Dear CEO – it takes more than a Vision

One of the most important things that a CEO must do is set the strategic direction for the organization. This includes setting the vision, aligning the strategic plan to support the vision and making sure it is well understood and executed throughout the organization. Most CEOs will spend the right amount of time with their leadership team creating the vision, and additional months coming up with the plan that will help support the leader's vision.

Where does it often fall short? The communication and cascading throughout the organization - it often stops being well understood just beyond those leaders who were involved in the creation. Announcing the plan and assuming your organization will embrace it figure out how they can support it very often fails.

Why does this happen? When you spend months working on an initiative, you get so involved that you feel everyone must understand it at the same level. Once it is shared, the assumption is that everyone will buy-in and fall into place to support the plan. THEN the leadership team often moves on to the next initiative.

What is the potential impact? Lack of execution against a very well thought out plan causing missed deadlines, missed expected revenue goals that were tied to the plan, lowered customer satisfaction, etc. Lowered engagement caused by confusion and lack of trust and continuing to operate against the previous direction that was better understood.

How can you change this? Communicate, communicate, communicate.......and then when you think you have communicated enough, do it again. We know that it takes about five to seven times for someone to hear a message before it sticks - and for your organization to know that you are serious about this. Leaders need to share not only the plan but the WHY behind the plan, let employees know the WIIFM (Whats In It For Me?) and HOW you want them to contribute. This needs to be done by the entire leadership team - a consistent message - this shows that the leaders fully support the vision. Finally, it needs to be reinforced well after deployed - this includes announcing progress towards the plan openly, rewarding those who are supporting the plan openly, continuing to use multiple ways to share the plan, the WHY and the progress. The minute you stop doing and and feel you can let up on when it can start to slip away - it should continue for a minimum of six to nine months.

It seems too simple - communicate - and the word is simple but the activity, commitment and focus is not simple. It takes a plan and a commitment and the payoff is tremendous - you have your organization aligned to the vision, executing the plan, everyone understanding the plan and focusing in the same direction - priceless!

Don't believe me? Go out and ask your team what the direction is for the organization. Then go down one more level....and again....and again. When you hear the same message, then say 'well done' and find out what you did to make that happen and keep it up! If you find that it changes, is not understood or not as well as what you would like, don't despair - you have the answer - communicate, communicate and communicate again!

Managing any type of change is requires an effective plan to ensure the people executing the plan understand it, know their role, have a desire to help and have support and rewards that keep it going. I have helped leaders successfully lead changes from small process changes in a group of 10 to large scale global changes in groups of over 15,000 - these are tried and true practices. I hope that you have found this helpful.

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