The surprising keys to doing it well.
For nearly 20 years clients have asked me to help their leaders better ‘manage vision and purpose’. As defined by Korn Ferry’s Lominger Leadership Competencies, managing vision and purpose is communicating:
a compelling and inspired vision or sense of core purpose; talks beyond today; talks about possibilities; is optimistic; creates mileposts and symbols to rally support behind the visions; makes the vision shareable by everyone; can inspire and motivate.
There is a sense that perhaps if they can communicate the vision well, it will inspire those around them. While this competency is very important, and every leader at every level should be able to command 'executive presence' and speak compellingly in order to rally the troops, it’s almost debatable that we are putting the cart before the horse.
So what do I mean by that? Well, what if 'vision and purpose' falls on deaf ears? If people are unready or unwilling to ‘hear’ the vision and back the purpose, then it doesn’t really matter how ‘well’ a leader ‘speaks’ does it?
Let’s consider what might be necessary as groundwork that engenders enough trust and fosters enough desire for the ‘troops’ to WANT to hear their leader’s advocation around the vision, and hence, increase the likelihood of buy-in from the team.
Key steps that precede effective managing vision and purpose
Note: These are highlights from a body of work that is much more complex and rich than can be outlined in a brief article. I don't want to oversimplify what’s necessary, but to highlight some of the keys as experimented with by hundreds of leaders in my programs over the past 20 years.
The work begins with setting an operating rhythm that builds and continually reinforces the effective foundations for 1:1 and 1:many interaction and trust.
1:1 – Operating rhythm of affiliation, assertiveness and conversation
- Strategic affiliation steps:
- Using ‘personal and emotional’ transparency.
– Letting people know me as a person and expressing how you ‘feel’ as well as what you think.
- Demonstrating ‘readable’ empathy.
- Using the art of paraphrasing, having the mindset around being truly interested and curious, asking more questions, reflecting feeling to PROVE you understand in a demonstrable manner.
- Experimenting with the courageous authenticity to be fallible, human, to ‘not know’ and to iterate ideas with those around you.
- Iterating ideas that aren’t perfect, or 100 per cent throughtout, and asking for advice and ideas along the way.
- Having comfort with exposing ‘rough ideas’ and gaining input vs. presenting polished perfection.
Taking these steps creates an intentional affiliation strategy. One that ensures 1:1 contact with each team member, and during that contact an intent that let’s people get to know you better so you can truly share what you authentically think and feel, who you are as a person and what makes you tick. The team will trust you more; the more they get to ‘see inside your head’. Carve out time each week and take the steps to make it happen.
It is important to note this is part of an intentional strategy, which has process and framework to it just as marketing and sales do. A lack of utilisation of an intentional affiliation strategy can undermine trust. Trust doesn’t ‘just happen’, you have to take the steps to ensure it occurs and is maintained.
Balancing affiliation with assertiveness around saying yes and no.
Affiliation doesn’t mean you are a ‘pushover’ by any means, it means you know the value of using transparency to let the team know you and, in turn, to get to know them.
The counterpoint to the affiliation strategy is knowing some simple rules around being assertive.
- Knowing how to qualify requests, asking clarifying questions, prioritising and deciding what to say yes to and to say no to.
- Having the managerial courage to say yes and no with volition and saying it in a manner that has a balance of empathy and strength.
Rounding it out with the right 1:1 conversations.
While swinging the pendulum between assertiveness and affiliation, we round that out with taking time each week to prepare for important conversations with team members.
- Adopting and using conversation planning to increase effectiveness in:
– giving feedback.
Again, knowing how to have these conversations efficiently and effectively doesn’t happen by osmosis. It is a learned skill – many leaders just ‘wing this’, so a bit of planning, in combination with using the afore noted ‘strategic affiliation’ make these conversations easier.
These 1:1 foundations create trust, openness, willingness between you and your individual team members.
1: many – operating rhythm of affiliation and collaboration.
