July 29, 2019

CLEAR AS MUD— TACKLING THREATS TO A CLEAR AND COMPELLING DIRECTION

Ginny Trierweiler

Ginny Trierweiler
Principal/Slender for Good

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Every mission-based leader knows that it is important to consistently communicate a clear and compelling vision and direction. 

It's important because, as the world becomes more complex, it is no longer possible to provide constant oversight and direction to employees. 

Instead, we must increasingly empower people throughout our organizations to make more independent decisions. This is necessary for efficiency and productivity-sake, and because it helps you attract and retain the best employees.

However, in order for distributed leadership to work, the organization’s vision and direction must be very clear to everyone. Independent decision-makers throughout the organization must have a thorough understanding of the big vision, direction, and goals they are working toward. 

Mission-based leaders must make it a priority to ensure that the direction is clear --- and they must overcome certain common systemic challenges that often make organizational direction appear muddled. 

Here are 2 Threats to Communicating a Clear and Compelling Direction—and Strategies for Tackling Them:

Threat # 1:  Different leaders may be going different directions.  When different parts of the organization are running in different directions, or different leaders are communicating very differently about direction and vision, it can cause breakdowns throughout the company. 

It’s only natural that different members of the leadership team are passionate about different aspects of the mission.  It’s so easy to talk about the direction in different ways—whether senior leaders are focusing on individual department goals over shared organizational goals, or it’s a matter of the organization’s founder continuing to define the organization’s purpose in historical terms, in spite of the board setting a new direction. But if it appears to your staff, customers, or investors/ supporters that different leaders are leading in different directions, this will cause resources to fly out the window! 

Tackling this Threat: 

  • Develop effective mechanisms for clearing up diverging opinions among organizational leaders about direction, goals, and priorities. If you don’t have such mechanisms, considering getting help from an astute organizational consultant. 
  • Work to ensure that everyone, middle managers included, is communicating the same vision and goals—and taking the time to communicate the vision and direction of the organization very thoroughly at all levels.
  • Develop mechanisms to test whether the direction is clear to everyone.

Threat # 2: Rapid environmental changes can obscure the direction. We’re doing what now?! What happened to our goals and priorities from last quarter?

Tackling this Threat: Put changes in context to clarify what is changing and what isn’t.  Is the big vision and direction still the same?  How does the new change affect that?

To maximize impact and prevent resource escape, mission-based leaders must work hard to consistently communicate a clear and compelling vision and direction throughout the organization.

What do YOU do to sustain a compelling vision?  How do you recognize and regularly clear up any confusion about your organizational direction?

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