What’s Your Vision Statement? A Hard Question for Leaders

The ability to remain competitive and relevant in the financial services industry or any other industry lies heavily in crafting a strategic direction for the future of the company that represents the company’s values and goals, which should be encompassed in a company’s vision statement.

When you ask most company leaders what the vision for their organization is, they often defer to the company’s current goals and plans rather than offer a forward-looking perspective of where they intend to be in the future.

Based on the 2016 Trends in Executive Development Benchmark Report, “the ability to create a vision, convey it to others, and inspire and engage people” is considered “the single most important capability needed for the emerging generation of leaders“; Yet, it is still the one of the most under-developed capabilities when it comes to organizational leadership.

Let’s take a look at how leaders can be coached to approach each of the steps in developing an effective vision statement.

1) Creating a Powerful Vision Statement

A vision statement should clearly reflect an organization’s core values and how the company’s future goals will align with those values. It is most important to develop a leader’s critical thinking skills in order to be capable of examining the implications of the organization and and anticipating future opportunities.  Strategic thinking must also be developed so that leaders can strategize on how to position the company to capitalize on those opportunities.

2) Convey the Vision Statement

“According to the Human Capital League, only 42% of employees know their organization’s vision, mission and values.”

A leader’s communications skills must be developed and strengthened to give them the ability to not only clearly explain the company vision to employees, but to connect them to how each of their roles in the organization contributes to and is incorporated into the company vision.

3) Engage People to Follow the Company Vision

A company’s vision that nobody stands behind has no chance of coming to fruition. In a recent study, “employees who don’t find their company’s vision meaningful at all have average engagement scores of only 16 percent.” These are employees who do not feel invested in the company’s success and will therefore not contribute wholly to it.
Company leaders must be developed in offering inspiring motivation to employees that will get and keep them engaged in working toward the success of the company vision.

Once an organization’s leaders are coached through mentorship and developmental job assignments to strengthen their critical thinking, communication and motivational skills, they will be much better prepared to answer the challenging question of a company’s vision. It is a question that must be answered if a company is going to position itself for future growth and success.

Five Tips to Be More Energetic

Being energetic, productive and working smart in the midst of turbulent times and business pressure is a challenge. We consistently deal with interruptions, distractions, competing priorities, ambitious targets, and unforeseen crises no matter where we are. However, there is a way to manage our time well and wisely in order to:

1. Manage our stress level in a positive way
2. Get more done every day
3. Stay energetic and productive in the long run

The following five insights are based on the best-selling book The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz. I met Jim and Tony personally, attended their presentations and workshops, read their book and applied their ideas to my life over the last few years. It has paid dividends.

#1: Learn to Better Manage Your Energy

Many productivity thinkers over the years have focused on the idea of time: there are a limited number of hours in a day. Time, however, goes by, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour – we can’t really manage it.

What we can manage is the energy we bring to those hours. To be an effective and productive person, it’s important to spend those hours wisely according to our energy level.

If we’re low on energy, it doesn’t matter how much time we have available to accomplish a task – we’ll be so exhausted that we’ll not get the expected performance outcome. On the other hand, when we have a ton of energy, we can get many things done in very little time.

The key to effective time management is effective energy management; establish ways to feel energetic – and highly energized – each day.

#2: Use Available Energy Effectively

Energy is expandable; time is not. We only have so much energy to use each day. However, we can expand our capacity for productive effort. As long as we take care of ourselves and pay attention to how much energy we have, we can accomplish surprising amounts of work.

On a calendar, there’s no visible difference between 8 – 9am and 1-2pm.
Physically and energetically, there’s a huge difference. Our body operates in energy cycles in which our energy fluctuates up and down. Like the circadian cycle, which is responsible for our waking/sleeping pattern, there are other cycles as well, which naturally oscillates every 90 minutes between high and low energy. Those cycles are normal, so it is useful to pay attention to them. Every hour and a half or so, your body needs a bit of relaxation and rest. Powering through the dip in energy is actually counterproductive – we are not giving our body the rest it needs to operate at peak performance.

#3: Think Like an Athlete!

be more energetic

When working, think like a sprinter – we can cover a lot of ground in a quick burst, but we can’t keep up that pace all day. With a little rest between bursts, however, we can sprint over and over again.

When we sprint or run fast for hours, we’ll wear ourselves out, and we’ll need a longer period of recovery before we’ll be ready to go again. At the extreme, some people work themselves to the point of exhaustion, at which point their body forces them to recover via injury or illness. We can only push ourselves so much. There are physical limits. Recovery is mandatory, not optional.

