It’s much worse than you think!
Regardless of how much time and energy – and perhaps expense – has gone into defining and sharing your vision, values and priorities, I’m sorry to say that it’s almost certainly the case that they are not on the tips of your team’s tongues.
According to a piece of research conducted by Inc. magazine a while ago, when they asked executives at 600 companies to estimate the percentage of their workforce who could name their business’s top three priorities, these leaders predicted that 64 percent would be able to do so. When the magazine then asked the employees to name the priorities, only 2 percent could.
Just pause for a moment to contemplate that differential. That is a huge problem for those organisations and, in all likelihood, it’s a problem within your business too.
Assembling a jigsaw
In a recent tweet we asked, “What do jigsaws teach us about leadership?”. The answer? It’s much easier to build something when everyone knows what it looks like, and that’s why it’s a leader’s job to paint a clear picture so their team knows what they’re working to achieve. Communicating your priorities is a leader’s way of showing everyone the picture on the jigsaw box.
If you were literally doing a jigsaw with your team, would you give them just a brief look at the box and then put it away in a cupboard and ask them to remember what the picture looked like while they continued to assemble the puzzle? Would you get the box out each morning so they could have another quick look before they start that day’s assembly? Maybe not!
If you wanted them to complete the puzzle as effectively as possible, giving them the very best chance of getting it right first time and working together seamlessly, you’d leave the picture right there with them, wouldn’t you? You’d let them look at it up close, contemplate it, examine the fine detail and really get to know every aspect of the image. By the end of the exercise, they would probably have memorised the picture entirely.
This is the approach we should all adopt for communicating our priorities, for ensuring that our vision and values live and breathe within our team(s). In fact, it’s actually a case of OVER-communicating (even though we won’t be, that’s just our own perception!).
Painting a picture
When we work with clients on building their DiamondEDGE®* framework, it’s a team-based exercise designed to create a unified vision and plan. The final part of the process is to engrain the purpose, values and priorities in the hearts and minds of all those involved. However, even if the enthusiasm and zeal is there at first, when we revisit several months or a year down the track, we so often see the message has begun to fade and, when we probe further, we hear that it’s hardly ever mentioned!
Repetition is your friend. Finding new ways of telling your story, setting out your vision and communicating your priorities is key to embedding the message. Say it frequently, put it in every presentation as the first slide, start every meeting by reminding your team. Even if you think you’re bored of it, I can assure you that your team still needs to hear it, and so do their teams!
Communicating your values is not about sketching a vision in pencil or painting a delicate watercolour. Think of it as a full-colour oil painting, a mural writ large or even a tattoo. Everyone needs to know that this stuff matters, deeply.
That picture on the jigsaw box of your business needs to be on permanent display in many forms, easily accessible to your team and pored over in detail whenever necessary. What’s more, your team should be able to describe it to others, redraw it from memory and ultimately, be able to assemble the jigsaw pieces even without having the box to hand, because they know the picture so well.
So, the question for you as a leader is how are you going to over-communicate your priorities and plan today? We know we can help so, if you’d like to chat, please get in touch.
*We align teams using our unique DiamondEDGE® framework, our most popular offering for cross-functional teams wanting to align, unite and connect quickly, providing instant traction. Simply, it’s a whole plan on a page, and exceptionally powerful, providing team clarity, identity and focus.