Thursday, October 20, 2016

Leaders Should Define More Than the Mountain Top, but Less Than the Whole Plan

Guest post from Hamish Knox:

When it comes to defining their vision, leaders tend to fall into two camps. Camp one can clearly articulate a mountain top they want to reach, but create zero clarity on how they’re going to get to that mountain top. Camp two has their mountain top defined and they also have a step-by-step guide to get from where they are today (base camp) to their mountain top.
Both camps fail to create sustained motivation in their people. Camp one fails because they haven’t defined base camp so some of their team will draw their own conclusions about the likelihood of getting from base camp to their leader’s mountain top and give up because they feel it is unreachable or unsustainable. Camp two fails because their team feels no connection to their plan and while they may go through the motions of following their leader’s plan they aren’t fully bought in.

To create buy-in and sustained motivation in your team for executing your vision make sure you:
1)    Clearly define your mountain top
Humans are story-based creatures. On the negative side this causes your team to take a snippet of information, which may be inaccurate to begin with, and weave an entire novel-length story that they will share with their colleagues. On the positive side this enables leaders to create buy-in by weaving a story that each member of the team can identify with in whole or in part.

When you are defining your mountain top ask yourself:

·         Where am I?

·         What am I hearing/seeing?

·         What am I saying/doing?

·         How am I feeling?

·         Who am I there with?

·         What are they hearing/seeing?

·         What are they saying/doing?

·         How are they feeling?
Using those questions you can weave a story to share with your people that will create more buy-in than any slide deck filled with statistics.

3)    Define base camp
Without a clear definition of where your organization is today your team may not even be able to see the mountain you want to climb much less the mountain top. This isn’t permission for you to lower your goals, but it is a warning that unveiling your ultimate mountain top to your team (e.g. pivoting your business model from transaction-based to subscription-based with an entirely new set of customers) may cause decreased motivation and turnover.

If you discover that your ultimate mountain top is too far from base camp to create sustained motivation in the majority of your team, define 2-4 interim mountain tops and roll each out as the “ultimate” destination. A mountain top summited becomes your next base camp on the journey to your ultimate mountain top.

3)    Define waypoints to the mountain top

Years ago I set a really stupid goal, which was to triple my business in 12 months. The goal wasn’t stupid because of the mountain top. It was stupid because my response to “how ya gonna get there” was “I’ll figure it out.”

Winners don’t “figure it out” they at least have a clear mountain top, a clearly defined base camp and defined waypoints (camps 1-X) that will indicate they are on the right path to achieving their goal.
Defining your waypoints will give your team comfort in having smaller targets to reach on the way up your mountain and create sustained motivation because their next destination isn’t too far away.

4)    Co-create the path between camps with your team

Humans have a preference for editing over creation. Give your team a complete step-by-step guide from base camp to the top of your mountain and they’ll spend time editing it instead of executing it.

Instead, share with your team your mountain top, base camp and waypoints and challenge them to create the path to the top. You’ll likely discover that they have more effective or efficient ways of achieving your vision that you could have come up with on your own, and because they were involved in creating the path, your team has greater buy-in.
Great leaders not only have great vision they can clearly articulate the vision from where their organization is today to where they will it to be, but they also create buy-in and sustained motivation in their team by lowering their anxiety about stretching to achieve their vision and enrolling them in creating the path to their mountain top.

Hamish Knox is author of CHANGE THE SANDLER WAY:  Understanding The Human Dynamics
That Cause New Initiatives To Succeed.  He currently heads a Sandler Training Center in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. For more information, visit

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