What better week to talk about communicating your vision than this? We would be hard pressed to think of someone better at this than Martin Luther King Jr., who so poignantly communicated his vision for the country. Communicating a vision is about painting a picture that speaks to the individual. To do so you must answer three questions:
Why? Understanding why changes are needed can be difficult. To begin with, many of our employees do not have the access to the bigger picture. It is our job as leaders to give them that context. “Creating context — on a regular basis — is a critical part of every manager’s job and could be considered a core competency of leadership. Without it, you might find yourself ahead of schedule, but not sure where you are heading,” wrote Ron Ashkenas on the HBR blog. Essentially, communicating a vision without context is like using the default parent response, “Because I said so.” You may get your employees to act, but ultimately they will not understand why they are doing it and will not be committed to its success, creating more work for you in the long run.
WIFM? As President of Natural Encounters, Steve Martin, wrote, “What’s In It For Me? That question drives most every decision you make. From the moment you wake up in the morning, “What’s in it for me” is the subconscious mantra playing quietly in the back of your head.”Engagement starts with understanding “what’s in it for me” or WIFM. When you are communicating your organization’s vision, you must also be answering questions like, “How does this new strategy impact my job role? What will be expected of me moving forward? How will this benefit my division?”
Employees only have so much time in the day or room in their head (and inbox); if they don’t understand the personal impact of something, it becomes a lower priority. Think about it, if you think something doesn’t affect you, how much do you care?
How? This doesn’t mean that you have to outline the day to day for every employee. What you do need to do, is provide strategic direction. Explain the steps that are necessary to achieve your goals and what are the critical success factors. Then let your employees determine how they can complete those steps. This gives your employees the opportunity to take ownership of the vision and its success. It becomes more than something other people developed, it becomes something they are a part of.
A vision and its strategy will fail without the buy-in of your employees. If Martin Luther King Jr. never communicated his dream for the country, it would be only that, a dream. If people walked away not understanding the “urgency of Now,” not believing in a better world for their children, not inspired to go back to their homes “knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed,” then the world would be a different place. The picture that King painted, spoke to the individual, it spoke to a nation, and that is what made it successful. As leaders, we too, must help our employees understand our visions and empower them to make it their own.