Back in 2002, Google ran an experiment to see if managers were absolutely necessary. It removed bosses from the equation. As you might imagine, the test didn't go so well. Not only did Google find that managers were critical, but it also identified a list of attributes that made some more effective than others.

After a team of researchers analyzed thousands of performance reviews, surveys, and nominations for top-manager awards and recognition, Google discovered what it later referred to as the "Eight Habits of Highly Effective Google Managers."

One of these attributes included having and communicating a clear vision and strategy for the team. Easier said than done.

On its site re:work, a resource Google uses to share best practices, research, and ideas to help organizations put people first, it shared five components managers need to create a shared vision for their teams. Here's what makes them important, and how small businesses should make them work:

1. Core Values

Values provide guidance when leaders aren't present. They act as a guidepost and a set of behavioral standards when decisions need to be made. They answer the question, "How do things get done around here?"

Describe the team's deeply held beliefs, sociocultural norms, and unwritten rules to live by. When everyone is on the same page, clearly defined values provide a sense of psychological safety, inclusion, and trust within the team. 

In my opinion, it's hard to build a great team or company culture without core values. Fantastic work environments don't materialize overnight. It takes years and consistent reinforcement. As value-based decisions get made, they accumulate into award-winning cultures.

Great cultures are built one decision at a time. 

2. Purpose

Make sure members of your team know why they exist. Connect their jobs to the big picture and communicate the impact of their work.

For even the most committed team members, the daily work can be a grind at times. In a vacuum, tasks can seem menial and unimportant. Without a connection to meaningful work, employee engagement and commitment are tough to come by. However, when people believe their efforts are serving the greater good, tenacity and sacrifice are byproducts--and they are a vital trait of high-performing teams.

Google also found that purpose-driven teams had higher work-life satisfaction, stronger intra-team connections, and experienced less conflict.

3. Mission

It's important to describe what the team is trying to achieve. Being mission focused helps teams eliminate distractions and concentrate on delivering results aligned with their core objectives.

Ambiguous missions allow room for individual agendas, competing priorities, and interference to creep in. To ensure your team is known for the right things, it's essential for the whole team to agree upon a single mission.

Google identifies a strong mission as:

  • Conveying a compelling picture of the future.
  • Appeals to all those with a stake in the mission.
  • Is clear enough to guide decision making.
  • Is general enough to accommodate changing business conditions.
  • Can be successfully explained within two minutes.

4. Strategy

Next, put a strategy in place and detail how the team plans to realize its mission. Whether it's a formal SWOT analysis or a good old-fashioned brainstorming session, it's important to get your house in order. Your strategy should address foreseen challenges, capitalize on opportunities, and account for all the internal strengths of the team that can help propel the group towards its mission.

5. Goals

At times, a corporate strategy can be too high level to be meaningful or actionable for teams. To ensure your team is making progress against the strategy, break it down into short-term goals that can be tracked and measured.

Use your strategy as a filter to prioritize work and then assign key objectives in succession. To increase the odds that goals are meaningful and taken seriously, use a framework like SMART or OKRs (Objectives & Key Results).

Part of being an effective leader is creating and communicating a clear vision for your team. These five strategies from Google will help you make your vision statement less conceptual and more meaningful--and actionable.