Answer These 4 Questions to Create a Compelling Vision

About 350 years ago, a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year, they established a town site. The next year, they elected a town government.

The third year, the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year, the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

These were people who had the vision to see 3,000 miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years, they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision.

With a clear vision of what we can become, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

Since most people have seen their share of visions from plenty of different leaders, set yourself apart by casting a high-definition vision. The challenge is that we tend to fall short of providing the level of clarity most people want and need so they can see the impact of their work. Leadership research supports this tendency toward a very low-definition vision. A groundbreaking Harris Poll found that:

  • Only 15 percent of workers could identify their organization’s most important goals.
  • A majority of workers (51 percent) did not understand what they were supposed to do to help the organization achieve its goals.
  • Less than half of available work time (49 percent) was spent on the organization’s most important goals.

A clear vision answers these “Fundamental Four” questions being asked by your team, whether or not you hear them:

  1. What are we trying to achieve? (Goals)
  2. How are we going to achieve it? (Plans)
  3. How can I contribute? (Roles)
  4. What’s in it for me? (Rewards)

The clarity of our answers to these questions is directly proportionate to the clarity of our vision. If you forget to answer any of these or just assume your team knows the answers, your vision will become a blur of disconnected mega pixels. You will have a team going in different directions or worse, not even wanting to venture a few steps into the forest.

A vision helps teams see where they are going and how they can help get there. People naturally feel more accountable for their performance when they clearly understand they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Take a moment to cast a high-definition vision. It will inspire your team to venture to new and exciting destinations with you!

Action Questions:

1. Can my team clearly and consistently state the vision for our team?

2. Which of the “Fundamental Four” questions do I need to do a better job of answering for my team?

Answer These 4 Questions to Create a Compelling Vision

About 350 years ago, a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year, they established a town site. The next year, they elected a town government.

The third year, the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness. In the fourth year, the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

These were people who had the vision to see 3,000 miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years, they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision.

With a clear vision of what we can become, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

Since most people have seen their share of visions from plenty of different leaders, set yourself apart by casting a high-definition vision. The challenge is that we tend to fall short of providing the level of clarity most people want and need so they can see the impact of their work. Leadership research supports this tendency toward a very low-definition vision. A groundbreaking Harris Poll found that:

  • Only 15 percent of workers could identify their organization’s most important goals.
  • A majority of workers (51 percent) did not understand what they were supposed to do to help the organization achieve its goals.
  • Less than half of available work time (49 percent) was spent on the organization’s most important goals.

A clear vision answers these “Fundamental Four” questions being asked by your team, whether or not you hear them:

  1. What are we trying to achieve? (Goals)
  2. How are we going to achieve it? (Plans)
  3. How can I contribute? (Roles)
  4. What’s in it for me? (Rewards)

The clarity of our answers to these questions is directly proportionate to the clarity of our vision. If you forget to answer any of these or just assume your team knows the answers, your vision will become a blur of disconnected mega pixels. You will have a team going in different directions or worse, not even wanting to venture a few steps into the forest.

A vision helps teams see where they are going and how they can help get there. People naturally feel more accountable for their performance when they clearly understand they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Take a moment to cast a high-definition vision. It will inspire your team to venture to new and exciting destinations with you!

Action Questions:

1. Can my team clearly and consistently state the vision for our team?

2. Which of the “Fundamental Four” questions do I need to do a better job of answering for my team?

This Year’s “Final Four” Super-Sized Bad Business Buzzwords (To Stop Using Now)

It is time for my annual tribute to college basketball’s March Madness with my own anti-tribute to bad business buzzwords. Each year, I’ve called out the most annoying of the annoying and have even given special attention to things as strange as “the side hustle.”

For better or for worse, we now live in a world where exaggeration has become a strangely mainstream thing. Events, people, and companies who are, with all due respect, actually pretty darn good are often hyperbole ridden to almost surreal levels, often characterized as “brilliant” or even “mind-blowing.”

Where does that leave the tiny percent of those people or companies who are truly remarkable or amazing? Potentially, it leaves them lost in the shuffle unless we can create even bigger ways to differentiate them.

Maybe that’s why the trend of hyperbole seems to have also penetrated our bad business buzzword vernacular.

I remember the good old days when we used to just annoy each other with “thinking outside the box” or “touching base” about “low hanging fruit”, but those don’t really seem all that amazing anymore. Now we are using bad business buzzwords that evoke expectations of mass hugeness.

