:
- Make it specific. An inspiring statement is lovely, but people interpret things very differently. The people of your organization need specific examples of what behavior is consistent with the vision of the organization. If you delight your customers, what does that sound like when the receptionist answers the phone? What are your customer service reps empowered to do to solve problems? How will you know if you've achieved world-class service, and howdo the specific departments throughout the company contribute to that result?
- Don't be cheap. Effective communication requires resources and effort. Get input from a professional, get a plan, and allocate resources to ensure goal-supporting communication. You can't just say "Communication is important"; actions speak louder than words, and poor communication fosters missed deadlines, quality issues,and lowered productivity and morale. Posters on the wall and a vague statement on an ill-conceived intranet and Website aren't enough to create a consistent vision for your employees, customers, and shareholders.
- Understand and use a variety of communication modes. Learn how your style affects the way you work and how others may receive your communications. Checkout neurolinguistics programming (NLP), Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, or other personality profiles to gain a more informed (and accurate) picture of interaction styles. Then start tailoring your communications to fit the audience, anduse a variety of communication vehicles.
- Just ask (and then gracefully receive the response). By enlisting employees' and customers' perspectives, you'rebuilding momentum and support for your vision while gaining valuable insight into the potential strengths and weaknesses of your approach. Set up a forum where employees can easily and freely exchange ideas -- a survey, an online conversation, a staff meeting, a column in your company newsletter, a "brown bag" luncheon series, a suggestion box or a graffiti wall (physical or electronic). Gain input from customers in similar ways.
- See the vision through others' eyes. It can be difficult to share information (or even think you have to) when you come from a completely informed perspective, as is often the case when leaders have been immersed in planning and are impatient, or are pressured by the board of directors, once it's time to implement. Think about how the initiative will change the way employees work. What information or skills do they need to be successful? What do customers experience? Is that consistent with the vision?
- Capitalize on what's already working. How do employees get other information? How do partners and customers get information? Are these channels appropriate for your messages? The point is an old one, but it works here: Don't reinvent the wheel if the wheel works fine. Share your messages via avenues that employees and customers already tap for information, and augment your repertoire to fill information gaps.
- Make the connection. People are committed to other people or projects based on their own internal motivations, not a dictate from someone else. Relate an employee's tactical accomplishments to the business goals, make associations between employees' actions and the effect on the bottom line, and highlight activities that are consistent with the vision. Connect your "world class service" rhetoric with a customer's experience of being in phone system hell for 40 minutes waiting to get a problem solved, only to be told someone else handles it (and she's on vacation).
- Model vision-consistent behavior. Many surveys show that employees perceive a double standard between what they're asked to do and how managers and leaders act. Articulate what behavior is consistent with your company vision, then ensure that you and your management team are models of that behavior. Employees are watching you for a clue. If you treat them shabbily or disrespectfully, how doyou think they're treating customers and one another (and perhaps even their families)?
- Make your vision part of the organizational discourse. Over time, people will understand that it's a direction inwhich the organization is going, not simply a quick-fix management theory pulled from the latest guru's book (which is, unfortunately, often how it's approached). Take a fresh look at your vision; how can employees help make it a reality? Why not ask?
Copyright 2003, Jamie S. Walters, founder and president of Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco. No photocopying, distribution or reprinting without the express permission of the author.
Conscious communication, inspired leadership, personal-mastery, and visionary enterprise concepts are shared at length in Big Vision, Small Business (Berrett-Koehler Publishers), a new book by Jamie, as well as in Ivy Sea's organizational consulting and entrepreneurial-coaching services and award-winning Web library (www.ivysea.com).