Establishing a clear vision

Quarterback huddling with his team before a play

Help your team develop and pursue a shared purpose

Advisors often talk with clients about the importance of staying focused on their goals. Too often, however, they aren't taking the goal-setting advice when it comes to their own businesses, says Beverly Flaxington, an author and founder of The Collaborative, a professional-development consulting firm in Massachusetts.

She says advisor teams—whether 20 people or two—need to identify a shared vision to drive the firm into the future. It’s vital to answer big questions. "Who do we want to be as a firm, where are we going and what sort of impact do we want to make?" Flaxington says. "Whatever it is, everyone needs to be moving in that same direction." Here are five easy ways to get started:

Ask team members to define team success 

Each member of the team might have a different definition of achievement. Ask each person to write down what they think success means and what it will take to get there. Encourage them to be detailed: What does their vision look like? How would they describe it in both qualitative and quantitative terms? For some, success may be a specific figure, such as a growth target for assets under management. Others may see success as creating a top-shelf customer experience or a highly connected workplace culture.

Recognize individuals 

A shared vision doesn't require everyone to take the same approach to it, says Flaxington. Take time to recognize the different members of your team, from their unique background to their skills and roles, and embrace the different ways they pursue a common goal. "The best teamwork often comes when men and women work independently toward one goal," says Flaxington.

Look beyond the short term 

Success isn't just measured quarterly. As members of your team write out their individual visions for the firm, ask them to look further into the future. Where will the firm be 12 months from now and five years from now? This may be a challenging exercise, says Flaxington: "People sometimes have a hard time looking out into the future," she says. But that kind of long-term thinking is essential to developing an effective shared vision.

Take action 

Visions and goals don't mean much if there's not a way to take disciplined action. This is where many great ideas go off the rails. Plans require specifics—like what the team is going to do, who is going to do it, as well as the when and how. The more clarity, the better.

Take measure

What gets measured gets done. Spend time figuring out the right metrics to measure your team's progress toward your shared goals. Without a way to measure, teams may be flying blind, says Flaxington. "How are we going to know if we're on track or off track?" Measuring progress not only can keep the team heading in the right direction, but also can help maintain momentum.

Whether you have a large staff or just a few employees, establishing a clear vision and setting proper goals is a key responsibility of any leader. To keep your business moving forward, it pays to ensure these practices permeate every level of your organization.

What you can do next


Based on Beverly Flaxington's IMPACT® presentation, "People Power: Building strong teams to overcome hurdles," November 2018.