“I’m Able To Convey My Vision And Plan Clearly, But Often My Team Just Doesn’t Get It” (Lesson 8)

I often find that executives and team leaders use a common saying when working on projects they understand but have difficulty explaining, this being “isn’t it obvious.”

If this saying comes out, then I know that what they are referring to isn’t obvious at all. Instead, they need to explain themselves better.

An easy way to understand how this happens is to think of a song. Pick a song, any song, and play that song to yourself in your head. 

Then find someone who is close by, and tap that song out on a desktop, bench or any hard, flat surface. Next, see if the person who is listening can guess the song. I bet that they can’t.

Nursery rhymes and even common songs such as ‘Happy Birthday’ are difficult to understand when tapped out. This situation occurs because you have all the information in your head that you need to understand the song. But the person who is listening has only a fragment of that information, and they are relying on you to explain it to them.

The same also happens when a leader tries to explain their vision and plan to their team. The team leader has all the information—it’s in their head, so they live it, feel it and even breathe it. But the team members only receive a fragment of the information from their leader.

As a result, a leader encounters four distinct issues when defining their vision and plan:

  • Their team has a lack of alignment due to them not understanding the business direction,
  • The team is confused when it comes down to priorities,
  • The leader has a clear strategy, but poor execution
  • The strategy is understood, but day-to-day priorities prevent execution from happening effectively, or at all.

 Let’s look at each of these issues in greater detail.

Lack of Alignment

Leaders typically adopt the ‘I’ve told you once’ view when it comes to explaining their plan and vision. They have this expectation of their staff that they’ll automatically know what to do.

But, in most cases, the team has little or no idea whatsoever because the business’s priorities are not clear to them, and this results in a lack of alignment between the leader, teams and the organisation.

When a lack of alignment exists in a company or department, then it creates a rift. So, instead of the teams happily working towards common goals, they head off on different tangents without a shared sense of purpose.

Thus, time, energy and talents get wasted, deadlines get missed, and the company’s performance declines.1

Team Confusion

Confusion results from a lack of clarification when it comes to ideas. We as humans think much faster than we speak or write. So, when we get an idea, this then turns into many other thoughts, and concepts then develop.

But we cannot process these thoughts quickly enough. So, when we write these down, we only capture a small percentage of our original idea.

Consequently, many leaders know what they want to say. But when it comes to sharing their thoughts, they lose much of their original concept due to new thoughts emerging.

Clear Strategy, Poor Execution

If you have a great strategy, but as a leader you have no plan in place for the execution of this strategy, then at some stage during the project, it’s going to cause issues. It’s easy for leaders to assume that their team know what they are doing, especially if the team don’t voice their opinions and concerns.

Most team members will do their job because, for many, this is what they’ve done for years. The team and you as a leader assume roles, and these centre on what you’ve previously done. Efforts get duplicated without the team or the leader realising.

For instance, let’s say you’re managing the roll-out of new business branding. You’ve decided on your business colours, designed your new logo and stationery, as well as hired a public relations team for the big unveil.

But you haven’t put any thought into how execution will happen. So, while the teams have been working towards creating the new branding, their efforts are uncoordinated, with vital tasks missed. Therefore, with the launch fast approaching, there is a good chance you will not be ready.

 

1 Gupta, Gaurav. Percentage Alignment Amongst Management Teams. Industyweek.com 2009.