At some point in every leader’s career, there is an opportunity to implement an organizational change. One of the major steps in the process is communicating your vision.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to craft, share, and implement a vision for your organization yet…
Then I’m truly excited for you because it is one of the most rewarding milestones in any leadership career.
But a word of CAUTION. Manage your expectations.
Regardless of the size or scope of the change, expect that things will not go as smoothly as planned.
This is because change is messy. Period.
This is another reason why effectively communicating your vision is so important.
How can you increase the probability of success? Prepare, plan, and by all means expect resistance.
4 steps for communicating your vision
A common approach for communicating your vision, includes four basic steps.
- know your people;
- target your message;
- lay out your plan; and
- engage their emotions.
But as I said, even the simplest of plans can face obstacles. So let’s take a look at the four steps.
Know your audience when communicating your vision
No surprise here. Everything starts with people.
We can’t competently lead without a foundational understanding of our people.
To go along with that, you need a healthy appreciation of the organizational culture as well.
Make sure you understand and appreciate what your employees care about?
Do they have favorable opinions of your organization and the larger company?
Are there circumstances that might make them hesitant towards, or outright reject your vision?
How might they challenge it?
Target your message when communicating your vision
To inspire your team, you have to communicate your vision with a compelling message. And here is where things can start to get challenging.
By nature, successful leaders are visionaries.
Either by training or inclination, successful leaders think big picture, long term, and strategically.
They are constantly asking themselves ‘how come’, and ‘what if’ while looking for the next business opportunity, or the next way they can positively impact the business.
Let’s say you see an opportunity for an existing product in a new market. You naturally hope into ‘innovator’ mode and assign it to your staff who go develop the data and come back with recommendations.
Together, with the data and insights, you make decisions, develop strategies, and launch plans. Easy peasy!
It’s the same with organizational change with one HUGE exception.
When we decide to go develop a new product or penetrate a new market, the impact employees (in most cases) remain in the realm of daily work assignments.
Not so with organizational change, where employees’ lives are potentially impacted.
Key points for communicating your vision
There are two key points to keep in mind as you prepare to share your organizational vision.
First, target your message to your audience. Ideally, your message will resonate with all employees across your organization.
It helps if you can tell a story. When you tell a good story, you give life to a vision.
A good story helps to create trust and captures the hearts and minds of the audience. Plus, stories are easier to remember. Your employees will find it easier to remember a story than your vision statement.
And make sure your team leaders drive your vision and the benefits down to their teams and individual employees.
Second, to go along with that, make sure you augment your logical, data-based reasoning, with an emotional appeal that is designed to inspire people. We are aiming to get employee buy-in and shift their mindset from “I have to”, to “I want to”.
You need a compelling reason (or reasons) for the change. (This is another reason for crafting a good story.)
Improved profitability, return on investment, and greater customer satisfaction are all meaningful — especially to you.
Unfortunately, they just don’t mean as much to your front line employees.
Ask yourself, what is the one thing that you want everyone to walk away knowing? What problems is the change attempting to solve, and how will they benefit?
Communicate your plan
Once you’ve developed your message, it’s time to convert our vision into a plan. Something to get our team moving toward the desired future state.
Our plans do not need to be planned out in detail, but should have a specific and set milestones and deadlines that act as guideposts will move the organization towards a vision they can actually see.
Engage Their Emotions
No matter how well you know your audience, target your message, and lay out your plan, expect some resistance.
As I said change is messy, and messiness causes uneasiness and other negative emotions.
Be prepared for it, and be ready for your own set of emotions as well.
Consider yourself fortunate if you don’t experience healthy doses of frustration and impatience as you work through the steps to communicate and gain acceptance of your vision.
As with personal transitions, organizational transitions can be challenging and are full of risk.
Plan well and work hard to craft you message to address the employees cares and concerns and you will avoid many of the pitfalls.
But don’t expect to avoid them all!
Leave me a comment below and let me know what your thought of this post. Or share you one of your own stories about communicating your vision.
~Either way, keep on leading.