Source: James on Flickr

Source: James on Flickr

I hate to say this, but you might not be doing everything perfectly.  Sorry to break the news!

But this isn’t about making you feel guilty about all the stuff that you’re behind on.  You already have enough pressure there, and it’s probably stressing you out.

When we look at the big picture, the leader’s job is to define the direction and then to set the organization up for success.  Other people can do the details, but it’s the person in charge who is uniquely qualified to do these two things.

The first thing is to ensure that your business has a purpose, mission, or vision.  It can take many forms, so use whatever works best for you.  A purpose is an ongoing condition: “When we do X well, we’re doing the right thing.”  A mission is more directed toward an achievable goal: “We are fully dedicating ourselves to accomplishing X.”  And a vision is a little more out there: “We are building a wonderful world/community/company which will be X.”

Pick whichever method best suits what you’re trying to do, and it will motivate your people to rally around the cause for years to come.

Then, your job is to set the organization up for success.  There’s five dimensions:

  • Communication: Your mission doesn’t actually make a difference until people know what it is and why it matters.  You’ll get sick of talking about it in every conversation, but that’s the only way to ensure people understand its importance – and why they must personally align what they’re doing.
  • Driving decisions: It’s easy for your team to understand the mission but to not actually use it to drive decisions. When that happens, you’ve set yourself up for failure, because misalignment over time makes people cynical.  Even if your team is making decisions which support the mission, they need to recognize that’s what they’re doing.  That sustains it over the long haul.
  • Directing your team: Once your business decisions are aligned with your mission, this now needs to roll out to every person in the organization. We’ve all seen situations in which employees make assumptions about management’s reasoning behind a decision – often wildly inaccurate.  Even if their actions support your mission, they need to KNOW that’s what they’re doing.  And when misalignments happen, your mission will help guide any corrections.
  • Measuring progress: People optimize what they perceive they’re measured on. If all you talk about is hours worked and tasks completed, they’ll tend to ignore other things like whether the tasks are actually important or the time is spent wisely.  Typically it’s not as easy to measure progress towards a mission, but I’ve worked with many clients to do exactly that.  It ends up providing powerful reinforcement for managers, supervisors and employees.
  • Sound financials: You’re never going to accomplish your mission if you run out of money a year from now.  And it’s likely that the business owner has more at stake, financially, than anyone else in the company.  It’s your task to ensure that this scarce resource is used wisely and the business will be healthy for years to come.

Your job, as business owner or leader, is to ensure these things happen.  You can probably ask your employees to handle most of the details of the day-to-day work, but without a powerful direction they’ll just be doing a lot of random things.  You’ll have to micro-manage them, which is an extremely inefficient way to keep your organization aligned.  Reduce your stress by giving people the structure they need to sustain a healthy business.

If you’re interested to dig into these five dimensions, please go to and take the assessment I’ve created.  You’ll get some solid feedback on where and how you can improve your leadership.  There’s no cost or obligation.

This article was first published in InnovatioNews.