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Let's Build with Shegun Otulana

Clarity Needed

Published 2 months ago • 1 min read

Clarity Needed

Recently, I was having a conversation with a leader of a company in my portfolio. It's a small team doing well in its early days but navigating some inflection points.

We were discussing a key team member. She appreciated that he did good work on individual tasks, but she was concerned about some critical decisions he was making and the ideas he was putting forth. His ideas didn't align with her business direction and vision. The team member seemed very excited and couldn't understand why she disagreed with him on some of his initiatives.

As we talked, it became clear that this team member was great at his job. His performance wasn’t the problem. The problem was she, the leader, had not taken the time to keep re-emphasizing the vision and mission of the business and why they serve the customers they do in the way they do.

In the presence of that vacuum, he had created his own version of the business and its future, which was clearly deviating from the founder's version. I asked the CEO to revisit laying out the mission, vision, why, for whom, and how of the business to the team through a couple of exercises. Several weeks after this conversation, we reconnected, and things had turned around with this key team member. He had clarity about his initiatives. He took his ideas in a direction that aligned with the mission. She was excited, as was he.

Two things are critical for successful teams: high trust and high mission focus. In this case, the lack of mission focus was eroding trust.

Clarifying foundational principles like mission, values, vision, and goals is critical for leaders as we build organizations. It creates happy, aligned employees rowing in the same direction. Founders and entrepreneurs ignore it at their peril. As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might wind up someplace else.”

Team members need to know where they are going and how. They need clarity on what hiring the right people entails. They also need clarity around the cultural values required to accomplish organizational and personal goals.

Clarity of focus is reinforced frequently through activities, rituals, and reward systems.

Many companies ignore their cultural operating system or give it lip service. I’ve made the mistake of not putting enough energy into this and regretted it. Remember that culture isn’t just a nice business talking point or about “getting along.” As the common saying goes, culture does eat strategy for breakfast. It’s the secret behind sustained actions and momentum.


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