Setting the right direction

We all know that good leaders set the direction for a company, as US clergyman and leadership guru John C Maxwell put it, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” But how do these leaders define their mission in the first place and set the right goals for their business?

Leaders need to think big, in order to create a compelling vision, using plenty of imagination and creativity to consider the future business strategy.

Imagining the business without any boundaries, limitations or financial constraints could be part of the process of establishing the vision. What would it look like? What new products and services could be offered to customers? What do you see, hear and feel? What are customers saying about the company and how do employees feel about their work? What are customers saying about the company now and how could it be improved?

This creative exercise can be vital in helping shape the strategic planning process. Even if some of the suggestions may not be realistic; imagining a company without any barriers or obstacles could lead to future innovation or to changes in the business that could deliver genuine improvements. Once the big picture is identified, a more achievable vision is then created by taking into account the current situation and addressing any obstacles that need to be overcome.

It is just as important that a vision is co-created with the senior management team. If a vision is collective, with ‘buy in’ and support from the top team from day one it is more likely to be adopted across the organisation more easily.

When a clear vision has been established, it is important to look at what specific goals are needed to achieve the vision. Unlike the vision, the goals will need to be clear, purposeful, realistic and measurable. 

Consideration must also be made of what values are most important to the business and what behaviours are expected as the norm from employees. These values need to be embedded in the culture but for this to happen they must also be reflected in the behaviour of the leader at all times – the leader needs to show the way and clearly demonstrate what is expected. As management guru and best-selling author, Stephen Covey says, ‘What you do has far greater impact than what you say’.

In order to ensure values are embedded in the culture and that goals are achieved they could be set as part of employee’s individual performance development plans. If there are financial goals they can be measured at quarterly reviews.  Equally, if one of the values is ‘passion’ then how passionate people are about their roles could be measured as part of their performance review.

Communication is a vital part of establishing a clear vision. Leaders need to clearly and consistently communicate the company’s vision and business goals at every opportunity. This sounds obvious, but it is something many companies do poorly or fail to do at all.

If your workforce doesn’t know where it is going, it can’t be expected to get there. Creating a compelling and believable vision will motivate your workforce and you will be far more likely to achieve your goals.