The Biggest Mistake Leaders Make Communicating Their Visions

So you’ve created your Picture of Success – a new vision that’ll take your company to new heights. You’re excited and you can’t wait to get started sharing this Picture with your team, your managers, and your employees. But hold on a second. The biggest mistake leaders make in communicating their Vision is jumping too quickly to link the Vision to the priorities, goals, and objectives of their strategic business plan. And just like that, back to A State they go! With no transformation and only a mild improvement…if they’re lucky!

In Part 1 of this series on Launching a B STATE Transformation, we covered how to create a compelling future picture for your business. In Part 2, you will learn to communicate your message in a way that infuses your Picture of Success into the culture of your organization. Yes, communicating your message in a way that actually makes a difference in behavior!

Launching a B STATE Transformation

Part 2: Communicating Your Picture of Success – Your New Reality

Ruth, the CEO of a medium-sized company, shared her frustration: “I gathered everyone for an all-hands meeting and passionately shared my vision for the organization. I was clear about what we needed to do differently in order to compete in our marketplace. I even answered people’s questions. But three months later, NO CHANGE!”

Maybe you have had a similar experience or heard a similar story, and maybe you just accepted this as the way the things are. “It takes YEARS to change a culture!” seems to be the common excuse and paradigm used by “experts” in the organizational culture field.

NOT TRUE!

But what is true is that communicating your message, rolling out a training program, and even doing process improvement will not turn your Picture of Success into a New Reality.

The Seven Steps

Communicating your Picture of Success in a way that quickly changes your culture requires seven simple steps:

Step 1: Share the Context for Transformation

You’ve been immersed in responding to the external drivers—market trends, economic changes, new technologies, competitive threats, customer demands, and regulatory restrictions—that have forced you to rethink your business and resulted in a new Picture of Success. But others in your organization have been so focused on meeting daily demands, that they haven’t been able to lift their head up long enough to think about external drivers, let alone the possibility of creating a B STATE.

Announcing your Picture of Success without understanding the external drivers that provide context devalues your message. To your employees, it just sounds like the next “flavor of the month” change based on the personality of the CEO. Ultimately, the context for change provides the compelling purpose or “burning platform” for transformation.

Step 2: Communicate with One Voice

No matter how inspiring the Leader is when delivering a message, it’ll ultimately mean nothing to employees if it’s not backed up by words and actions carried out by the leadership team when they return to their functional areas. It’s critical for leadership to speak with one voice in full alignment—not only in words, but also in actions that demonstrate consistency with the CEO’s message. Communicating with one voice begins with the CEO’s announcement. The entire Executive Team should participate in the delivery of the message in order to demonstrate their participation in creating it and their aligned agreement to make the Picture of Success a reality.

Step 3: Demonstrate Shared Ownership

It’s easy to ask everyone else to change, but what demonstrates true commitment is when you describe the changes you yourself plan to make in service to your Picture of Success. Part of delivering your Picture of Success includes sharing the changes that the Executive Team plans to make in their team execution such as how they will function differently as a team and the business goals they plan to drive and achieve as a team. This message let’s people know that they have “skin in the game” of the transformation, instead of only relying on others to make it happen.

Step 4: Set New Expectations for the Entire Organization

Too often, leaders want others to be accountable for making changes without clearly articulating their expectations for the new mindset and behaviors that would reflect the change. When articulating the Picture of Success, it’s essential to clearly articulate the new mindset, attitudes, and behaviors of all people involved in the change in a general but clear manner. For upper middle managers, it might be a clear expectation of working more effectively across functions and demonstrating greater inclusion of others in solving system issues. For line managers, the message could be a call for less “heroics” and greater use of the team in solving challenges and breakdowns, demonstrating value for developing true engaged teamwork.

It’s helpful for everyone to gain greater clarity for how they fit in the new organization and how the changes committed to by executives and expected for middle management and first level managers are all aligned. It’s easier to make a change when you know that everyone is doing their part to make the transformation.

Step 5: Ensure Your Picture of Success Comes Alive

After the Picture of Success is shared, it can easily die from the lack of attention and energy given to it afterwards. Serving customers, operational goals, and daily challenges tend to draw people’s attention and efforts leaving the Picture of Success and the expectations of new behaviors all but forgotten within a month.

It’s up to leadership at all levels to keep the Picture of Success alive. How can that be done in a practical way? By starting every meeting with a verbal reminder of the key and relevant external drivers and a brief summary of the Picture of Success as it relates to the group attending the meeting. This takes about 1 to 2 minutes and is not a read or prepared speech, but an embodied message that kicks off the meeting as a set point for solving problems, making decisions, and ensuring that the discussion not only deals with immediate goals and concerns, but also reflects the direction of the Picture of Success.

A pipeline organization used this very tactic and made a huge transformation in only three months that demonstrated a change in culture and business results. It happened fast because every leader was sharing their perspective of the Picture of Success until everyone in the organization not only understood it intellectually, but was also using it as a reference point for taking action.

Step 6: Share Monthly Accomplishments Report

This is an easy step to add focus, gain momentum, and provide a vehicle that inspires shared ownership at all levels for moving on the Picture of Success. Each month, managers provide a short Accomplishments Report of the business results, new mindset, and habits demonstrated by their teams. This type of Accomplishments Report takes less than 10 minutes to produce and for most managers will only take about 5 minutes. It is usually compiled by someone in Human Resources or Continuous Improvement. The report provides information that can become part of a newsletter and any other fun measurable indicators in order to indicate how various functional areas are contributing to the Picture of Success. Have fun with it and get creative. It builds on the fun of shared ownership and contributing to a positive change.

Step 7: Turn New Expectation into Positive Accountability

How many times have you promised or been promised a major vision of change only to realize months later that it was never spoken about again except in newsletters, posters, or marketing information pieces? Leaders talk commitment, but without clear follow-up, other crises and competing priorities will leave the vision of change a distant memory. To make sure this doesn’t happen, establish a Quarterly Update Communication that will report on the progress made by the organization towards manifesting the Picture of Success. This progress report doesn’t just list the business results achieved, it is also a summary of mindset and behavior changes that match the expectations articulated at the initial presentation of the Picture of Success. Of course, this begins by reporting to everyone the changes that the Executive Team made based on what was committed to in their initial messaging.

It’s the stories told by various leaders at different levels articulating the changes in their mindset and behaviors that are the most exciting, educational, and inspiring for others to follow suit. Reporting mini success stories from all levels and functions creates an invitation for everyone to participate and demonstrates true accountability to the entire organization.

Conclusion

A B STATE approach to accountability is unique in that it creates proactive approach to change that pulls people in rather than the typical reactive accountability systems that push people to take action. Lasting change doesn’t come from being forced to comply with new ideas from leadership. It comes from really understanding those ideas and being inspiredto make changes in accordance with them.

The purpose of communicating your Picture of Success is not to share information. The real purpose of sharing your vision is to optimize the response you get from the information you share. If you follow the seven steps I just laid out for you, your message and vision won’t just fall to the wayside; it will inspire self-improvement, teamwork, and contribution to the organization’s burning platform for transformation.

You can read Part 3: Getting Your Vision to Take Hold  and learn the keys for guiding your people to develop a new mindset in a way that creates ownership and movement:


 

Missed Part 1 of the Launching a B STATE Transformation?

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Part 1: Creating a Compelling Picture of Success

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