Easing the vision Featured

8:00pm EDT June 25, 2008

Todd Siegel says that his key to leadership sounds simple, but that there’s more to it than the words.

The president and CEO of MTS Medication Technologies Inc. says that he tries to create a vision that reflects a direction for MTS, which provides medication compliance packing systems and posted approximately $50 million in fiscal 2008 revenue. But the job doesn’t stop with creating the vision. After that, you need to work with managers and direct reports to really lay out the strategic objectives to meet that vision.

Once that is done, you start breaking those down in details from goals, strategies and initiatives, and then take that information and distill it into a strategic plan. That not only brings clarity to the vision and shows everybody how their road reaches that vision, but it allows everybody to participate in the process and buy in to it.

Smart Business spoke with Siegel about how he communicates his vision to his employees without overwhelming them.

Remember to communicate. The worst thing you can do as a leader is not communicate with your organization, not be visible and not communicate. I think that if you allow silos and departmental barriers to be built up in your organization that you’re going to create a culture that is not conducive to success.

The technology age has negatively impacted that. It drives me nuts when I see a two-page e-mail sent from somebody and they are two offices down. I’m constantly badgering people not to send e-mails of that nature.

It’s OK if you want to document and there’s information you need to pass on, but really, think carefully about that before you sit down and type. I try to get my managers out of their offices or making sure my managers are out of their offices and working with individuals, not getting jammed up in meetings — meeting after meeting after meeting.

Most of them are pretty good. But, you have to set a style, and that’s always been my style. When I get in in the morning, I’m going to go drop by their offices. If there is something going out on a shop floor, we’ll walk out to the shop floor together and take a look at it.

Make sure we’re seen, they’re seen — everybody knows that you’re interested in what’s going on. <<

Keep your vision simple. Creating a vision is the responsibility of the chief executive. They’ve got to know what that vision is. But, you still can’t do it in a vacuum.

You still have to work with your executive team so you can distill it into words that people can look at and say, ‘Yeah, I get it, No.1, and, (No. 2), I want to be a part of that.’ So, particularly entrepreneurial businesses, a lot of them are founded on ideas, and a lot of them are founded in an industry that has absolutely nothing to do with the business that they’re actually in.

Somebody finds some opportunity, or they develop an opportunity based on an obstacle they had to overcome. An entrepreneur has this in their mind, and they’ve got to build a staff around that or business around that to make it happen. How do you do that?

You’re recruiting people; you’re articulating what it is you want to do. They like it, they buy in, but once you’ve got an organization and you’ve got this machine that is moving in the direction to fulfill these ideas or these dreams that you’ve articulated, you’ve got to really distill it into something that is clear and meaningful that people can look at, and read and they get it.

You have to post it and you have to reiterate it. It has to be everywhere. When I started, I used to go nuts. I’d walk into businesses and they’d have their vision statement up and it’d be five paragraphs or all these bullets, and it’d be on a poster in the lobby, and some would say, ‘vision statement’ and some would say, ‘mission’ and I’d always ask, ‘Do you know what your vision is or your mission?’ Invariably, they wouldn’t know. This would be some senior-level person.

I said, ‘If we go down this path, I want to make sure that people, if they don’t know it word for word, they can get pretty darn close to what that vision is.’

Don’t just assign a task; explain it.(You need) a well-thought-out strategic plan that has initiatives that, that person has a part of. It may be a new product that you’re developing. Somebody has to develop an electrical schematic or a control box, and, without that electrical schematic or a control box, this new machine isn’t going to run.

Well, you might give them plans and say, ‘Make this electrical schematic,’ and they’re going to make that electrical schematic and they’ll bring it back [and say,] ‘Here’s your electrical box.’

But, you could say, ‘Look, here’s a new machine we’re developing, and it’s going to this trade show and we’re introducing a new product. If we’re successful, it’s going to open up this whole new market for the company, and this electrical control box is really key because until we have it, we can’t test this machine. If we have it by this date and test the machine, we can get it to this trade show and introduce it.’

So, that employee can now see that whole path and that whole initiative and what part they have in it.

HOW TO REACH: MTS Medication Technologies Inc., (800) 671-0508 or www.mts-mt.com