When I was appointed CEO of Buffini & Company in 2013, one of the first things I did was meet with employees in each department, explain the goals of the company, outline the role each group would play in making these goals a reality and explain how each group would benefit from the company achieving them. Then I took it a step further: I asked for feedback.
Now, many leaders can be reluctant to do this last part. When they’re given the reins of a successful company, they’re excited to create a vision and plan to take the company to the next level. While they may consult the CFO and COO in the process, they may not think to talk to the people who may be impacted the most by the changes: the employees.
It’s human nature to resist change at all costs. We get comfortable with things as they are; after all, we’re used to things being a certain way. To propose changes to the status quo makes some people dig their heels in and say, “Nope, we’re not changing.” However, if you’re open to feedback from your employees—whether you lead a few people or a large organization—you’ll be able to create a better, clearer vision and get everyone onboard to make it a reality.
Here’s a simple three-part formula to help you turn your vision into action.
Step 1: Clarity
Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) says, “Without a vision, the people perish.” The key to sharing your vision is to clearly communicate it to your staff. Your vision is more than the goals you have for the company, it includes benefits for the customer and the overall company as well. People want to know what’s in it for them. Outline what you expect and plan your resources: How much time, money and people will it take to achieve the overall goal? Once you have a clear picture of what you want, you’ll be able to share it with your team.
Step 2: Consensus
Next, you have to get people on-board. There’s a saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” I know I’m not the only one with ideas at the company; there are plenty of bright people waiting for a chance to share something they’ve thought of – and those ideas can often come from the staff who work directly with customers. It’s important to get people in the room together and talk. This is where you explain your vision and ask for feedback: What are their thoughts? How can they use their expertise to contribute to turning the vision into reality? How can they make it better?
This part takes preparation. Not everyone will be ready to offer input right then and there. The more analytical people in the group will want to think about and digest the vision and what you’ve outlined before they contribute to the larger discussion. Emailing people ahead of time with a list of questions or points to consider will jump-start the conversation when it’s time for the meeting.
Building consensus also takes time. When I took over the helm of CEO it took me almost a year to meet with everyone and collect feedback. And, feedback came in throughout the year.
Once you’ve met with each group or leader then organize a meeting where you remind everyone of the overall objective. This meeting will help get everyone on the same page. Encourage them to share what they’ll do to help the company achieve its vision. Everyone gets to see what their role is, as well as the roles of others in bringing the vision to life.
Let me be clear: You’re not running a business by committee. Achieving 100 percent agreement is almost impossible, especially in larger companies. Instead, aim to achieve majority agreement. The great thing about consensus is that all voices are heard, so everyone feels their questions or concerns have been considered, even if the final version isn’t exactly what they had in mind. They feel as if they have a stake in the final outcome.
Step 3: Commitment
Commitment is the final step. An amazing thing happens when you include key stakeholders and your staff into creating a vision for the company—they’re committed to seeing it through. They feel motivated and personally responsible for achieving the goals. They can see and understand the big picture and know that they have an important role within it.
Remember to revisit the vision and goals regularly. We review ours every month at our company meetings. People get busy and may lose sight of the vision. Even motivation begins to slip. Zig Ziglar famously said, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.” It’s funny because it’s true. Going over the vision periodically, say at a monthly team or company meeting, will keep it fresh in their minds so they’re always focused on achieving it. They’re excited to achieve it!
The whole process takes time, energy and participation from everyone involved. However, with patience, the practice pays off in the end. Your team will be more engaged and productive and you’ll find that with everyone onboard, the company is able to achieve its goals and move forward.Dermot