Top athletes plan cycles of high performance (training, competition) and relaxation (rest, recover). When an athlete over trains, he runs the risk of reaching a break point, or injury and his performance diminishes.

As “corporate” athletes, we have to think in cycles, too.

#4: Learn Strategic Disengagement

Some people seem to look at human beings like a robot: no breaks during work hours, no lunchtime, no recovery all day every day. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Humans are “energy” beings, and we have physical needs. It’s useful to think of your body as one integrated energetic system, which we use to get things done. If that system breaks or wears down, we won’t accomplish anything.

Just as we regularly fill the gas tank of our vehicle, we have to refill our “energy” tank. We need relaxation, rest, recovery, and rejuvenation. One of the best ways to maintain high level of performance over the year is taking breaks; a concept called strategic disengagement. Based on our individual energy cycles of high performance and relaxation, it is critical to plan and take phases of strategic disengagement to refill the gas tank – before we run out of gas.

#5: Stress Is a Good Thing – If Used Consciously

From a physical and energy standpoint, it is as important to take strategic breaks, as it is critical to exert stress. There is positive stress (eustress) and negative stress (distress) – usually people refer to stress as “distress”. Positive stress is good. If I want to build stronger muscles, putting stress and tension on the muscle will help it grow. Therefore, it is good to plan “stressful” time periods, where we are challenged and forced to push to our capacity. Too often, we do that, but unconsciously until we break down. The critical element is to do it intentionally.

Conscious (positive) stress management is like a form of energy resistance training. Stress becomes a signal our bodies use to generate more energy to meet the demand. As long as we’re getting enough rest and recovery, it pays to exert – even exhaust – ourselves. We get stronger, build resilience and expand capacity for energy.

How to Create a Position-Result Guide and Establish Accountability in Your Organization

We don’t get paid for efforts; we get paid for results. In many organizations, job descriptions are purely task-oriented. People are told what to do instead of what results are expected. This limits their scope and inhibits initiative and creativity.
A Position-Result Guide is a tool that defines and organizes your work in a result-oriented approach.

Creating a Position-Result Guide in 3 steps

1. Describe Your Major Goal of the Position

Identify the role and major purpose of your work and position.

  • What overall results are expected from you in your position?
  • Why does this position exist and how does it relate to the organizational objectives and strategic priorities?

2. Determine Your Responsibilities with Key Result Areas (KRA)

A Key Result Area (KRA) is a job function and describes areas of responsibility related to the desired outcome of the position.

  • What are the key responsibilities?
  • What are the main projects, areas of activities or key result areas of the position?
  • What is this person responsible for accomplishing?

Usually, there are between three to six Key Result Areas per position.

3. Define and Set Performance Standards (PS)

A Performance Standard measures the successful completion of a task, activity, project or responsibility. It describes when a job in the Key Result Area is satisfactorily performed. Be sure the conditions you describe are specific, measurable and time-based by applying one for the following measures:

  • Timeline (“project XYZ accomplished by November 30”)
  • Documentation (“financial report delivered and presented by June 15”)
  • Percentage (“increase market share by 2% by the end of the year”)
  •  Number (“create and submit 5 proposals per months”)
  • Monetary Amount (“reduce cost by $200k in 6 months”)

Following is an example of a “Position-Result Guide” for the role of Vice President’s Operations of a $500 million construction company. Please note the specific and time-based measures.

 Position Guide: Vice President of Operations

Major Role and Goal of the Position
Plans, organizes, directs and controls the activities of the Operations function of the company to ensure client satisfaction, quality delivery and financial performance. Responsible for the performance of all operations functions, including: Manufacturing, Material Management, Ordering services, Labor and Project management.

Key Result Area #1: Operations Management
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Job profit for each construction project is met (Yes/No, including percentage difference from budget).
  • Labor Budgets are met (Yes/No; percentage difference from budget).
  • Schedule on sites are met (Yes/No; percentage difference from budget).
  • Material Budgets are met (Yes/No; percentage difference from budget).
  • Quality standards are met (QA/QC Checklist completed and signed by client.

Key Result Area #2: Maintain Customer Satisfaction and Client Relations
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Weekly meetings to collaborate with sales to estimate how to develop new customers to meet monthly sales targets.
  • Send out client satisfaction surveys at the end of each job at time of implementation.
  • Meet with client and conduct interviews to hear all concerns and assure needs are being met once per month.
  • Attend two industry trade shows and two conferences each year with the goal of staying current in our market sector.