To truly capitalise on the value of strategic affiliation, the strategy must be expanded to include a group focus. The team bonds with the leader 1:1, but what about with each other? 1:many?
1:many affiliation exercises (such as starting a meeting with highlights and lowlights for the week, or as simple as asking everyone what their favourite music is and why) ensure the team gains and maintains the willingness and ability to open up and show courageous authenticity with one another. To be transparent. The goal is to invoke their managerial courage on low risk topics that get them used to opening up to one another in an easy and enjoyable way. Basically, through these exercises they learn to trust and are more willing to open up to one another.
So, what does it look like? Team building is not just ‘for fun’ but how you stimulate intentional affiliation with a group. Testing the emotional pulse of the team, doing behavioral profiling, sharing personal histories, etc. are facilitated in weekly, monthly and quarterly meetings that enable the team to get used to being more emotive and personally transparent. This allows the team to get to know each other and trust each other on a deeper level. This DOES NOT just come from working together.
The lack of intentional affiliation can be directly attributed to the lack of trust in a team. So what in the past might have seemed like ‘fun’ or ‘nice to have’ short questions at the beginning of a meeting––those ‘touching base and letting people have their say’ exercises are key to continually allowing the team to deepen their understanding of one another and what everyone thinks and feels. Hence, more trust is built between them.
There is a secondary benefit to the exercise as well. The affiliative exercises teach the team to ‘open up’ around easily discussable subjects, so when it comes time to really debate the TOUGH subjects, the team is used to opening up and sharing what they really think and feel. Because they trust each other more the debate can be open and authentic and allows the team to truly debate, discuss, explore and collaborate at a much deeper level.
They practise on affiliative subjects (themselves) and it teaches them to trust each other and be more open on the strategic questions at hand. Easier iteration and collaboration are a secondary benefit to 1:many affiliative exercises.
A student of mine, at a finance firm in Sydney, just said last week she was astonished at how much more valuable it was to give someone their say vs. giving them a ‘voucher’ [as a motivation technique].
So the point is this, if there is more intentional affiliation there is more knowledge of each other. If there is more knowledge of each other, there is more trust. If there is more trust, there is a lot more iteration of ideas. Presenting ideas as ‘ideas’ that might only be 50 per cent thought out, (not 100 per cent perfect input ) and being more okay with discussing the ambiguity and uncertainty involved in complex problems, and doing so earlier and with volition will create more collaboration among the group and better outcomes and buy-in from all.
Lastly, it takes a focus on self:
These 1:1 and 1:many foundations come from the leader’s dedication to working through the inevitable discomfort required to stretch their ability to balance affiliation with assertiveness. Patience, tenacity, self-reflection and brutal self-awareness are required to let go, perfect less, open up and take time to engage more.
The ROI in being able to inspire and engage through managing vision and purpose begins with being able to plan and conduct experiments around the above noted list of actions. Then reflect, and repeat those experiments to move closer to mastery in the balance of 1:1 and 1:many foundations.
This operating rhythm produces a more affiliated and collaborative team that is now more ready and willing to listen to the leader. The foundations, if executed consistently, create more desire to ‘want’ to listen. So then it’s time for the leader to use that ‘managing vision and purpose competency, (as defined above).
Now their executive presence is used with ‘a group that is ready to listen’. This helps the leader be heard and get their point across, but in a manner that is not only visionary, but authentic because they are more willing to trust themselves and to be transparent––and wouldn’t we all like a bit more of that?
Tamera Jones is the Director of Candescent Consulting
Tamera draws from her broad background in sales, marketing and operations to coach, train and inspire leaders to construct operating rhythms that focus on the mindset, systems and skills needed to engage and ignite their teams. Having previously worked with leaders at Telstra, Fuji Xerox, adidas, GE, Australia Post, FlexiGroup and BNP Paribas, Tamera has cross-industry expertise to blend with nearly 20 years of facilitation experience in the area of leadership and management.