Want to Get Your Vision to Stick? Celebrate!

How do you get your leadership team's vision to stick with the rest of your company?

I'm assuming you have a shared vision in the first place

I help my clients implement the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), and part of the EOS process is to clarify the organization's vision.  When I'm with clients, the leadership team spends the good part of two days dreaming, envisioning, creating and sharing the vision. We'll put to paper the long term vision (most often 10 years), a three year picture and a one year plan. It's an exciting time, as they get to step our of the day to day box and dream big.  I've heard again and again how intoxicating it is form them to finally get their heads around the age old question: "What do we want to be?".

Once they created a shared vision, then they go to work to make that vision a reality. The team will get to work on the priorities (EOS calls these "rocks"), to get them through the next 90 days. Then, at the beginning of the following quarter, we review the vision, the yearly plan, and set new quarterly rocks to enable us to succeed at meeting the longer term plans.

I'm noticing something very interesting

As I'm facilitating these quarterly meetings, I've discovered something interesting with about half of my clients.   With the heavily "results oriented" leaders (you know, the 'let's get it done at all costs and let's push faster' clients), there's a tendency to skip an important part: to celebrate and acknowledge those who made it happen.

It sounds like this:  "OK, leaders.  Good work from the team to get us up 25% over last quarter, and we hit our stretch goal, too.  Now let's see if you can't do better this quarter!".  Is this you?

Running fast and hard is going to get harder... fast.

Imagine running at top speed.  How long can you keep that pace up?  How long will the people follow you before they slow down, stop... or quit? It's no different in business. Reaching a long term vision isn't something that can be achieved quickly (well, duh!), and you need to make sure that your team is consistently motivated to achieve the next set of goals.

How often can you do that?  Yearly?  Sure.  Quarterly?  Absolutely.  Weekly?  Yeah, now you're talking.

One way to motivate is to celebrate what you've just accomplished

NASA celebrating the Mars landing of the rover Curiosity

You know that when NASA mission control got a man back from space, they'd burst out in celebration, right? (I know this because I see this in every space movie.  That makes me an expert in all things aeronautics.  Plus, I looked it up on Google).  If a bunch of pocket protector wielding engineers can celebrate without reservation, so can your team.   They didn't wait for the next meeting to do it.  They celebrated right then and there. Sometimes it looks a little awkward, but it's real (see the picture).

Thoughts From Andy Stanley

If you haven't heard of Andy Stanley, he's a leadership speaker, author, and founder/lead pastor of Atlanta-based North Point Ministries, with a staff of over 450 and serving over 90,000 people and 50 churches around the globe. A recent survey showed that Andy listed among the top 10 most influential living pastors in America.  You don't have to be Christian to get incredible leadership insights from Andy.  Here's what he said:

“To make vision stick, leaders need to celebrate the vision and celebrate it systematically. We need to pause from time to time to celebrate wins. We need to look back and acknowledge what’s been accomplished, and we need to acknowledge the individuals that have contributed to our progress.

I’m convinced that celebrating wins does more to clarify the vision than anything else. You see, the tricky thing about vision is that it’s made up of words and word pictures. There aren’t any photographs. After all, vision is about the future. That makes it difficult for leaders to get everybody on the same page. However, from time to time you’ll see somebody in your organization do something that lets you know that they really get it. When that happens, you can’t miss the opportunity to highlight what they’ve done, and then celebrate it publicly. Nothing clarifies vision better than a living example, something that underscores exactly what you’re talking about when you cast your vision.”

Remember these two takeaways from all of that

  1. What is celebrated is repeated.
  2. Draw attention to the people that are getting it right.

OK, let's talk practical. A few ideas:

  1. During your regular weekly leadership team meeting, ask yourselves: What happened yesterday, or last week, that made you feel like you were successful in what you came here to do? Who was responsible and on the team to make that happen? Perhaps there's a few examples you can record.  Celebrate right there!
  2. Share those successes with the whole company somehow in person - whether at a regular team huddle or departmental meeting.  Be sure to tie those successes into your long term vision and your core focus.  For example, it might sound something like this:  “Thanks to Kate, Rob, Marty, and Kelsey, our tech support team just got it's first 100% client satisfaction score. Wow.  That’s exactly what we talk about when we focus on our core focus of ‘relentless pursuit of happy ’ in order to get to our target of 100,000 happy customers within 10 years . That’s exactly why we’re here.   Congratulations, team!  Keep up the great work and we're looking forward to seeing more great things from you coming up."
  3. For quarterly goals met, maybe you can make a celebration intentional.  One of my companies closed early on a Friday and brought everyone to play laser tag. No one was killed or got their eye shot out, but there were a lot of smiles while  shooting at management.  Are you a company who likes to plan it and make it a reward for a goal met?  Sure.  Just don't forget that sometimes the spontaneous celebrations are just as fun.
  4. Allow celebration to flow across teams at all levels. Find a way to systemize recognition and celebrating success.

Want a vision to stick? Have you celebrated success recently?