Some leaders have difficulty creating and communicating their vision for the future. They may have many strengths as a manager and organizer, but they fail in seeing how their organization can impact the future in powerful, positives ways. However, other leaders have incredible dreams and can paint a vision of world-wide change and global impact. They have a vision to lasso the moon, but they are not really sure how to get there. Their optimism, excitement, and zeal have no realistic legs to carry the organization forward. People want to follow these visionaries, but they must be convinced that there is a realism behind the grandeur; a blueprint behind the imaginary castle; a doable plan behind the mission.
Five areas of clarity will assist in bringing a sense of realism to our leadership. Unrealistic thinking can push others to a point of frustration and discouragement that they send out resumes and applications to other companies. Let’s explore these five areas.
First, followers want vision but not fantasy. Effective leaders spend time crafting their vision in understandable language and discernable steps of accomplishment. Instead of painting the picture of the organization’s first office on the moon (your ultimate vision), you might want to start with an initial step of opening another office across town, then an office in a neighboring city, then 10 offices throughout the state, then….. An excellent novel can be fiction without being science fiction – the same is true of a vision.
Second, followers want realistic goals. Short term goals should be challenging but not out of reach. We have the goal of selling 1,800 widgets next month increasing our sale by 100 widgets over this past month, might be realistic. We have a goal of selling 18,000 widgets next month which will equal the total sales of widgets last year – this goal might be so far out of sight that it crushes the motivation of the widget makers
Third, followers want realistic assignments. Make assignments that recognize and celebrate past success. Acknowledge the talent and ability of others, but don’t fail to recognize the human limitations of a group/individual. You did such a nice job presenting the first step of our new design to the visiting group of donors, I would like for you to develop and present the material for the remaining 21 steps to the board tomorrow night. Since step one took a week to develop, it would seem absolutely impossible (unrealistic) to expect 20 additional steps overnight.
Fourth, followers want realistic timeframes and results. An effective leader needs to be realistic when placing demands of time and quality on others. To demand a working protype be ready by Monday, or the scale model to be built in three days, or the 200-page report submitted by the end of the week may be unrealistic demands. Good followers want to do an excellent job and they desire to be proud of their work. Unrealistic deadlines can cause frustrations, disappointments, resentment, and resignations.
Fifth, followers want clear and realistic expectations. Insensitive expectations can backfire in a leader’s face. Anticipating that an excellent employee can handle more responsibilities without additional time, resources, or compensation is unwise. Hard working lieutenants are most often working at 100% capacity. To be rewarded with more work without any additional assistance can break the motivation and spirit of your trusted employees. Higher, realistic expectations should be accompanied by additional resources, coworkers, authority, and time.
A wise and effective leaders will be realistic. Paint the vision, call the people, enter the race, clarify the target…. and then be realistic moving forward. Be willing to take a risk, be ready to take a leap of faith, be excited about open doors, but keep it real.
Photos: Large Unrealistic balloons – Unrealistic Expectations | Veritus Group; Small balloon picture – War for Talent: Retain Employees & Improve Culture | Wejungoballoons – https://veritusgroup.com/unrealistic-expectations/