Vision and action

In so many companies mastering the transition between vision and action, and finding leaders who can bridge that gap and lead can be compared to finding a needle in a haystack.

I am inspired by the truth of Rudyard Kipling in his famous poem ‘If’. The business environment today is uncertain, ambiguous and demanding of any leader to ‘keep his head while all about you are losing theirs

We currently have news of a shrinking UK economy and potential return to recession. The CIPD recently reports that 40% of employees don’t believe business values are a true representation of what happens in their workplace. On a positive note, 52% of those surveyed agreed that their organisations values positively influence behaviour at work.

It prompts me to consider where the critical transition points are in any organisations leadership pipeline where increased focus and investment could lead to a transformation in business performance. For me this is the transition from technical to business leadership, right at the pivot point of translating strategy into operations; thinking into action.

This middle to senior management transition is about vision and action. Joel Barker says ‘Vision without action is just a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world’. What depth of talent do you have in your company with this dual capability, real or latent?

In many of the organisations we work in, leaders move up the ladder to a level where their contribution is often through what they know, what knowledge they possess. This works well in environments where certainty is the currency and the way forward, the decisions can be backed up by logic and knowledge. It leads to action, but is it connected to any vision or purpose?

So how do you get people engaged and committed to a vision or strategy where you cannot provide that level of defining logic and definition? It requires a different kind of leadership. However, we have populated our middle management tiers with strong ‘can do’ operators, not with leaders who naturally apply their emotional intelligence to create and communicate vision and strategy, inspire and motivate teams and create engagement and energy through who they are. Technical middle managers hold on to the currency which got them there, still defines them and that they reach for in difficult times, the belief that ‘I am what I have done and achieved before’. This self imposed and often recognised and rewarded ceiling must be addressed.

Instead we promote these people beyond their capability and comfort, to a point where their skills behaviour and beliefs about leadership create blockages in communication, micro-management and demotivation. The saying ‘what got you here will not get you there’ is a crucial prompt for investment to help people make that personal transition.

The organisations that find an answer to this challenge and develop a pool of people ready and able to take that step into a new currency of leadership will fuel business growth, increase retention of both business and people and a more positively motivated workforce.

  • Do you have a clear, inspiring and uniting vision and purpose for your company, division, department? Not sure? Go and ask a few people who are two or three steps away from you what they think it is.
  • Do you know who your most important vision and action leaders are? Identify them. What about the emerging next level of leaders? Who are they are and what are you doing to develop and retain them?
  • What are the most important roles in connecting vision and action? Where are they? How clear are the processes and structures to enable a clear connection and communication of vision and strategy into action?
  • Are your most important people in the most important roles? What are you doing to align these key roles with key people?

What do you think?

Written by Rob Kelly.

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