by John R. Stoker
When I was a boy growing up in Redlands, California, my father would often take me with him to view cultural events on summer evenings at the Redlands Bowl. This outdoor venue was a wonderful place to view opera, plays, band concerts, and numerous famous singers.
One evening as we sat waiting for the performance to begin, my dad leaned over and asked me, “What do you think that means?” At the top of the proscenium were these words, “Without Vision A People Perish.” Being only about 10 years old at the time, I contemplated the wisdom of this phrase and replied, “I guess it means that if you are blind, you can’t find your food, so then you die.”
He laughed out loud and said, “That’s pretty good! You’re right that if you can’t see what you need, you probably won’t find it.”
Having worked with a number of teams, I have often contemplated the impact vision has on increased motivation. I was particularly fascinated with the Norton and Kaplan Study done in 2007. These two Harvard researchers asked a myriad of employees if they knew how what they did at work impacted their organization’s strategy. 95% of those surveyed indicated that they did not know how their work contributed to the organization’s success. Why is this the case?
Those employees surveyed most often chose leadership communication as the reason for the disconnection between themselves and understanding how their work impacted the organization. Put another way, “fake talk” contributes to “fake work,” or workers, managers, and organizations achieving less than full potential.
I would submit that clearly identifying and articulating a vision not only increases employee motivation but also insures desired results.
Here are a number of strategies you might implement to increase individual and team success.
Identify Your Mission
It is imperative to know specifically what you want to achieve. If you are not completely clear, then your lack of clarity is what will be communicated to your associates. You need to know exactly what you want people to do.
Articulate the Vision
Once you know exactly the results you want to achieve, you need to convey that vision to each individual. They need to understand specifically how what they are and will be doing will make the vision reality.
Each individual should have a clear understanding of what success looks like and what expectations will guide their performance. Clarity is the key.
Encourage Initiative and Communication
There are far too many people who wait to be told what to do. Why is that? Sometimes people are afraid to make a mistake. At other times individuals have worked very hard and then have received no recognition for their efforts. Still others may feel like what they do really doesn’t matter.
Once you have clearly established expectations and set parameters for performance encourage people to help you achieve those goals. Invite them to take the initiative, ask questions, identify concerns or roadblocks, offer suggestions, and solicit your involvement if they need help or support. Creating a culture of candor and learning goes a long way to increasing motivation and engagement.
Determination moves people forward to action. Even when obstacles occur or priorities change, encourage people to persevere towards the goal. Those who have a specific idea of what to do and the permission to move forward to achieve it will succeed.
We are often quick to criticize what people don’t do or what they do that we don’t like. How would it change things if you said, “This is a great opportunity for you. I know you can apply your expertise and experience to make this assignment a smashing success. I look forward to seeing the results.”
Who wouldn’t be lifted or inspired by such an expression of confidence by their leader? Speaking in this way empowers a person to succeed.
Recognize individual and team effort in accomplishing superior results. We repeat behavior that is reinforced. Taking the time to recognize performance and its impact says, “I noticed you and what you did.” We often fail to realize that recognizing smaller successes lead to much larger future success.
Having a clear vision, communicating that vision to each individual effectively, inviting their help, and recognizing their contributions will increase your team’s motivation, productivity, and results. Your vision will no longer be just a vision, but reality.