In tribute to the over-exaggerated, nonsensical business buzzwords of the day, here are my Final Four for this year. Hopefully, they’ll shine really, really brightly for just a little while and then burn themselves out bringing us back to the bad business buzzwords we used to love to hate in a simpler time without hyperbole.  

One Unexpected Tournament Dark Horse Buzzword, and One Under-Performing Buzzword

Before I unveil the most highly anticipated bad business buzzwords in the history of bad business buzzwords, here are two others worth color commentary:

Biggest Under-Performer: “Big Data”

We’ve been talking about Big Data for awhile now. It’s definitely big, but is calling it Big Data big enough for our super-sized hyperbole ridden business buzzwords tournament for this year?

Unfortunately, Big Data may have had the goods to make a Final Four run a year or two ago, but this year they fell short and only made it to my Elite Eight. They are going to have to significantly re-tool and become “Massive Data” or “Utterly Gigantic Data” if they want to really compete.

This Year’s Tournament Dark Horse:  “Double Penetrate”

There used to be this “double-clicking down” phenomena. If I thought that was bad, I recently came across someone who was actively “double penetrating” a power point presentation slide.

On the surface and at many levels below the surface, there are a significant number of things very wrong with this expression beyond the fact that I have no idea what it means. But because of its pure ridiculous boldness and audacity, it made a dark horse run in this year’s Bad Buzzword March Madness all the way to the Elite Eight.

The Most Amazing Final Four in Buzzword History

Without further delay, here are the Final Four. They are all so amazing that I couldn’t possibly predict the tournament winner.

1. Game changer

These days, it seems as though everyone is a game changer – so much so that I can’t keep track of what game we’re even playing anymore. Then again, maybe some of our game changers aren’t really game changers after all.

I propose that we call the rest of them something like “game tweakers.” We can’t all be game changers. If I remember my statistics, that would mean that we’d all regress to the mean, and none of us would be game changers. We wouldn’t want that to happen.

2. Rock Star

About the most exaggerated people we have these days are rock stars. They have exaggerated hair, exaggerated clothes, really exaggerated life-styles. Sure, why not start calling great employees rock stars? The only thing better is to call them “Total Rock Stars.”

3. Future Proof

I’m not a futurist, but the one thing I do know is that the only thing that guarantees something is future proof is a time machine. And if watching the movie, Back to the Future, too many times has taught me anything, having a time machine doesn’t guarantee anything either. It might be time to drop this exaggerated expression that leads us to believe that we can actually do it.

4. Giving 110%

I will admit that I never did very well at math, but I do believe that giving 110% is physically impossible. Maybe in our new world of social media exaggeration, we’ve found a way to violate the laws of physics and actually give 110%.

If we’ve really done this totally groundbreaking thing, I’m going to have to start asking people who work for me to give 120% and place people who give a mere 100% on a performance improvement plan. I just can’t have slackers who only give me everything that is physically possible. I’ve got a business to run.

I can only hope that this article made you laugh harder than you have ever laughed at anything in your entire life. I’ll be back with a less exaggerated article next week that has actual real business value.

Enjoy the real March Madness tournament (the one with the college basketball players).

This Year’s “Final Four” Super-Sized Bad Business Buzzwords (To Stop Using Now)

It is time for my annual tribute to college basketball’s March Madness with my own anti-tribute to bad business buzzwords. Each year, I’ve called out the most annoying of the annoying and have even given special attention to things as strange as “the side hustle.”

For better or for worse, we now live in a world where exaggeration has become a strangely mainstream thing. Events, people, and companies who are, with all due respect, actually pretty darn good are often hyperbole ridden to almost surreal levels, often characterized as “brilliant” or even “mind-blowing.”

Where does that leave the tiny percent of those people or companies who are truly remarkable or amazing? Potentially, it leaves them lost in the shuffle unless we can create even bigger ways to differentiate them.

Maybe that’s why the trend of hyperbole seems to have also penetrated our bad business buzzword vernacular.

I remember the good old days when we used to just annoy each other with “thinking outside the box” or “touching base” about “low hanging fruit”, but those don’t really seem all that amazing anymore. Now we are using bad business buzzwords that evoke expectations of mass hugeness.

In tribute to the over-exaggerated, nonsensical business buzzwords of the day, here are my Final Four for this year. Hopefully, they’ll shine really, really brightly for just a little while and then burn themselves out bringing us back to the bad business buzzwords we used to love to hate in a simpler time without hyperbole.  

One Unexpected Tournament Dark Horse Buzzword, and One Under-Performing Buzzword

Before I unveil the most highly anticipated bad business buzzwords in the history of bad business buzzwords, here are two others worth color commentary:

Biggest Under-Performer: “Big Data”

We’ve been talking about Big Data for awhile now. It’s definitely big, but is calling it Big Data big enough for our super-sized hyperbole ridden business buzzwords tournament for this year?

