Thursday, November 12, 2009

Developing and Communicating Your Vision

In my last blog entry, I talked about teams performing their best when there’s a vision of success. I mentioned that it is the leader’s job - moral obligation, actually – to concoct and communicate this vision. He/she must then follow up to insure that this vision is internalized and lived by the team. I also said that the ability to do this is a critical discriminator that separates effective from ineffective leaders. This is the second of three blogs and will cover the development and communication of the vision of success.

As an aside, I referenced my son’s football team. Please allow me to very proudly announce that they won the Division Championship!! See? They played with a shared, internalized vision of success. (A killer defense helped!)

So, how does a leader develop this vision of success? My immediate answer is that it’s done with a lot of help. I received a lot of great feedback and commentary on my last post, and a point was made that the team must be involved in this. I agree wholeheartedly. Buy-in to anything is best achieved when those who must implement it have an active role in the development. This vision must satisfy the goals and objectives of each team member. The goals and vision of the parent organization also come into play. That is best accomplished by finding out what the leader’s superiors’ goals are and making sure the vision marries up with and is supportive to the organization’s objectives. That is the key, critical task…taking the various and sundry entities involved and meshing and melding sometimes conflicting goals, agendas, and objectives, flavoring them with the leaders own “spice,”then boiling them all down into a solid, easily articulated vision for the team.

Once done, the next task is communicating this vision. In the age of email, websites, Twitter, etc, that can be a tricky task. In addition to calling the team together (in person, preferably) and reviewing it, the vision must be formalized into the rating and evaluation “system.” I’m a big believer in frequent, documented (written) feedback and communication between leader and team. That feedback must then follow, or track, to quarterly, semiannual, and annual performance reviews. These reviews should and must have an input mechanism for the individual being rated or evaluated. Make that vision a part of this input, regular feedback, and formal reviews. In addition, the leader’s supervisors must be in on and supportive of this process. Individual behaviors that support the vision should be noted, as are behaviors and performance that detract from the vision.

I’ll cover acting on these behaviors and performance in the last part of this trilogy, as part of inspiring, training, educating, coaching, and motivating.

Again, importantly, it’s the leader’s ability to get his/her team through this process, that will, in large part, determine the success of the team…and the leader.

That’s the point!

- Tony

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Vision of Success

My 9 year old son plays on a football team. During one of his football games, I saw the sheer desire, the absolute will to win that his coach had. I also noted that that same will to win had not found its way to my son, nor the rest of the team that fateful Saturday morning. Needless to say, they lost.

I've managed and led teams of salespeople over the years in different industries. I’ve also led teams of various sizes during my 11 years in the Army. Each of these teams has been successful. My son’s football team won the league championship last year and, under the same excellent coach I mentioned above, has compiled a 2-1 record so far this season. My sales teams have consistently led in market share attainment and new-product launches in one industry, and have been a company leader in attainment of plan in the other industry. My military teams have also led in the categories that count. Turnover in all my teams has also historically been very low. All of these are markers of success.

I would propose to you that there is a commonality in all of these that is a trait of being successful. That commonality is a shared vision of success. Some may argue that this is a bit too simplistic – that it is much more than that. Allow me to disagree and tell you that everything else a team does and doesn’t do to be successful starts with this shared vision. It is this vision that inspires. It is this vision that motivates. It is this vision that permits each individual team member to do whatever it takes (and more). It is this vision, then, that become the rallying cry for the team when it is faced with challenges. It is this vision that buttresses the team to success in overcoming these challenges.

It is up to the leader to concoct and then communicate this vision. Once that is done, his/her main job, then, is to inspire, train, educate, coach, and motivate the team so this vision is inculcated, internalized, then implemented by each member. I hear the question frequently, what is leadership? I would submit to you that if the ability to do this well isn’t leadership, it is definitely a discriminator for effective leadership.

So, how do you concoct, then communicate this vision of success? How do you go about the leader’s everyday job of training, motivating, educating, and inspiring? How does a leader get his/her team to internalize then implement this vision? I’ll address that in the next edition.

After all, that’s the point!

- Tony

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What's the Point?

I've blogged before in lots of forms and in even more forums over my years of being in school, in business, and now, currently. It just wasn't called "blogging." Heck, I didn't even know it was "blogging!" It was just a way to get something get something off my be challenged.

My most recent foray was as a part of the Nutrisystem weight loss online community, where, after having gained too much weight as a result of fatherhood, not paying attention to my health and fitness, and having high-pressure/low free-time jobs - the usual suspects, I had my first "real" blog experience. I called it "Tony's Rant" and I, at first, detailed my trials, thoughts, and advice as I lost 32 pounds using their food and the program. (I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to lose weight - it works!) After I lost the very unhealthy weight, I noticed that my success, as well as the others who were similarly successful, was based on a very pragmatic, no-nonsense, tough-love mindset. I adopted that mindset in my blogs subsequent to my weight loss. I also took on some "sacred cows," and caused more than a little controversy. It was a place where people came not only to have their virtual butt's chewed on, but to receive a parting inspirational, motivational "shot"...along with my offer to assist in any way I could. It was therapeutic, not only for me, but for those who read it as well (so the readers told me). I received numerous coaching offers and engagements from many of the readers based on what was said and the ensuing feedback. I know now that that therapeutic result can be equated to "value."

I intend to do the same here. It is my sincere hope that I can add value to anyone who drops by and takes a read. That value can take several forms. It can make you angry, make you talk, make you care, make you think, and make you act. I would appreciate knowing your thoughts, your feelings and your points of view. As I bring value to you, I will, in turn, get value from you.

What's the point? That's the point!

- Tony