This blog series is comprised of lessons from growth minded leaders—the result of dozens of CEO Interviews from the famous to the obscure—but all successful.
I hope you have been following our series on what it takes to grow an organization. We have looked at leadership’s vision, valuing employees, and leading without micro-managing. This week we are looking at consistency in message.
Joe Scarlett, retired CEO of Tractor Supply, suggested that we should “Be a Broken Record”. Do you remember what a broken record would do? It would play and replay the same part of the track. This is what you need to do with your vision; put the message about the vision on continuous repeat.
In last week’s blog we shared that effective leaders major in the majors—doing the things only they can do. The act of communicating the vision ranks at the top of that list. Here is why.
Chronic inconsistency leads to mediocrity
Most organizations that don’t perform well struggle because they are guilty of “chronic inconsistency”. Bill Taylor of Fast Company magazine calls it the signature of mediocrity. It is the leader’s job to prevent that from happening by creating the drumbeat that the company marches to, and leading everyone toward the vision.
Poor communication is the number one issue
Statistics show that only one in four growth initiatives returns value. My research shows that is because the projects are usually the result of a brainstorm rather than a part of an integrated vision driving the company’s future. A study in Harvard Business Review shows that even when there is a plan driving results, communication issues, which range from lack of clarity to siloed leadership, account for 30% of lost value. Poor communication is the single biggest reason that companies struggle to achieve their goals.
You can’t over-communicate!
In other words, you cannot over-communicate. Rather the risk is that you are under-communicating. You are tired of saying the same thing over and over—and yet that is your role. Be the broken record. No other person in the company is ever as effective at communicating the vision as the CEO who crafted it and believes in it. According to Joe Scarlett, “The CEO doesn’t get to have bad days.” Read our interview with Joe for more about this. Scarlett believes if the CEO seems off people will worry about the company and it becomes disruptive. Jim Wright, Joe’s successor at Tractor Supply, agrees and says, “Involve others, especially when they are nervous about the outcome.”
Don’t Forget to Listen
And while sharing the vision is key, listening to the feedback which includes reservations and concerns is also important. While great strategies can be crafted in the board room they cannot be implemented there. Success is dependent on aligning the organization and to do so requires a two-way conversation. One of the best communicators, Fred Pryor, founder of Fred Pryor Seminars, says, “Listening is one of the most important leadership skills.”
If things are not moving forward as you think they should be, ask yourself how well does the company communicate? How much of your time is spent in sharing the vision? Does the company take the time to gather and listen to feedback? By changing the quality of communication you have the opportunity to improve performance by at least 30%.