I have had three opportunities in the past week to be involved with CEOs who were sharing their five year vision with their senior leadership team (SLT). In each case, the CEO had the expectation (or hope) that the SLT would respond enthusiastically to their vision and that no one in the organization would feel too insulted by what they thought needed to be changed for future success. So, are these realistic (or even desirable) goals for a vision discussion?
When communicating vision, a leader’s goal should focus on two things. Choose leadership behaviors that instill trust and build confidence. Strive for absolute clarity in the message of your vision.
The Bailey Group’s research, supported by other studies on employee engagement, demonstrate that one of the most important keys to an engaged, motivated workforce is trust in senior leadership. Senior leaders who are authentic, honest, effective communicators, and who have “leadership presence,” are trusted by their employees, and are catalysts for building confident and motivated workforces.
If you think about it, this makes sense. Employee’s financial well being and work satisfaction are in the hands of their senior leadership. If senior leaders are uncertain or unclear about what they want and how they plan to get there, doubters and nay-sayers have the opportunity to create confusion, sow seeds of doubt about the leadership of the company, and undermine efforts at aligning the organization to pursue a shared path to success. This leads to conflict within the organization and ineffective execution.
The most important measure of success in communicating your vision is not immediate enthusiasm or an absence of hurt feelings. Instead, strive for absolute clarity with regards to three key messages:
- What it is that you want for the firm and how you define the success for the firm.
- The behavior and competencies SLT members must exhibit if they are to succeed at the firm in the future.
- That while you are open to ideas regarding how to accomplish the vision, the content of the vision is not up for debate, and SLT members will be evaluated going forward on their ability and willingness to execute on the vision.
At the end of the day, clarity is under the control of the CEO. What is not under the CEO’s control is how people respond to the vision. So if you are a CEO preparing to share your vision, focus on what you can control: authenticity, clarity of communication, and honesty. Your reward, over time, will be a more motivated and engaged workforce.