A values-based organization cannot exist unless every employee understands clearly what needs to be done, and how their work plays a part in the bigger picture. Often, many people end up doing things that are not consistent with the company’s goals. To set a clear direction, leaders must focus on simplicity and clarity. This means breaking down complex goals into smaller pieces of work. Kraemer emphasizes that the frontline workers are a vitally important part of every organizational strategy. As a result, they need to understand what is going on in the organization and why.
When managers assign work to a subordinate, they must provide context for that work. This helps employees feel that they are part of the larger plan, and it empowers them to perform as individual contributors. Because people throughout organizations seek meaning and purpose, they want to be emotionally engaged with their work. It significantly helps for people to understand that their assignments make a difference to the success of the organization.
Kraemer feels that setting a clear direction results in four major benefits for a company:
- When employees understand the company’s direction, the organization is more likely to achieve its goals.
- When employees realize that their work is important, they will feel engaged in their assignments and more motivated to do good work.
- Employees who understand their roles and how those fit into the larger picture are well positioned to offer feedback and input to their supervisors.
- Even if employees do not have immediate and direct oversight, they are still able to act on their own because they understand the overall direction.
A team approach to setting direction is often very effective. Leaders should begin by listening carefully to employees. When an issue arises, the leader should ask the team for their input and encourage a dialogue that is not burdened by the leader’s opinion on the subject. When the environment feels safe, people will be willing to provide feedback. In fact, Kraemer recommends that leaders reward team members for challenging a leader’s views. When a team approach to setting direction is used, it can break down organizational barriers and functional silos.