I was having coffee with a friend this morning and she suddenly realized that her glasses were smeared and she wasn't seeing clearly. Isn't that a great metaphor for life and work? We lose the clarity of our vision but it's a gradual process and we don't realize it until it gets really, really bad.
In the business world, "vision" is often considered a buzzword. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it can be a powerful tool -- personally and professionally -- to guide decisions and to motivate desired behaviors.
I advise clients that there should be two parts to a vision -- a descriptive one and a measurable one. In both cases, the vision describes a desired future state. The language should be clear, concise, and compelling. That means it is something you and others can understand, remember and find inspirational. I urge people to use "concrete" language and avoid conceptual constructs that can mean different things to audiences.
For example, I manage a consulting company. Do I aspire to "provide quality service to businesses for their their management consulting needs?" Well, yes. Who doesn't want to provide quality service? I'm a management consultant, so of course I want to work with businesses. Do I think that I can personally meet ALL of their consulting needs? Not so much. How will I know I have succeeded? What measure of quality can I use?
What's important to me is to have impact and repeat clients -- and not to grow a firm with a bunch of other consultants. So my vision is to "Be a trusted advisor to small and medium enterprises by improving organizational performance through process improvement and individual effectiveness, employing a portfolio of professionals as needed." That's the first part, my descriptive statement. It captures my aspirations and is something I can remember and will guide my choices.
Next, let's address the measurable aspect of this vision. Trusted = repeat clients and referrals. Organizational performance = clients' return on investment in my services. Individual effectiveness = subscriptions to my "Master Mind" groups, # of calls for advice. Process improvement = # of strategic planning projects, # of process improvement projects, # of professional selling projects (the three key processes for business development). Portfolio of professionals = collaborative and skilled colleagues that I can reliably call on to deliver the kind of capability and service my clients need, beyond the scope of my abilities. If you cannot measure your vision, it is not clear and concrete enough. And it will not inform your decisions or motivate yourself or your employees.
Can you see what you want yourself -- or your company -- to be in 3-5 years? Is it clear what it will take to get there and how you will measure your progress? Or do you need to clean your glasses?
During this season of Thanksgiving (and I'll spare you the rant about how stores have had Christmas stuff out since before Hallowe'en) I think it's important to pause and, if necessary, reset one's intention.
I intend to be a grateful person. But that intention often yields to my impatience. Self-inflicted time pressures, irritating people, poor customer service, avoidable mistakes and over commercialized holidays steal my joy and gratitude. So I pause and remember that I am thankful that time pressures come from leading a full and fulfilling life. That irritating people can be viewed as the sandpaper of life, softening my sharp edges. That poor customer service can stem from a horrible situation at home or an issue at work that is causing the service agent angst. That people don't make mistakes on purpose, and may just be ignorant. That I believe in free markets and if people want to buy a blow-up Santa Claus before the pumpkins are harvested, they are welcome to do so.
I've recently read Dr. Cloud's book, pictured here. It's a terrific reminder that our gratitude -- or lack thereof -- has a powerful effect on others' around us. He addresses other dynamics and behaviors, too, but my focus today is on intentional gratitude.
As a manager, do you express your gratitude, or do you tend to critique and correct? There's room for both kinds of feedback. I recently visited a former student who now owns his own business, a sizable enterprise. He is humble and appreciative and as a result, has a strong and stable management team devoted to advancing the business. On the other hand, I'm a client at another enterprise that has experienced remarkable staff turnover in the two years I have been a patron. Why? The owner is never satisfied and it's disheartening and sometimes demoralizing to her employees. Turnover is expensive, when you factor in the costs of the search process, training, and learning curve.
As with many management concepts, what is true of business dealings applies to one's personal life. Who do we criticize the most? The people near and dear to our hearts. Does that improve your relationships? I doubt it. (One of the most useful books on the personal front is Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages.)
In the work arena there are different ways to express gratitude. Some people want words of affirmation; others are embarrassed by them (avoid being overly effusive; that seems insincere). Public praise might be appropriate; in other situations in might be enough to send a personal note. A token gift card for a donut and coffee may do the trick. A celebratory lunch after a tough project could be the right signal of your gratitude. Just sitting down for a conversation (being fully present) may make someone feel valued.
So is the message you communicate full of "Grrr," or does it show "gratitude?" Be intentional.
Something we see fairly often in our practice with small- and medium-sized enterprises is that their business development comes from what we call "relationship selling." This stems from mutual trust and clear communication -- and typically, a long-standing relationship.
While this is an effective business practice, especially for project-based work, it will only carry you so far. When the business development is done by the business owner or entrepreneur, we see three key limitations:
The good news is that these limitations can be overcome by doing two things:
With a well-defined vision for your organization, and a well-prepared workforce, your front line will get the message -- so you have more people doing relationship selling and business development.
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