“We have no idea where we’re going or why.” “The bar is set unrealistically high.” Those were the words from exit interviews conducted with the mid-level managers and VPs from a fast-growing startup.

Clear Vision for Leaders
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Remember Simon from yesterday? If you missed it, yesterday we covered the first two things your team really wants, fair pay and the right resources. If you missed that, head on over and catch up first. We’ll wait. Then, come back and read the next two. Also, make sure to subscribe to my RSS feed or get posts via email (and get my free book as a bonus) so you don’t miss the next two installments coming up.

So after he addressed compensation (fair pay) and getting his managers and VPs good training, their own budgets, and shared assistants (the right resources), Simon moved on to the next two things his team really wanted:

A clear vision and realistic expectations.

The eight things your team really wants – numbers three and four

3. Clear vision

I think we all inherently know that vision is important. We can’t hit something we don’t aim for.

As a leader, it’s critical that your team knows, agrees with, and lives out the organization’s vision. In order for that to happen, you must overcommunicate the vision. It must be drilled to the point that your team is almost sick of it. Vision is what unites a team, gives it clear purpose, and allows teams to weather the storms together.

Without a clear vision, leaders especially will be demotivated and uninspired. And let’s be real…high performers don’t put up with that for very long. They want…no need…a challenge. They want to be stretched. And they want to change the world.

This was an area where Simon was failing miserably. It’s not that he had lost his purpose or that his executive team had forgotten theirs. He just wasn’t telling anyone. And therefore, there was no buy-in; no greater purpose for the other leaders.

Having a vision in your head, on a wall, or in an employee welcome packet is not enough. Great leaders make their teams believe it (you can make others believe) and check to make sure it’s being understood and is effective.

The vision drives everything: hiring, budgets, marketing, promotions, and even firing and layoffs.

What Simon didn’t realize was that his middle managers and VPs were completely directionless. And with no guiding principles, they went the only place that made sense…out the door.

If you find yourself where Simon did, I’ve written 7 easy steps to developing, communicating, and drilling home a vision. They are the steps Simon is using to revitalize his business and they will work for you, too.

4. Realistic expectations

A vision is important. Again, you can’t hit something you don’t aim for.

When Your Team Says You Suck - How to Get, Give, and Use Feedback for Leaders
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The same is true if the bar is set too high. You also can’t hit something that is realistically out of reach.

Don’t get me wrong…on a personal level, I believe in setting ridiculously-hard-to-achieve goals. On a personal level, I think realism is just a fancy of word for limiting beliefs. But with others, you want to set the bar high, but not out of reach.

Your vision is what will stretch, challenge, and develop your team. Throw in a good goal and together, they will will get your team members excited to come to work every day. But taken too far, and it will do just the opposite.

Asking too much of your team will demotivate them just as much as having no vision. If the company is growing quickly, achieving 60% year-over-year growth every year, but the goals you set are too much higher, it’s only a matter of time before their confidences takes a hit and doubt creeps in.

They are left with only two options:

Burning out or walking out.

Simon’s managers and VPs were directionless in their overall purpose (no vision), but they also had financial targets that were unrealistic. Simon and his executive team’s philosophy was “Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll be among the stars.”

The problem with that philosophy is that they often left their managers and VPs thinking that being among the stars was a failure. After months and months of missing goals and targets, no wonder the managers and VPs were out the door, shoulders slumped. No amount of money or power could make up for the fact that they felt defeated.

The most amazing thing was that despite missing their targets, the managers and VPs were never in danger of losing their jobs. Simon and his executive team were actually pleased. So I encouraged them to set progressive goals and targets. Set some low enough that it required some effort to get there, but not a parting of the Red Sea miracle. Instead of one huge year-end goal, they set multiple monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. Smaller growth equaled a smaller bonus and still allowed them to “shoot for the moon” without feeling like a failure.

Key takeaway: Set progressive goals, reward small victories, and build your team’s confidence.

Tomorrow, we’ll cover the fifth and sixth things your team really wants: to be trusted and to control their own destiny. Subscribe to my RSS feed or get posts via email (and get my free book as a bonus) so you don’t miss the next two installments coming up.

Until then…

Share some success and failure stories you have seen in these areas: Clear vision and realistic expectations. How have you see them done right…or wrong?

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13 thoughts on “What Your Team REALLY Wants: Creating a Clear Vision and Setting Realistic Expectations

  1. Ken Porter says:

    I love the key takeaway. You should do those more often 🙂

    Honestly, I’ve rarely seen them done right, but I’ve seen them done wrong.

    I used to work for a guy who would set these crazy goals for the year and then three months in, it would be obvious we weren’t going to hit them, so he scrapped them altogether. The rest of the year, we had NOTHING to aim at. I left after two years.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thanks for the feedback Ken.

      Your leader sounds a lot like I used to do with my team. Ugh…

  2. Zech Newman says:

    Unrealistic expectations is huge. A lot of the time as a business owner I can put way to high of expectations on myself and team. The glass is half full is great except that you can over promise and under deliver to your team. I told someone working for me that I would like her to manage the next store I open and I was getting her ready for that. This is true but my timeline sucked. When I came out of my stupidity I apologized and told her one that is very realistic. Gave a best and worse case. Not fun but I saved the relationship and she respects me more for it.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Good analogy. Optimism is great but I don’t expect a 400 pound man to run a marathon in six months.

  3. Joe Lalonde says:

    It’s funny you bring up clear vision. The company I’m with has been struggling with their vision and getting things in order. The vision seems to change daily and without notice.

    The more it happens, the more you can see defeat on the team’s faces. We’re getting discourage and frustrated with the lack of a clear vision.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Been there, done that Joseph…and it sucks.

      1. Joe Lalonde says:

        Yes it does Matt. Hoping it ends soon for us.

    2. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      The indecisiveness is poison to a team!! Teams need direction and a clear vision of where they’re going! Great story Joe!

      1. Joe Lalonde says:

        That it is Mark. The sad thing is when other leaders begin to openly complain or question the owner. Scary times.

      2. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Wow…ya, you’ve all but lost control at that point! That is sad.

  4. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    A friend of mine is theanager of a local business, the last manager was let go due to unrealistic expectations and poor communication. The manager had an expectation of what her role would evolve into that was nothing close to what the owners had in mind. Neither side talked about it and it finally came to a confrontation that couldn’t be resolved. Now with my friend, I always encourage her to over communicate with the owners. If something bothering her I insist she talk about it with them before it become a issue.

    Communication and expectation are huge if you want a happy team!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Great advice Mark!

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        Been thinking about a blog post for quite sometime that I think I now need to write about communicating to your team and how it’s like feeding a baby…

        Stay tuned 🙂

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