What do have to manage? # 5. Hiring & Keeping good employees – Part 5.

Monday, July 12th, 2010

 Give them a vision, and then keep them envisioned!

There’s a Proverb which states that “without vision the people perish.”  Another way of putting it is that without vision, without goals, people cast off restraint; they become de-motivated, unfocused and haphazard in everything they do.  

 There is nothing more de-motivating for employees than not knowing where your business is going or what part they have to play in it.


Why is vision so important? And if it really is, how do we go about clarifying what the vision for our own organisation is?  Thomas Watson, the former CEO of the IBM Corporation said this:

 “Consider any great organisation– one that has lasted over the years – and I think you will find that it owes its resiliency to the power of what we call beliefs, and the appeal these beliefs have for people… The basic philosophy, spirit and drive of an organisation have far more to do with its achievements than resources, structure, innovation and timing.”

 In their excellent book entitled “Beyond Entrepreneurship” by James Collins and William Lazier, they spell out the four primary benefits of a corporate vision:

  • It forms the basis of extraordinary human effort. – Its our nature to respond to values, ideals, dreams and challenges, and we want to work at something we can believe in, and that has meaning. It’s called motive!
  • It provides a context for strategic and tactical decisions. – Its so that people at all levels can make decisions and can share in them.
  • Shared vision creates cohesion, teamwork, and community.  Give a group of people a compass and a destination point; turn them loose in the mountains and they’ll probably find their way. Organisations without a shared aim have no context and their people wander aimlessly in the side canyons and take detours to nowhere.  Without shared vision, any organisation can easily degenerate into factions.
  • It lays the groundwork for the organisation to evolve past dependence on a few key individuals. To begin with, vision comes directly from the organisation’s early leaders. Afterwards, it must become shared as a community and become identified primarily with the organisation rather than with certain individuals running it.

 Vision Framework

 There are many different ways of approaching the concepts of “vision”, and I’ve heard people debate the definition of “vision” over that of “mission”.  Quite frankly, I don’t think it really matters as long as you, as the leader, are clear about where your organisation is going. 

And by that, I mean “a dream”, a “view”, and a “picture” of what it could possibly become at some stage in the future.  Stephen Covey refers to the concept as “beginning with the end in mind”.

Engaging your employees in your strategic objective

The intangible, but highly influential, experiences of free expression, self-sufficiency, and creative control are what drive many people to want to contribute something within business.  This generally just as true for employees as it is for the business owners themselves.

Obviously, as the business owner, you have a unique stake in the success or failure of your business because it is tied to you as an individual. As such, you are willing to struggle through the tough times while maintaining your excitement – hopefully – as you create a vision for the future.

Creating this future vision is vital.  And its not just to have something to pin up on your wall somewhere – its got to be “the end in mind” – as you clearly see it.  Setting your heart and mind to this objective is an entrepreneurial exercise that forces you to describe with conviction what your business is all about. You, as the leader, must be clear about where you want the business to go, and what it will look and feel like when your vision is realized. Why is this concept so important? Because you are not on this journey alone. Your employees will also require this level of clarity if they are to commit to going there with you.

Your People Strategy

After developing a strategic objective for your business, you are then faced with the task of taking it to the next level.

This includes communicating your vision to, and getting buy-in from, all of your employees.

The challenge? As employees, they will not have the same relationship to the business as you do, and will therefore naturally lack the inherent personal connection that drives you.

So how do you motivate them to take a personal interest in, and ownership of, the goals and objectives presented in your strategic objective? The answer is twofold:

  • you must really try to understand their needs, and then
  • position the opportunities within your business such that it touches them on a personal level.

 What Employees Want

 Any business has the potential to be a source of personal satisfaction for the people that meet and work there. And your business is not exempt from this important aspect, no matter how it functions, or the training it provides.

Take a step back and think about it from an employees’ perspective – would you want to work for your business? Wouldn’t you want to know such things as whether:

  • personal and intellectual growth opportunities were available; whether
  • other employees were proud to be there; and
  • how the business is known and understood by its peers, the city its in, or for the services it provides in that community?

Think back on your own work experiences: How did you feel when you worked for a business that you truly believed in? And what was it like to work in a business that simply expected it of you as your bounden duty? Believe it or not – the bottom line for most employees is not just about being there, it’s also about personal fulfillment and growth.

Fulfilling Needs, Reaching Goals

In order to engage your employees in your Strategic Objective, you must concentrate on their needs and find something about the business that will provide personal satisfaction for them.

Maybe it will be in the various systems that you have created, or your unique business culture, or the exciting projects they are assigned based on their particular skill sets. Take the opportunity to find out more about them as individuals, and what drives them, what turns them off. Then review your Strategic Objective and make sure you have created opportunities that will attract the right people.

Remember, the business must not only serve you. In order for it to be truly amazing, it also must serve those who work in it. Engaging employees in your Strategic Objective should be seen as an important, strategic, and necessary task to successfully reach your goals.

Tom Chappell, founder of Tom’s of Maine, a highly profitable company in the USA, explained this: 

“Quantitative goals can’t invest purpose in a process that has none.  The quest simply for more of anything is inherently unsatisfying.  If there is no point of joy in what you are doing, or if you lose sight of the point, then just measuring your progress can’t make it worthwhile or fun.  If I can organize people around purpose, that is the most powerful form of leadership.”

Having a purpose that is greater than yourself will give you a constant impteus to strive.  Purpose gives life meaning and helps us to direct and focus our talents and efforts.  It also attracts the talents and energies of others whose purposes align with our own.

" Only 3% of all people have goals and plans and write them down.  10% more have goals and plans, but keep them in their heads.  The rest ‑ 87% ‑ drift through life without definite goals and plans.  They do not know where they are going and others dictate to them." (Glenn Bland)

If we examine these statistics further we find that the 3% group accomplish 50 to 100 times more during their life than the 10% group.

Its been established that the reasons most people don’t set goals and establish plans are:

  • They don’t know how;
  •  Its too much trouble.
  • They don’t have faith in their goals and plans after they are developed.
  •  They begin on a long‑range basis and this prevents them from seeing immediate results, so they become discouraged.

Most of the businesses that I have worked in and with, and most of the individuals that I have had opportunity to help, over the last 35 years, have lived their lives drifting between the 10% and the 87% groups.  Goals and plans are rarely allocated the time they justly deserve. 

Goals and plans can become a reality.  There is even biblical precedent for this:

"Write down the vision; write it clearly on clay tablets so whoever reads it can run to tell others.  It is not yet time for the message to come true but that time is coming soon; the message will come true.  It may seem like a long time but be patient and wait for it, because it will surely come; it will not be delayed." (Habakkuk 2:2‑3) (emphasis mine!).

Once you are clear on the vision you have for your business, you need to share it with your employees.  And then write that vision down, clearly, so that everyone you relate with, and to, will know what you’re aiming at, and generally will support you in achieving it.  In this way, the statement of clear intent exercises a subliminal influence on all who work there.

What is more, your employees will be given the opportunity to buy in to your vision for your business and they should then be encouraged to create their own set of goals and plans within that overall vision.

Then keep them updated and informed! Keep encouraging them as you see them grow.  Remember, – they’re part of the team and the team can only win if they’re playing on the same field! 

In surveys carried out on the worlds top companies, it was discovered that almost without exception, CEO’s spent more time on envisioning their employees than anything else.

Whether you like it or not, your employees watch you; they’ll even start adopting your little quirks – sometimes even using the words (and epithets) you use.  If you’re living your vision, they’ll soon be doing the same.