Leaders typically see themselves as visionaries. They have a great idea, and they push their teams to join them as they build processes and products. They see the promised land, and they're not going to stop until they get there.
The problem is that their "followers" sometimes see them as obstacles. We've all heard the saying "People leave managers, not jobs," and it's true: Gallup found in its "State of the American Manager" report that one out of every two people leaves a job at some point to get away from a difficult manager.
Leaders are known to cling to their visions so tightly that they don't realize how they're impacting their team members-- or company growth. Those who want big growth in 2019 might not realize that the person preventing them from achieving their vision is the same one looking back in the mirror.
Your Vision Doesn't Need a Champion
Several leaders I've worked with have suffered from extreme tunnel vision. They were so enamored with their own ideas that they became protective of them. One CEO even told me, "I don't tell my team what we're doing until all the parts have been assembled and we need to put them together. What they don't know won't hurt them-- or the company."
This type of thinking overlooks a key element: Most visionaries need people who are great at execution to help them. If you've hired an accountant for your business, you know the deep relief of no longer having to worry about something you're not good at.
Many leaders realize they can't spread themselves too thin with execution. But for some reason, they persist in thinking that nobody can understand their vision, so they try to take on too much-- or block others from helping-- to protect their baby.
The highly competent people they hired could actually make a bigger impact on the company's growth if they were allowed to do their jobs.
That said, here's how leaders can get out of their own way:
1. Communicate clearly.
If people aren't seeing your vision in the right light, you're not communicating it correctly. You have to find a way to get what's in your head out in the world. Outline the essentials of your goal: what you want to achieve, the steps needed to get there, the types of skills that will be handy, and what inspired the goal.
Explain all this to your team-- particularly in a 2019 kickoff meeting. Borrow a page from Steve Jobs. He was known for conveying his enthusiasm, as well as his specificity. This type of storytelling got others to buy in, and he kept them in the loop. He met with his executive team on Mondays and his marketing team on Wednesdays to keep everyone on the same page.
2. Empower the experts around you.
I've talked before about empowering teams to take risks, and that's key to driving growth. You can also drive growth by allowing your experts to own their expertise. You hired a marketing guru because of his lengthy résumé and impressive portfolio; you hired an engineering whiz because she could explain exactly what your prototype needed to work.
So why aren't you letting them do their jobs?
I once sent out weekly email updates about our team's work, but I realized the updates sent to me were the bare minimum to avoid "wasting" people's time. I decided I needed to give my pros a platform of their own, so I launched weekly update meetings instead.
The really valuable part of these meetings was that not only did everyone get updates, but I also deferred to experts in the room when I was in over my head. That signaled real trust to everyone else.
3. Recognize needed pivots.
The most painful thing to watch going into a new year is a leader who refuses to see what the market's telling her. If competitors have taken over a niche, sales are declining or the technology you're utilizing is becoming obsolete, don't drag your feet in making a change. While you may want your vision to happen, your team's frustration is growing because you refuse to see reality and adopt a new vision.
Fab.com is a well-known fashion site, but it didn't start out that way. Its founders' original vision was a gay men's social network. That flopped, but the co-founders noticed that visitors liked their product recommendations. They shifted to follow their strength (and the market's demand) and found much bigger success.
When leaders won't loosen their grip on their vision, they've become obstacles to the vision itself. Leaders who want real growth have to be willing to learn from others-- and give up what they can't have to get what they can.