A well-crafted vision can put your company on the right course. But it’s up to the people in the business to man the rudder and stay the course.
It’s a lesson that Dave Gordon has taught to his 75 employees at Regency Windows Corp., where he serves as president and CEO. Gordon focuses everyone in the company on his vision and enables his employees to achieve it through their own talents and abilities.
“For me, leadership starts with a vision for the business and a purpose for everyone,” Gordon says. “And my leadership style is very much consensus building, communication and dialogue with the team.”
Smart Business spoke with Gordon about how you can build a vision and get everyone on board with it.
Q. What goes into constructing the vision?
The vision for the business is, at its essence, a set of objectives. It’s a direction in which you and your team head, a direction in which you take the business.
Our vision encompasses financial objectives, personal performance objectives, how we pay off on the values we have at the company. It encompasses our role in the community. It is kind of a holistic approach to what we are as an enterprise and what we want to accomplish. That is the foundation for what we do at the company, the foundation for my leadership style, the foundation for what we’re all about as a team.
Q. How complicated can you make a vision?
There are levels. In its simplest forms, when we talk about the organization, we’ll talk about our values, what matters most for us. For us, it’s simple words like, ‘Do the right thing.’ For us, that’s almost a rallying cry. It’s something we developed as a team, and it’s a phrase that helps everyone understand what we expect, what is OK and what is not OK, how we measure ourselves and what constitutes success here at the organization.
In its broadest form, you can communicate the vision that way. If you dial it up a notch to the leadership team, the vision might have some other elements added in that would be appropriate for the leadership team, such as financial objectives.
Q. How do you communicate the vision effectively?
I do it a variety of ways. With our leadership team, the core senior managers of the company, we’re together every week in a staff meeting. The staff meeting is a discussion of the objectives we have, of our progress toward those objectives, of our problem solving for each other if some part of the organization is not meeting those objectives. We support those who are exceeding their objectives and ask how we can fan those flames.
We have, at the least, quarterly companywide meetings that everybody attends. We will talk about our company priorities, starting with safety, since this is a physical business that we do. We start every meeting with recognizing top performances on safety.
We reward and recognize other contributions to the business. We read customer feedback that reinforces jobs well done. It’s a multipronged approach to reinforce the vision.
It all stems from a philosophy that I have of engagement. A winning organization has members engaged in the mission of the organization. Part of engagement is understanding what the mission is and what constitutes success, what you are trying to accomplish and how will you know when you get there. Engagement also means that people are enthusiastic about the mission, feel ownership in the mission, feel it is the right mission for the organization and are proud and willing to be part of it. Those multiple layers of communication are critical to ensuring that you have everyone on board, doing their best and doing so willingly and enthusiastically.
Q. What are some keys to getting that level of buy-in?
It starts with establishing goals and objectives that are tough to hit but not impossible. You have to put something in front of yourselves that will, with some degree of likelihood, succeed.
Second, it has to be something that you feel is the right thing to do. It has to be ethically rooted and morally rooted, something you feel it’s OK to ask another to do. Third, there has to be respect for the community involved. There is an element of gratitude in what you do every day, what you have. That has to be present.
Those are kind of greens fees, in my way of thinking, about how you get people engaged. Then you have to be able to simplify the communication of that vision to a level where it is clear, it’s simple, and it’s understandable. Short, simple sentences, not a long, committee-written sentence with big words. It has to be clear and obvious what you are trying to do to allow everyone to hold onto it.
Then you have to layer in communication. There is kind of an outbound aspect to communication, but there is an inbound aspect, as well, which is making it a dialogue. You talk to folks about what you’re trying to do, then you ask them to play back what you are asking them to do. If what they play back to you has congruence with what you want to achieve, then you know they have it.
But then you have to take it one step further. You have to check in and say, ‘Do you have the tools you need? Do you have the support you need to achieve this?’ Tools can be anything along the lines of physical tools. ‘Is the team set up the right way, tasked with the right tasks? Are they joined with other departments that understand the mission and work collaboratively?’ That is where you have to stop and listen.