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Strong, clear vision statement creates consistency

Most people realize that today you cannot behave like the dictator sitting in the driver's seat cracking the whip over the team.

Unfortunately, many managers do not know how to manage when they can no longer manage by edicts and threats and so they move to the back of the wagon. They sit there in a fetal position, hoping the team is going in the right direction. That is also not an effective way to lead the team to the desired goal. Today's leader is in front of the team, feet on the ground, providing direction.

Everyone is having fun today dissecting the auto industry to understand where they went wrong. One reason is the unfortunate pattern of alternating "car men" and "financial men" into the CEO position.

Donald Peterson of Ford (Taurus), Bill Hoglund of General Motors (Saturn), and Lee Iococco of Chrysler (K Car and also the Mustang while he was at Ford) were "car men" and had great success.

"Financial men" who followed tended to focus on short-term financial results and the fall into mediocrity followed.

Myron Tribus of MIT once said, "Managing your company on financial figures alone is like trying to drive your car by looking in the rear-view mirror. The numbers reflect what has already happened and cannot be used to predict the future.

Management is prediction. That requires feet on the ground, leading your team in the desired direction.

What is that direction? It is the role of the leader to provide the aim of the organization. Every organization must have a vision, and by extension a vision statement shared with all employees. A strong and clearly worded vision statement allows employees to make decisions consistent with the organization's overall goals and objectives.

Without this clear direction, the employees will do their best but they may not be pulling in the same direction.

A good vision statement must meet three criteria.

-It must be memorable. If the employees cannot recall it immediately, it probably is not of much use to guide their behavior.

-It must be inspirational. It should excite the employees to want to enlist in the crusade to achieve it.

-It must be compelling. It should move employees to action. Understanding the vision and being excited about it means nothing if action does not take place to get the desired results.

In order for employees to buy-in to the vision, it must be communicated to them in a way to achieve true understanding. Japanese friends say that it takes more than one of the senses to communicate. Merely sending it out in printed format, putting up posters or pontificating about it will not achieve the desired buy-in and commitment.

The leader must publish it in written form and also explain it to all employees in a true dialog format.

Success in today's challenging business world is increasingly based on the extent of the leadership, personal involvement and visibility in developing, deploying, and maintaining an evironment for excellence.

Leaders lead the way.

(Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. E-mail him at lou@process