Are you leading the way?

Chances are, your organization is not the same now as it was when you joined it. And, chances are, it is not where you’d like it to be. As the leader, you can better direct its future, and grow its people along the way, by recognizing the key stages in its development. One corporate organizational model – survival, stability and success – can actually be adapted from Stephen R. Covey’s insightful book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.

In new organizations, survival is critical. The same is true for organizations under stress, and right now some leaders are in the fight of their lives just trying to save their companies. Survival mode is chaotic and reactive; its unpredictability promotes panic. But with the right leadership, plus experience and the implementation of systems and structure, an organization can move from survival to stability mode. In both instances, the focus is on problem‐solving, but the stable company has benefit of informed action, and, with that, hope. After stability comes success mode. Confident leaders of successful organizations capitalize on predictability and the synergy of scalability to deliver profitability. The focus here is on opportunity, and on setting and achieving goals.

Success might appear to be the highest objective, but, for visionary leaders, traditional success is not the whole answer.

As Stephen Covey puts it, “…No longer is the [organization] an end in and of itself. It becomes the means to an end that is greater than itself.”

Thus the goal becomes significance. A sense of stewardship and a bigger picture responsibility can move an organization to that higher level. The most effective leaders incorporate the dream of significance into the culture of their organizations from the beginning, and instill meaning and inspiration for their people in the process. With significance in sight, effective leaders are authentically confident in themselves. They purposefully develop employee potential, and trust in what they are doing and where they are going together.

Making it work

Wherever your organization is in the continuum of survival to significance, effective communication can be your most important tool. And whatever your message, it will resonate with your people if it is significant and meaningful to you, if it motivates them by creating a context within which they can function, if it inspires them by providing a purpose for their actions, and if it is authentically true.

The content of your messages provides meaning for those you lead. Over time, your consistent communication gives them the framework for building trust in you and establishing your organization’s relational expectations, both internally and externally.

As important as what you say is how you say it. And since there are a variety of learning styles, you can enhance your message by keeping it consistent but presenting it in a combination of ways. Barry Rellaford recommends using one or more of the following:

Make it visual

A picture, photo or video can bring your message alive. Symbols, logos and branding make it recognizable.

Make it connect

Use comparisons – metaphors or analogies – to enhance understanding. Also take full advantage of stories. As people, we are hardwired for stories, and when you relate a personal experience as part of your message, you reveal something of yourself and become more accessible and human.

Make it memorable

The language you choose – a term, catch phrase or tag line – and the way you deliver your message can make it stick.

Make it participatory

When your audience can experience what you’re communicating with them, it becomes real. Perhaps your message can’t be “demo’d,” but consider some active way to engage the whole person, not just minds.

Make it yours

It is said that one of the hardest tasks of leadership is understanding that you are not what you are, but what you’re perceived to be by others.

Conversely, consider how you view and communicate with the people you are seeking to influence. A logical presentation of data with spreadsheets and graphs might appeal to some heads. But, along with their minds, your people also have hearts. So, how do you spark the passion inside?

We all desire meaning and purpose. We want to make a difference. We want what we do to matter. When you connect with people’s hearts, minds and spirits you will better be able to lead them forward in a shared direction. And you will reinforce both their sense of purpose and the ultimate significance of your organization.