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I was sitting at lunch.  I was having a bad week and was looking at my plastic plate piled high with chicken fingers and fries.  I love chicken fingers.  They are a great passion of mine.  I sat across the table from one of the managers in my firm.  I knew what lunch was going to be about-  he was going to complain about the company, about his place in the organization and decisions that he did not understand.

I could feel his negative energy creep into my psyche..  I was beginning to pile on.  I started to complain more and more.  It was a feeding frenzy and we were both pissed off by the time I had finished my strips.  It was now time to go back to work.

So there it is…  negative begets negative…  I guess we all know this.  But I am curious about why we were both negative.. We were both PASSIONATE about our frustration. What happened that allowed us to get to this point?

The funny part is that we spent considerable negative energy because of our positive passion for our company.   Both of us wanted our firm to be better.  We were proud of what had been built and what we had contributed. What was missing??

Could it have been vision?  I have come to the conclusion that many firms do not have a clear vision.  Vision:  A focus on overall goals and a road map we could all follow.  Without a clearly communicated purpose, a company is the same as a boat listing in the waves.

A Pirate’s Life for Me!

Think about an 18th century pirate ship.  Consider a ship that has a group of senior officers who have defined their goals.  The ship sails the seas with a clear purpose.  The Captain and his officers explain to their crew how each of them is critical in achieving specific goals for the journey.  The men on board understand how they contribute to the cause and what their ultimate payoff is when they reach their goal.  From the cook to the man in the crow’s nest, each person is playing a role.  There is a vision and a purpose for each person.

Now consider the boat that is not clear in purpose.  The captain tells his crew that they will sail… generally in “that direction”.  The crew is expected to perform their jobs to keep the boat and team in line each day.  From time to time, the boat may encounter a ship to plunder or an island to explore,  but there is no focused direction.  There is no plan to troll waters rich with the King’s ships.  Just to sail and to do what the captain says as soon as he says it.

At some point, the crew will begin to mutter… they will begin to question their need to wash the decks or get up early to man the lookout.  The crew will lose their passion to push ahead and at some point they will eat their chicken strips together venting frustration over the captain, officers and their decisions.  Passion for success turns into negative frustration.  Engagement is lost and a mutiny is at hand.

A Boat With No Direction

Mutiny! Vision is Core to Engagement

Line of Sight

It is crucial to provide line of sight for your team.  Line of sight is simple-  Does the employee understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance?

How does a company or team keep an employee engaged through line of sight?  Here is the bottom line-  your team and your company need to focus on overall goals.  It is incredibly simple. Leadership includes setting goals.

Once a team has goals for the year or for the quarter, then each member should be presented a road-map of  how their daily tasks contribute to those goals.  I personally like having annual ‘Outlooks’ with employees.  These are very different than the ‘review’ structure that many companies use.

Outlooks

An Outlook should be done at least once a year. It is written and should be very simple in structure.  There should be a focus on the future rather than past accomplishments.  Outlooks take into account company and team goals and align those with employee desires, strong suits and goals.  Being able to focus on what makes each person great and providing a way to line that up with the team provides a strong path for everyone to succeed.

Once employees understand what the overall goals are and how they are being provided an opportunity to contribute to those achievements, engagement can begin.  Without a clear and focused vision, company goals will be difficult to define and Outlooks may not be effective.

Do you have a vision that is clearly communicated?  Is the vision of the company lined up with each employee’s greatest attributes and passions?