Key Result Area #3: Management and Team Development
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Staff morale is high. Survey staff every 6 months with the goal of 75 percent who are satisfied with their work.
  • Conduct annual performance review meetings (written 1-page summary per direct report).
  • Plan and conduct 3 off site team or strategy events per year to help bolster companywide morale.
  • Monthly 1-1 development meetings with my Direct Reports to coach, mentor, develop their skills and knowledge; have them complete and work on their own development plan.
  • Conduct meetings to provide information, updates and direction to the operations department (monthly with entire staff; weekly meeting with Direct Reports).

Key Result Area #4: Management Collaboration and Engagement
Performance Standard: My job in this area will be satisfactorily performed when:

  • Companywide resource planning and allocation based on short, mid and long-term business development and backlog (quarterly meetings)
  • Internal coordination with key departments: finance, sales, estimating – monthly meeting for update and coordination.
  • Financial planning, projection and reviews: monthly reporting to CEO and executive team.

In order for a business to succeed, it requires an approach that organizes and structures work around results. Translating the organization’s strategic objectives into responsibilities and roles is the foundation of effective performance management and essential for creating a culture of accountability. This involves every position in the organization to link their responsibilities to the overall organizational objectives to clear, measurable standards of performance.

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How to Turn a Good Leadership Team into a Great One

The enemy of becoming great is becoming content with being good. That is the reason we have many good companies, not great ones, good schools, not a great ones, and good management teams, not great ones. There’s a lot of good, but not good enough to become great.

Most organizations, institutions, teams, and individuals have become comfortable with being good. That’s where they stay. Consequently, there is no urgency, drive, and motivation put into extra efforts to become great.

Good Leadership to Great Leadership Example

When the CEO of a construction company called me to provide leadership development, the company went through a lot of change. They had transferred complete ownership of the company twice in the previous year and experienced a high turnover in personnel. The executive team consisted of nine individuals with very driven, ambitious, A-type personalities.

Their culture was one in which managers made decisions based on the interest of their department or themselves, not the entire company. For example, during budget discussions the managers would fight and argue for who was to get the most resources, instead of allocating funds to implement what was best for the company. The three main departments were functioning as “stand alone silos” instead of “well oiled machines”. The biggest challenge was getting the entire team to commit to change and to demonstrate a true desire to better oneself, the team, and the company.

We implemented the following four strategies to move their management team from good to great –

Great Leadership Management Approaches

1. Embrace the Mover and Shaker Ideology

When teams do the same things as they did in the past, they continue to attract the same results. Change is needed. Initially, the team had lengthy conversations about what was going well, what the challenges were, and where change was necessary. Those discussions helped create urgency for leading the change efforts. Each manager committed to shake up one of their daily routines such as visiting the field more regularly, or walk through the entire office once a day.

2. Focus Growing Trust with Open and Honest Communication

Some of the managers didn’t mesh well together. Rather than collaborating, they were competing with each other. Two of the managers barely knew each other even though they worked on the same client projects. On one occasion they carpooled to a client meeting and learned more about each other during the trip. By spending more time together, mutual understanding increased, so did the trust between them.

3. Focus on Positive New Opportunities

A great team owns their “purpose” and articulates it to the entire organization with clarity and tenacity. This management team met regularly for strategic sessions to align themselves around a clear future direction for the organization. They focused on opportunities rather than challenges, solutions instead of problems, and talked about new market niches rather than complaining about clients. They developed a clear vision of where they wanted to go and what they wanted to accomplish together.

4. Increase Accountability Efforts with Clearly Defined Systems

The team discussed collective efforts, assigned roles, responsibilities, and contributions based on skills and talent. This resulted in specific performance standards and expectations. In addition, they clarified behavioral guidelines that stemmed from their company values. This was the foundation for increased mutual accountability.

As the management team led the change efforts, employees noticed significant improvements. These were the responses from the team members:

  • “Now there’s more listening here.”
  • “We are more open with each other.”
  • “There’s a lot more interaction and proactive discussions.”

This resulted in tangible progress in the numbers. Besides working together better among the managers, the workforce increased by 10 percent, revenues by 50 percent, and profits grew by 300 percent within 3 years.

The CEO summarized the progress in his own words:

We always had skilled people. I attribute a lot of results to making changes in our own behavior. Now we are more skilled in working together as a great leadership team.