I have noticed several surveys recently asking executives what are the biggest challenges that keep them up at night. Often one of the top responses is related to the lack of a clear or unified vision. Given the prevalence of this response, it appears to be a serious problem.
I believe leaders want to provide a clear direction. I also know these same leaders often operate with a fear of loss. What if the direction they take is the wrong one? What if they are missing other opportunities? What if the direction required dramatic change to their organization? All are real fears and all impact the people and the work they perform. However the risks of not providing a direction far outweigh the rewards.
As people, our fear of loss can be very strong. We hate missed opportunities. This is true in our personal lives as well as our professional. Lord knows I would loved to have purchased Apple stock in the 1970’s and their are several relics sitting in my garage that are just waiting for the right buyer to come along. This fear permeates business because it causes us to hold onto potential opportunities out of fear that giving up any will result in lost business and lost revenue. Over the years I have witnessed this firsthand.
Whenever you try to do everything, you are required to carry or allocate resources to keep that part of your business going. This equates to time, money and talent or the three asset pillars. All three are valuable resources and all three are finite in their availability. So an under-performing product or service can become rather costly because these resources are not focused in on the greatest opportunity.
Another thing that is important to remember is YOU WILL NEVER BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE. Never. Often we want to. Our need to appeal to the masses often produces vanilla results. We have to compromise in areas we shouldn’t. Our message becomes muddled and meaningless. And in the end our products become commoditized.
So how can we avoid this. First work through the fear of loss. This fear feels real, but how can you lose something that you never had? Fear of losing your ability to become a world-class vocalist only happens if you have the talent to be one but didn’t do the work necessary to achieve that goal. Know where your talents, and the talents of your business, lie and follow that path. Address your fears head on Analyze what you are afraid of and understand that is only one possible outcome, not THE outcome. If you know the worst-case scenario ahead of time, do what you need to avoid it.
Understand that if you are going to go after a certain piece of business you need to jump in with both feet. Apply the required resources from the three pillars to make it go. Dipping your toe in the water to see if the temperature is right is not a strategic move. Take action and go! Stating you are going to try gives you an easy out. It also means you are not fully commited to making it work. Giving full effort means there is a greater likelihood you will be successful.
Know what you need to. Do your research to validate your direction. Finding good data can help confirm your decision and monitoring that information can help keep you on track or make a decision to change direction. As important to know you are headed down the right path, it’s equally important to build in safety checks along the way to make sure you can adapt if the environment changes.
Make sure you have the right people to get things done. People matter. Having the right talent is key. They will help you find your direction and reach your goals. Do not settle for bodies in seats. Find people who share your beliefs and desire to be part of the success.
Finally, communicate. Communicating your vision is one of the most important things you can do. It is necessary to keep people focused and it doesn’t happen often enough. Find ways to work your vision into daily discussions. Make it a living, breathing part of your organization. Keep the dialogue flowing. Engage people in discussions. Ask questions. Help others understand the meaning and allow them to deliver on that promise.
Following these steps will help bring clarity and move your business forward.