“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
That’s how US clergyman and leadership guru, John C Maxwell put it. We all know that good leaders set the direction for a company, but how do they define their mission in the first place, and set the right goals for their business?
To create a compelling vision, leaders need to think big, using plenty of imagination and creativity to consider the future business strategy.
Part of the process of establishing the vision could involve imagining the business without any boundaries, limitations or financial constraints; what would it look like? What new products and services could be offered to customers? What are customers saying about the company and how do employees feel about their work?
This creative exercise can be vital in helping to shape the strategic planning process. Even if some of the suggestions may not be realistic, imagining a company without any barriers or obstacles could lead to future innovation or to changes in the business that could deliver genuine improvements. Once the big picture is identified, a more achievable vision is then created by taking into account the current situation and addressing any obstacles.
Equally important is involving the senior management team in this creative process. If a vision is co-created and collective, with support from the top team from day one, it is more likely to be adopted across the organisation.
With a clear vision established, it’s important to look at what specific goals are needed to achieve the vision. Unlike the vision, the goals will need to clear, purposeful, realistic and measurable.
This is also the time to consider what values are most important to the business and what behaviours are expected as the norm from employees. These values need to be embedded in the culture, but for this to happen they must also be reflected in the behaviour of the leader at all times – the leader needs to show the way and clearly demonstrate what is expected. As management guru and best-selling author, Stephen Covey says, “What you do has far greater impact than what you say”.
One way of ensuring values are embedded in the culture and that goals are achieved, is to set them as part of an employee’s individual performance development plans. For example, if there are financial goals, they can be measured at quarterly reviews.
With a clear vision and goals set, communication is vital. Leaders need to clearly and consistently communicate the company’s vision and business goals at every opportunity. This sounds obvious, but is something many companies do poorly – or fail to do at all.
It goes without saying that if your workforce doesn’t know where it’s going, it can’t be expected to get there. Creating a compelling and believable vision will motivate your workforce, and you will be far more likely to achieve your goals.