How do I use creativity to set the right direction for my firm?
Devising a long-term strategy with built-in values is one of the most challenging tasks a manager can carry out. But don’t be afraid of large-scale, imaginative thinking, says a leading executive coach
We all know that good leaders set the direction for a company. As US clergyman and leadership guru John C Maxwell puts it: “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” But how do leaders define their missions in the first place – and ensure they set the correct goals for their firms?
To create a compelling vision, leaders need to think big, using plenty of imagination and creativity to consider their future business strategies. Imagining the business without any boundaries, limitations or financial constraints is one way to establish that vision. It may help you to answer a series of questions, such as:
How would the firm work under those unlimited circumstances?
What would it make you see, hear and feel?
Which new products and services could be offered to customers?
What do you want customers to say about the company?
How do you want employees to feel about their work?
Those questions could help you build on what customers are saying about the company now, or consider how its services could be improved. Even if some of the suggestions may not be realistic, the creative exercise could also be vital for shaping the strategic planning process. Imagining a company without any barriers or obstacles could lead to future innovations or changes that may deliver genuine improvements. Once the big picture is identified, a more achievable vision is created by taking into account the current situation and addressing any obstacles that need to be overcome.
It is just as important that this vision is co-created with the senior management team. If a vision is collective – with “buy in” and support from the top team from day one – it is more likely to be adopted across the organisation more easily.
Once a clear vision has been established, it is important to look at which specific goals are needed to achieve it. Unlike the vision, the goals will need to be clear, purposeful, realistic and measurable.
You must also think about which values are most important to the business, and which behaviours are expected as the norm from employees. Those values need to be embedded in the culture, but for that to happen they must be reflected in the behaviour of the leader at all times. The leader needs to show the way and clearly demonstrate what is expected. As management guru and best-selling author Stephen Covey says: “What you do has far greater impact than what you say”.
To ensure that values are embedded and central to the achievement of goals, they could be set as part of employee’s individual performance plans. If one of the values is “passion”, for example, then how passionate people are about their roles could be measured as part of their performance reviews. Financial goals, meanwhile, can be measured in quarterly accounts.
Communication is a vital to establishing a clear vision. Leaders need to clearly and consistently communicate the company’s vision and business goals at every opportunity. While that sounds obvious, it is something that many companies do poorly or fail to do at all.
If your workforce doesn’t know where it is going, it can’t be expected to get there. Creating a compelling and believable vision will motivate your workforce – and you will be far more likely to achieve your goals.
Marielena Sabatier is chief executive of Inspiring Potential
For further thoughts on establishing a long-term strategy for your organisation, download CMI’s Management 2020 report.