Unfortunately, Big Data may have had the goods to make a Final Four run a year or two ago, but this year they fell short and only made it to my Elite Eight. They are going to have to significantly re-tool and become “Massive Data” or “Utterly Gigantic Data” if they want to really compete.

This Year’s Tournament Dark Horse:  “Double Penetrate”

There used to be this “double-clicking down” phenomena. If I thought that was bad, I recently came across someone who was actively “double penetrating” a power point presentation slide.

On the surface and at many levels below the surface, there are a significant number of things very wrong with this expression beyond the fact that I have no idea what it means. But because of its pure ridiculous boldness and audacity, it made a dark horse run in this year’s Bad Buzzword March Madness all the way to the Elite Eight.

The Most Amazing Final Four in Buzzword History

Without further delay, here are the Final Four. They are all so amazing that I couldn’t possibly predict the tournament winner.

1. Game changer

These days, it seems as though everyone is a game changer – so much so that I can’t keep track of what game we’re even playing anymore. Then again, maybe some of our game changers aren’t really game changers after all.

I propose that we call the rest of them something like “game tweakers.” We can’t all be game changers. If I remember my statistics, that would mean that we’d all regress to the mean, and none of us would be game changers. We wouldn’t want that to happen.

2. Rock Star

About the most exaggerated people we have these days are rock stars. They have exaggerated hair, exaggerated clothes, really exaggerated life-styles. Sure, why not start calling great employees rock stars? The only thing better is to call them “Total Rock Stars.”

3. Future Proof

I’m not a futurist, but the one thing I do know is that the only thing that guarantees something is future proof is a time machine. And if watching the movie, Back to the Future, too many times has taught me anything, having a time machine doesn’t guarantee anything either. It might be time to drop this exaggerated expression that leads us to believe that we can actually do it.

4. Giving 110%

I will admit that I never did very well at math, but I do believe that giving 110% is physically impossible. Maybe in our new world of social media exaggeration, we’ve found a way to violate the laws of physics and actually give 110%.

If we’ve really done this totally groundbreaking thing, I’m going to have to start asking people who work for me to give 120% and place people who give a mere 100% on a performance improvement plan. I just can’t have slackers who only give me everything that is physically possible. I’ve got a business to run.

I can only hope that this article made you laugh harder than you have ever laughed at anything in your entire life. I’ll be back with a less exaggerated article next week that has actual real business value.

Enjoy the real March Madness tournament (the one with the college basketball players).

This Grocery Chain Has a Better Brand Reputation Than Apple, Disney and Google (and Almost Everyone Else, In Fact)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When it comes to humans loving brands, you might think they commit themselves most to the shiny, the sexy and the beautiful.

Surely you’ve seen eyes glaze over and tears fall at the sight of something from Gucci or, um, Facebook.

The truth, though, may be more parochial.

Perhaps the reality is that the brands we fall in lasting love with are those who will always come home at night, never complain and even offer us gifts once in a while.

I deduce this from perusing the annual Harris Poll Brand Reputation Quotient Survey

It’s compiled on the basis of more than 25,000 people saying that a brand represents values such as social responsibility and emotional appeal.

And, unlike in many brand surveys, grocery brands show very highly.

At the top is Amazon. 

It isn’t quite a grocery brand. Instead, it recently went shopping to buy one.

However, at number 2 is a brand you might not expect.

Wegmans.

It comes 27 places above Apple, 26 places above Google, 52 places above Starbucks, 47 places above Target 88 places above United Airlines and, oh, 97 places above the Weinstein Company.

As my colleague and former Wegmans employee Suzanne Lucas recently described, this east coast grocery chain is a rather fine and thoughtful place to work.

Indeed, last year Wegmans was named the second-best employer in the country.

Why, one Forbes writer Pamela Danziger even revealed that her daughter wouldn’t move anywhere there wasn’t a Wegmans. (Madam, we should talk.)

Time after time, it’s voted favorite by its customers. In a Market Force Information survey, it scored a 77 percent favorable rating, as opposed to Walmart’s, oh, 31 percent.

In the Harris survey, it did have grocery competition from H-E-B (6th) and Publix (8th).

But it’s not as if Wegmans tries too hard. It seems content to be itself and think only about the people it employs and the people who shop there.

When you go to the company’s website, for example, you see something so desperately dated as to seem like it was from an era well before the iPhone was born.

