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One Vision – One Goal

Getting workers to collaborate when they have different goals or agendas is the top challenge among today's leaders, according to a survey by the American Management Association. Sixty percent of surveyed executives listed getting people to work together as the biggest hurdle they currently face.

Perhaps it's unsurprising those same leaders ranked balancing competing demands and priorities as their second largest obstacle (56 percent). If leaders are juggling multiple priorities, is it any wonder their employees struggle understanding common objectives?

Maybe you've seen this problem in your organization: Employees in the billing department--in addition to collecting and posting receivables--are instructed to keep overhead low. In other words, operate with the fewest number of employees possible and limit overtime by squeezing twelve hours of work into eight hour shifts. Meanwhile, over in Sales, new business acquisition is the aim. Grow big, grow fast, grow now!

Then the two objectives collide. The Sales department acquires a large piece of business that generates significant revenue--and a tremendous increase in the number of payments to process. As directed, the billing department has been operating lean and mean; the new business increases volume by 20 percent and brings an already overworked department to its knees. Performance suffers, payments are misapplied, and the new customer is concerned.

Sales: "You're not servicing our clients!"

Billing: "Stop bringing in new business when we don't have the necessary resources."

Leaders apparently know how to fix the dilemma, because 84 percent of the AMA survey respondents listed communication as the most important skill needed to be an effective leader. So what's the problem? In most cases, leaders are communicating the wrong message.

Let's say the organization in our example has a mission to increase shareholder value by providing exceptional service. However, messages from management have an emphasis on numerical results: cut costs; grow now.

The secret to getting workers with different goals to work together is simple: eliminate the separate goals. If the organization's vision is to increase profits through excellent service, leaders should convey a single message about servicing the customer. When salespeople understand that an unprepared billing department will be unable to service to new customers, they'll bring billing supervisors into the sales process. When billing supervisors are informed of potential new business in the pipeline, they can plan and staff accordingly. One vision--one goal.

Communicating a common vision requires skills largely neglected in the business world. But when you master the ability to Have a Vision and Convince Others To Share It, you'll get people to work together and separate yourself from at least 60 percent of all business leaders.
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