Do You Know What You Want Your Employees to Do?

Shawn Temple

Organizational clarity, or lack thereof, is sometimes easier to recognize in another organization than our own.

Remember the dramatic television series, "The West Wing"?

What a great show, though, and full of leadership and life lessons. It follows the fictional presidential administration of Jed Bartlet and the senior staff of the White House, and if you have some time and are looking for something worthwhile to binge, I highly recommend it.

I passionately believe that organizations can achieve a competitive advantage by getting healthier, building trust and cohesion, and creating organizational clarity and alignment at every level. I couldn’t have known it then, but one of my favorite episodes and scenes from the show is a lesson in that very thing.

A Lack of Alignment Leads to a Lack of Organizational Clarity

To summarize the episode’s plot, the President shuts down the federal government because the Speaker of the House reneges on a budget deal previously agreed upon. Rather than capitulate under the pressure, the President is intent on leaving the government shut down until an equitable deal is reached.

The frustrated President is stewing in the residence while his senior staff is toiling away in the ‘war room’ trying to think of a way out of the situation as quickly as possible. The First Lady, who has been away, is summoned back to the White House in an attempt to help move the president’s mindset toward a deal.

Upon arrival, she tells him she has been in the war room and noticed that he wasn’t there, and that the senior staff wanted to bring him a deal. He immediately gets upset believing them to have negotiated an offer he neither authorized nor was privy to.

She interrupts him and says, "Stop being so melodramatic. They don’t understand what you want them to do. Do you know what you want them to do?"

Stay Present, Stay Focused

As leaders, we sometimes do the same thing don’t we? We get frustrated with our circumstances. Some of the plans we make fall short. We retreat in frustration or anger instead of pursuing organizational clarity. Our team wants to try their best, but they don’t understand what we want them to do.

We need to lead. We need to be present. Show up. Be real. Be authentic. Share with them what’s on your mind. Get feedback and ideas from everyone. Proceed. Move.

Give Your Team Direction

People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed. It’s your job as leaders to constantly remind your team what’s going on, what’s important, what the strategy is, how to behave, why you’re doing it, where the North Star is, how they can help, and what’s at stake.

You may know what you want them to do. But do they know what you want them to do? If not, there’s a really easy fix. Just tell them.

And if you don't know how, we can help you out. Our On The Mark Strategies leadership training facilitators have years of experience helping credit unions and community banks increase alignment.

Shawn Temple
Strategy Director
Shawn Temple

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