The Vietnam war started because of a misunderstanding whether a US ship had been attacked by a Vietnamese boat or not. There had been no attack but this was unclear. As conflicted messages circulated in US Govt and Military circles no one stepped up to clear the air and clarify the real situation. The results. Hundreds of thousands dead, a full country devastated, no real outcome for anyone from the entire conflict and 2 decades lost for both the Vietnamese and for young Americans.

Leadership’s first responsibility is to set goals with clarity and bring that clarity to everyone. Bringing the clarity, especially to a large organisation means constantly and consistently explaining the clear priorities to everyone.

Despite emails, meetings, cascades you will be surprised by how few employees will be able to clearly articulate what the company’s top 3-5 priorities are and how they impact the individual or their team. The issue is not in the strategy. The issue is a wrong assumption that it is easy to understand and follow. It is not. In the daily busyness of the roles it is not obvious to people what the big picture is and what the big priorities are. 

So what needs to be done. As a leader understand that your job is to “Explain everything to Everyone”.

  1. Explain – Start by explaining the company or team priorities and goals in 2-3 minutes. You should not need any slides for this or maximum one slide. You should be able to say this clearly from memory with conviction
  1. Recap  – Begin every team meeting with a brief 30 second recap of “what are our priorities”
  1. Measure – Measure and update results against these priorities and share them with everyone
  1. Teach – Explain how things work to new comers and experienced hands alike ensuring that the entire organisation has the skill sets and capabilities to do their job well
  1. Coach – Every team will have eager learners who pick up the knowledge and skills fast and then there will be others who will be slow. The second group will need coaching 1-1 to help them re explain the goals and give them the key knowledge skills needed
  1. Trouble Shoot – Step in and solve problems. As you do so explain to the people what the issue is, how it is being solved and how they can do it the next time they want to
  1. Instructions and Checklists – Create Checklists to help the teams do their jobs really well and ensure things are not missed. In World War 2 there was a massive shortage of pilots for bombers and no time to train them in the conventional way. So checklists were created for each type of plane – what to do in each situation – eg take off. The checklists are still in use today
  1. Repeat again – Remind the teams again on the goals and priorities and focus areas. It takes 7-10 times to land the message in the human mind. So you need to repeat the goals to the team again and again to make sure they are getting them fully

Do not assume that anyone knows what needs to be done. Explain everything to everyone.

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