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Igniting and Leading Change

by Bonni Carson DiMatteo

The Vision Thing

The company quarterly meeting has begun. This is the time the staff has been waiting for to verify the whisperings at the water cooler. The CFO has just given the financial standing of the company. The CEO moves toward the podium. She was looking forward to this moment. She was ready to share the good news: 'We have some exciting news about the vision of our company. We are going to be doubling our business in the next three years! We will let you know at our next meeting what we have achieved.'

The response of muffled applause was underwhelming. Why weren't they excited?

It's a lesson not only in what you say and do, but how you deliver it. If time is not taken to consider the What's In It for Me (a.k.a. WIFM) factor, the company vision can be delivered with a thud instead of a resounding cheer. If you want to turn a thud into a cheer, you have to give them reason to wave the flag. How will you inspire a cheer?

What's the Rest of the Story?

What the internal customer, the staff, wants to hear is the rest of the story. How will this impact my workload, my salary, my benefits, my team? How will the roles and responsibilities be different? Who will be the new players? How might I benefit if we are successful? What is the compelling reason for the vision? Research suggests the three greatest incentives for the internal customers are: financial rewards tied to achieved goals; a clear line between the company vision and their contribution to its success; and opportunity for professional development.

A recent survey by American Society of Training and Development found that the three reasons people stay in a company are: 1) recognition; 2) career development; and 3) financial rewards. In our work with employee retention, employee satisfaction, and business strategy, we have found the following ingredients are necessary to retain employees: 1) an opportunity to make a difference, contribute, and be recognized for it; 2) a shared return on company success; and 3) a sense of connection and 'family/neighbor' culture to the company. The only way visions can be achieved is through the staff. How are you speaking to these issues?

Articulating the Why and the How of the Vision

Why is this vision important? What will happen if we don't achieve the vision? What will happen if we do? How is it aligned with the company values and mission? How will this plan ensure jobs, bonuses? How will this vision create possibilities for employee innovation, contribution, recognition, and excitement? How will this vision contribute to competitive edge in their industry? What is the David and Goliath metaphor? How can this company's vision become a shared vision for all of the internal stakeholders? Inquiring minds want to know.

They want to know that they have not just been asked to work twice as hard to build the bank account of the company without knowing that it will also enhance their salaries, benefits, or professional development. They want to know that their company is committed to exceeding expectations, invested in their internal customers and their future. That is the job of leadership. How will you articulate and demonstrate that?

Creating a Call for Action and Passion for the Vision

As a leader, make sure your vision includes how it will touch those critical concerns of the soldiers who will win this war for you. That will create the buy in to make your vision a reality throughout the company. How will you incite them to action?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Create the vision in a story that sets the rationale ' the economic, psychological, or moral imperative to fulfill this vision.
  • Create excitement, motivation, and contribution around the vision by articulating the WIFM and inviting a call for action that will make a difference.
  • Encourage participation and contribution to the achievement of this vision.
  • Convey your vision frequently and in many different ways ' staff meetings, staff outings, newsletters, emails, posters, focus teams, problem-solving teams, etc.
  • Show them visuals that articulate the accomplishment of the vision, its impact, and meaningful steps along the way.
  • Align the company goals with the vision; align individual and team goals with company goals.
  • Consider bonuses, recognition, and career development that will acknowledge the goal completion that furthers the vision.
  • Identify a cross-functional change management team that can anticipate the impact of the vision on the current work and can devise new work strategies and systems around the vision.
  • Talk it up. Make time to communicate with key players and key teams.
  • Celebrate meaningful benchmarks along the way.

Our most valuable resource is our people. They will take the vision to a touchdown or drop the ball. How that vision is conveyed can either create enthusiasm or resistance. That will be the fuel that will take your company to its next generation.

As a leader, communicating the vision is the opportunity to articulate the possibilities and create opportunities for the people who will make it happen. How does your vision paint the picture of shared opportunity, reward, and contribution? The details will follow.

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