This article was originally published in the August 2014 issue of Career Insider
While participating in a recent think tank of business owners, I listened with interest as each person outlined what their company did, what set them apart as individual leaders, and more specifically, their company’s services. As we closed in on the final presentation, everyone sat quietly and a bit mesmerized as the leader outlined his company’s services, presented his website, talked about his clients, and finally shared the story of how he had been offered a sizeable amount of cash to be acquired by another company. He said no. When asked why he had declined that sale, he said that he had a clear vision of where he was steering the ship and the acquiring company would not fit his vision. While some in the group might have argued that the dollars would have been great and he had made a mistake, this leader showed through body language, words and actions that he had clarity in his personal and company vision.
I am happy to report that more firms than ever have a strategic plan that outlines their vision, mission, core values and strategies; however, I fear that many are just words on a paper and that passion and clarity behind the words is weak. Let’s explore a few ways your firm could strengthen and clarify the vision of the company.
Take another look at your Vision
Does your firm vision really speak to what your firm wants to be, and is it clear to everyone who reads it? A simple way to determine this is to give it to a few trusted clients or team members, ask them to read it, then explain clearly what your firm wants to achieve. In other words the "why and how” of your firm’s future. Think of clarity as the fuel of vision and action. If you aren’t clear about the "why and how,” you will never lift your vision off the ground.
Take another look at your Strategic Plan
Firms that have a strategic plan are proud of the fact they have a road map their leadership team will follow. Unfortunately, it is often held tightly by the leadership team and never advances to the rest of the firm. Your team cannot follow you unless you give them the map. By sharing the full plan with the team, they are going to know the direction you are headed, and the leaders then can set the course for everyone. Everyone should know clearly how their job links to the overall plan.
Look at your Retention Metrics
We are a profession that loves our metrics. We should be looking at our overall retention rate, including members you let go or those who left on their own. A clear vision that encompasses everyone in the firm will inspire passion and excitement in everyone from the partners throughout every person in the firm. Retention of the best will become less of a worry. Engagement comes from passion; and passion comes from a clarity. When they "get it,” you will be able to tell because everyone will begin to talk the vision and will join in the excitement that comes from the top of the organizational chart.
Identify Roles and Responsibilities
Developing an organizational chart along with job descriptions is imperative in progressive firms today. Individuals within the firm need to know why the firm exists and how they fit into the firm strategic plan. This, somehow, is a daunting task for many firms, but it is important to every team member that is a part of your firm. A written document for each member that clarifies what you expect, when you expect it, and how you expect the work to be done is important for individual clarity of position and for value to both the company and the individual. Make certain to include goals and performance objectives which can be linked back to IDPs or Individual Development Plans.
Know Your Numbers
Realizing that I am talking to a group of highly educated financial professionals, I don’t mean to offend, but we simply must be clear on the firm’s financial goals and we should work hard to be transparent in our reporting not only to the leadership team but also to the entire team. Explaining what you are measuring, why it is important and how it will affect them is a part of clarity that should not be ignored.
To be a leader with clarity is powerful and there is no limit to how far you will travel when you clearly see the path in front of you. Find your vision, chart your course, give your followers a plan for the bigger picture and set your sites of bringing your vision to reality.