Wednesday, September 29, 2010
I recently spent some time with the new Executive Director of a small organization. He was talking about his vision for the organization and was very excited about the possibilities for growth and momentum. His enthusiasm was palpable and he literally gushed about the possibilities. On one level, I was very excited for him. But on another level, I was struggling. You see, while I understood every word he said, I really had no idea what he was talking about. Try as I might, I could not grasp this great vision that he had, and I had no clear idea of where he thought his organization currently was or where he wanted them to go. I felt like I was trying to put together one of those 2000 piece jigsaw puzzles that are so popular now. You know, the ones that are circular in appearance so you can’t easily build the frame and have no picture on the box so you can’t tell what you are trying to create.
It gave me a headache.
But I was pretty sure that this was just me. Clearly, I didn’t have enough background to tie it all together. All I needed to do was ask the right questions to fill in the blanks for me, and it would all come together.
Or so I thought.
I began to talk with his staff about the new future of the organization and about their level of buy-in to the changes. As it turns out, about 2/3 of the leadership team was in exactly the same spot that I was. They had no idea what he was talking about, didn’t share his enthusiasm, and were frustrated to the point of giving up.
The other 1/3 of the leadership team seemed to share his enthusiasm and talked in glowing terms about the new direction. I was on to something; I knew it. I just needed to nail down the details and I would be as enthused as they were.
But the details were elusive. And it wasn’t just the details that were elusive, so were the concrete goals, common statements around the new end result, and even the facts that were supposed to be driving the new vision. But I was still sure that this was my problem and that I just wasn’t getting something here.
Finally, I called the 4 members of the leadership team who “got it” into a room so that I could sort this out. After about 20 minutes with them I realized what had really happened. These 4 members had bought into the enthusiasm of the new Executive Director but they really had no idea what his plan was. Not only did these people not understand the details of the new vision, they didn’t understand the big picture either. All they understood was how excited the Executive director was and they wanted to be a part of anything that generated this much enthusiasm.
As we talked, it became clear that they all believed the new Executive Director did indeed have a vision of a bright new future; a new direction with massive possibilities for the organization. But they didn’t yet know what this elusive vision was. They all had some ideas based on conversations they’d had with the ED, but none of their ideas were really in synch. In short, they were excited about a plan they didn’t understand.
I returned to the ED and began the long, painful discussion about the need for clarity and communication of his vision. “It’s not enough to have a great vision,” I told him, “if no one else knows what it is.” As you might guess, this was not a short conversation. He was convinced that he had clearly enunciated his vision to his leadership team and that they clearly knew the direction that he was taking the organization. It was only after he called them all into a room and asked them to repeat the vision back to him that he realized the fallacy in his thinking.
Having a vision is a great thing. But as a leader, you need to go out of your way to communicate and re-communicate that vision to ensure that your team understands it and buys into it.
Does your entire team really understand your vision for the future? Have you taken the time to find out exactly what they understand?
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Until next time....
ECI Learning Systems, LLC