Communicate your professional dreams — they may come true

By Mike Novakoski – December 31, 2014

How do you convey your big plans for the future to those who will ultimately help turn your vision into reality?

I have struggled for years to communicate my overarching business goals in a way where each member clearly understood the goals and felt motivated in making our future happen.

As a company, every three years we dream of the “Future E&V” together. The executive committee constructs a description of success: who we plan to be, how we will do business, the awards we will be worthy of receiving, etc. Our current three-year plan is called our “Painted Picture for 2017.” This visioning exercise keeps us focused on long-term goals and serves as a guiding map for the development of our annual business plan. Year by year we successfully operate in a way that reflects our future desires.

Our Painted Picture of 2017 is currently an eight-page outline. Our typical business plan consists of five sections totaling over 50 pages.

The points get muddied by unnecessary words and buried in business lingo. This jargon helps no one!

So we’ve decided to no longer allow these lengthy documents guide our team. We have committed to simplifying our communication so it is tangible and individually relevant. Our employees are rejoicing!

Starting in 2015 with our new fiscal year, we will have a one page, graphically illustrated Painted Picture for 2017. Instead of written words alone, we will pair graphics and charts and design elements so the document tells a vivid and memorable story to all those we share it with. Our business plan will look similar — cut from 50 pages to five carefully designed pieces of “business art!”

How do we connect each employee to these documents? It’s simple, really. They just need a tailored guiding map (a “uMap” as we have termed it) that shows each employee how they fit into the annual and long term goals. Think of an 11×17 paper with the following customizable uMap contents we deemed most important:

  • A brand/icon (created by the employee) that represents and can succinctly be explained by the individual
  • A quote from someone who inspires the employee, allowing coworkers and managers a peek inside the employee’s influences
  • Top five responsibilities in the employee’s job, developed through a 360-degree process (employees above and below the individual provide input)
  • Personal, family and professional goals for one, three and five years into the future. What your employees state publicly and are able to measure usually gets done
  • A commitment statement locking the employee in to something innovative they will do this year to benefit themselves and the company
  • Training and mentoring overview to keep each person on track to achieve their goals and expand their skills
  • Committees and corporate initiatives involvement so the employee knows his or her responsibilities and how they can have the greatest impact on the group

The map should be done with as much visual communication as possible. A picture is worth a thousand words and is much easier to remember. The uMap ties each team member’s desires to the company’s vision. It provides clear direction in the workplace (and personal life) and makes room for accountability to increase. Having each uMap laminated on the wall by the employee’s desk allows open, guided discussion with peers or bosses at a moment’s notice so that, for once, everyone will be on the same page.

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