We’re business owners.
That means we create the path for our company, even if we’re lone travelers.
We work hard to get our team to invest in our vision.
That’s our job right? Vision, and getting buy-in from everyone!
It is a well-accepted role of leaders to focus on the future and pursue the possibility it holds. In other words, leading entails being a visionary—confidently looking ahead and ascertaining how best to transform your current reality into your desired future. One of the most significant errors I see leaders make is developing their vision in isolation and then expecting people to accept it at face value. HBR
Even though you’re in charge
As a leader, yes, you’re in charge and it’s your job to set your company’s direction, but if you don’t have buy-in from your team then your ‘vision’ is nothing more than a nice tagline on an idea that won’t work.
Sadly, most business ‘visions’ are just that:
nice sounding, but totally useless
Back in high school I ran a live performance theater. We sat about 800 people and many of our shows sold out. A number of the people I worked went on to get jobs in the film, theater, or live music businesses as crew or performers.
In grade 10 I got my first real taste of leadership when I was named the stage manager. In our little theater, the stage manager was God.
So, at 15 years old I got my first chance to show off my great organizational skills. I’d like to think that for a 15-year-old I did pretty awesome, considering all the older people had moved on and I had little benefit of mentor-ship.
One of the big mistakes I made was letting that leadership position go to my head. It showed itself mainly during the clean-up each day.
I’d walk around pointing out things that needed to be picked up and telling people to pick things up.
I’d basically walk around telling people what to do, unless the task at hand was considered “cool,” then of course I’d do it myself.
My fall from grace came one day when one of the other crew members (my assistant at the time) started a full-fledged yelling match with me in front of everyone.
I distinctly remember at the time I felt he was 100% in the wrong for yelling at me.
His approach may have been wrong, but his message was right on.
When I look back now, I see that I was a bad leader. Sure, things ran well and I did a good job overall, but I didn’t inspire people to work with me.
I abused my authority, ordering people around. My team members offered me little respect because I did little to earn it.
In your business, who are your ‘heads’?
If you have a small development shop, do you toss all the ‘crappy’ projects — you know, the ones you do to pay the bills — with the junior developers while your senior people get the pick of the best stuff?
Worse, do you hoard the best stuff for yourself?
How about we step back and look at some bigger things.
Do you have a vision for your company?
Can your team actually repeat what the vision is?
Are they free to act out that vision with clients without needing your input?
When was the last time you celebrated the employees that took the vision to heart and acted it out with clients?
20 years later
With almost 20 years more life experience, if I had a do-over, I’d deal with my high school leadership role differently.
I’d be down in the weeds doing the menial tasks that others didn’t love and be sharing the ‘cool’ jobs with those that could do them.
I’d be training others so that in the future they could do the cool jobs.
I’d be putting our focus firmly on the vision (putting on an awesome play) and not forcing those around me to focus on the trees in front of them.
I’d be asking the other leaders in the group for their opinions and giving the praise for the accomplishments they achieved in the course of the work.
I’d be asking everyone present to help us figure out how to achieve the vision together.
I’d be encouraging input and ideas that challenge mine on the way to our vision.
Today, I’m not driven by my ego like I was in high school.
Now I want to achieve the goal and build others up in the process.
That’s how I build a team around me that will outpace teams twice our size.
That’s how I build a team that stays with me when offered better jobs (and more money).
Have you built a team like that?
What’s your plan to build a team like that?