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Sandra Wiley
Sandra Wiley

5 steps to achieving leadership clarity

Organizations are going to function at high levels only when there is clarity in the vision and strategic plan, communicated to all levels.

August 21, 2014
By Sandra Wiley

I recently attended a presentation by a business owner who went through the details of his company and then shared a story about being offered a sizable amount of cash to be acquired by another company.

He said no.

When asked why he had declined that sale, he said that he had a clear vision of where he was steering the ship, and the acquiring company would not fit his vision. While some in the group might have argued that he had made a mistake, this leader showed through body language, words, and actions that he had clarity in his personal and company vision.

It seems that more firms than ever have a strategic plan that outlines their vision, mission, core values, and strategies; however, I fear that many plans are just words on paper and that passion and clarity behind the words are weak. Let’s explore a few ways your organization can strengthen and clarify its vision:

Take another look at your vision. Does your firm vision really speak to what your firm wants to be, and is it clear to everyone who reads it? A simple way to determine this is to give it to a few trusted clients or team members, and ask them to read it and then explain clearly what your firm wants to achieve. Think of clarity as the fuel of vision and action. If you aren’t clear about the why and how, you will never lift your vision off the ground.

Take another look at your strategic plan. Organizations that have a strategic plan are proud to have a road map their leadership team will follow. Unfortunately, it is often held tightly by the leadership team and not shared with the rest of the firm. Your team cannot follow you unless you give everyone the map. By sharing the full plan with the team, all members are going to know the direction you are headed, and the leaders then can set the course for everyone. Everyone should know clearly how his or her job links to the overall plan.

Look at your retention metrics. We should be looking at our overall retention rate, including team members dismissed or those who left on their own. A clear vision that involves everyone will inspire passion and excitement in everyone from senior leadership on down. Retention of the best will become less of a worry. Engagement comes from passion, and passion comes from clarity. When team members “get it,” you will be able to tell. Everyone will begin to talk about the vision and will join in the excitement that comes from the top of the organizational chart.

Identify roles and responsibilities. Developing an organizational chart along with job descriptions is imperative in progressive organizations. Individuals within the firm need to know why the firm exists and how they fit into the strategic plan. This is a daunting task for some, but it is important. A written document for each member that clarifies what you expect, when you expect it, and how you expect the work to be done is important for clarity and for value to both the company and the individual. Make certain to include goals and performance objectives that can be linked to individual development plans.

Know your numbers. Realizing that I am talking to a group of highly educated financial professionals, I don’t mean to offend, but you must understand the organization’s financial goals and work hard to be transparent in reporting not only to the leadership team but also to the entire team. Explaining what you are measuring, why it is important, and how it will affect team members is a part of clarity that should not be ignored.

To be a leader with clarity is powerful, and there is no limit to how far you will travel when you clearly see the path in front of you. Find your vision, chart your course, give your followers a plan for the bigger picture, and set your sights on bringing your vision to reality.

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Sandra Wiley is COO of Boomer Consulting in Manhattan, Kan., and is a speaker on topics such as team building, talent development, and performance improvement.