The head of HR explained to me, “My team provides great customer service. Whatever a business leader asks for, they knock themselves out to provide it quickly and with quality.
“But I think we need to change to a consultative approach. When we get a request, we should ask about the problem and then to work with the leader to identify the right solution. Being quick to deliver whatever is requested is not necessarily good customer service in the long run, if what you deliver doesn’t solve the problem.”
“What does your team think?” I asked.
She replied, “I haven’t shared it with them. I wanted to talk with you first to think it through further. What exactly will it look like? What training will be needed? How will we communicate it to the business leaders?”
She knew it was a good idea, so why was she waiting to discuss it with her team? Like many leaders, she thought she was supposed to have all the answers first.
My response to her was: You don’t have to figure it all out before you share it with your team.
Instead of figuring it out alone, I offered her these guidelines for bringing it to her team:
- Don’t wait to figure it all out before you share your ideas. Once you have a good sense of what’s important and why, before you figure it all out, talk about it with your team. Don’t try to “sell” your ideas. Talk about what honestly excites you. Help them see the rationale and the big picture before you jump to planning the details. Your vision will become clearer for you and others will begin to think about their own ideas and hopes.
- Examine your own behavior. The minute you are clear about what’s important, make sure your behavior is consistent with what you are espousing. Be conscious of all your actions great and small, every minute of every day. People pay more attention to what they see you do than to what you say. It’s the only way people will believe you mean what you say. And by modeling the vision, you are demonstrating what it looks like in real life.
- Encourage others to share their ideas and dreams. Put the topic on a meeting agenda or devote an extended amount of time for it. Discuss it with your team informally. Encourage them to look beyond the scope of their job and look at the big picture.
- Listen closely to what they say. Make sure you really understand what they are saying. What do they think is the purpose? What values do they believe should guide behaviors? What would be happening if the team were magnificent?Point out the commonalities so people are aware of how their ideas and hopes resonate with each other.
- Recognize you do not own the vision. If you want a shared vision, others must feel they have participated in shaping it. Let go of any feelings of sole ownership. You can and should still care deeply. But quite likely they will have a perspective that will enrich the vision and make it stronger.
- Publish your vision but don’t cast it in stone. With input from everyone on your team, develop and publish a vision statement. This should be a living document. Visioning is not a static process. You do not create a vision once and then stop. Visions evolve. As you accomplish goals and get closer to realizing your vision, it will become clearer. The essence of it will not change, but you may find new elements. Other elements may gain more depth. Make everyone understands the final wording is not cast in stone. It’s a good idea to revisit it once or twice a year, and fine-tune the wording if needed.
- Hold each other accountable for behaving consistently with the vision. If you ignore the behavior of others who act inconsistently with the vision, you threaten the trust and alignment of the people who are behaving consistently with it. Accountability does not mean finger-pointing and accusations. It means having frank and open conversations when it feels like a boundary has been crossed. It means learning together from mistakes because you care about each other. Help each other stay on track by celebrating “wins” – catch each other doing things right.