Yet here it is inspiring the sort of brand reputation that so many would crave. 

Moreover, it’s only on the east coast, so it hasn’t even experienced enlightened civilization. (Yes, please start penning your complaints now.)

Or perhaps that’s its secret. It’s a beacon of civilization in an increasingly insane world.

This Grocery Chain Has a Better Brand Reputation Than Apple, Disney and Google (and Almost Everyone Else, In Fact)

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When it comes to humans loving brands, you might think they commit themselves most to the shiny, the sexy and the beautiful.

Surely you’ve seen eyes glaze over and tears fall at the sight of something from Gucci or, um, Facebook.

The truth, though, may be more parochial.

Perhaps the reality is that the brands we fall in lasting love with are those who will always come home at night, never complain and even offer us gifts once in a while.

I deduce this from perusing the annual Harris Poll Brand Reputation Quotient Survey

It’s compiled on the basis of more than 25,000 people saying that a brand represents values such as social responsibility and emotional appeal.

And, unlike in many brand surveys, grocery brands show very highly.

At the top is Amazon. 

It isn’t quite a grocery brand. Instead, it recently went shopping to buy one.

However, at number 2 is a brand you might not expect.

Wegmans.

It comes 27 places above Apple, 26 places above Google, 52 places above Starbucks, 47 places above Target 88 places above United Airlines and, oh, 97 places above the Weinstein Company.

As my colleague and former Wegmans employee Suzanne Lucas recently described, this east coast grocery chain is a rather fine and thoughtful place to work.

Indeed, last year Wegmans was named the second-best employer in the country.

Why, one Forbes writer Pamela Danziger even revealed that her daughter wouldn’t move anywhere there wasn’t a Wegmans. (Madam, we should talk.)

Time after time, it’s voted favorite by its customers. In a Market Force Information survey, it scored a 77 percent favorable rating, as opposed to Walmart’s, oh, 31 percent.

In the Harris survey, it did have grocery competition from H-E-B (6th) and Publix (8th).

But it’s not as if Wegmans tries too hard. It seems content to be itself and think only about the people it employs and the people who shop there.

When you go to the company’s website, for example, you see something so desperately dated as to seem like it was from an era well before the iPhone was born.

Yet here it is inspiring the sort of brand reputation that so many would crave. 

Moreover, it’s only on the east coast, so it hasn’t even experienced enlightened civilization. (Yes, please start penning your complaints now.)

Or perhaps that’s its secret. It’s a beacon of civilization in an increasingly insane world.

McDonald’s Has A Massive New Problem That Could Ruin Everything the Company Is Trying To Do

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

When you know you have to change so much in your company, it’s easy to forget some of the consequences.

You race to implement this and that and don’t adequately think about, say, what your employees might think of it all.

This seems to be happening to McDonald’s.

As the fast-food chain tries to catch up to, well, food trends that have been established for some time, it’s not stopping to make sure that its employees are still on the bus.

As Bloomberg reports, the more McDonald’s introduces, fresh beef, touchscreen ordering and delivery, the more its employees are thinking: “Oh, please. This is all too much work.”

And let’s not even start with all those who order via the app.

The complaint, you see, is that it’s all very well asking your staff to do more things — and more complicated things — but if you don’t give them a raise and don’t staff restaurants accordingly, the employees make it known.

By quitting.

This was someone a franchisee revealed at the beginning of this year.

“Employee turnover is at an all-time high for us,” he said, adding “Our restaurants are way too stressful, and people do not want to work in them.”

Unemployment is at very low levels. People — especially the young — don’t have to work at McDonald’s. 

I asked McDonald’s whether it was seeing an employee turnover problem. I will update, should a reply be delivered.

The company denied to Bloomberg that it was seeing a turnover problem.

A spokeswoman said: “Together with our owner-operators, we are investing in all necessary training to ensure successful implementation of any changes in our restaurants.”

Sometimes, you don’t know what was really necessary, until reality has struck midnight.

Given how thin McDonald’s margins are, how competitive can it be when it comes to hiring?

Yes, many fast-food restaurants are surely facing similar issues with finding people who want to work there. 

Industry experts say turnover if the highest since they began keeping records more than 20 years ago.

Drive-thru times are also slowing. A visit to my local McDonald’s a couple of weeks ago featured a line so long that I did the unthinkably sane. 

I parked the car and walked in.

Of course, technology is supposed to solve all the world’s problems, while simultaneously eliminating the need for many people.

Would there not be a rich and pleasurable irony, if people saw technology being introduced and walked out, deciding it was all too much trouble?