Leadership Avoiding the Split

In a recent Ted Talk, Simon Sinek eloquently describes the most critical pivot point in the life of all companies, communities, and tribes. He presents the principle that all organizations are formed around ideas formulated by the founders. Yet as success grows, the connection to the original vision may get lost.

 

Think about the great entrepreneurial ventures today; Apple, Google, Amazon, and Uber just to name a few. In every case, a person or persons gathered together to design an idea and put that idea in motion. In doing so they simultaneously created two parallel initiatives; success and vision.

By pursuing the vision one would hope for some measure of success. As long as the enterprise stays small and closely connected to the founders, the vision tracks very closely with the success. But as success grows and the company expands, more people must be hired who hire others, who hire others, and soon the success trajectory exceeds the vision path.

Success and Vision

While success grows, the vision may falter. We have all likely experienced this when we hear the people who were close to the founders say “it’s not like it used to be”. If the connection to the vision gets lost or diluted by success companies start trying to find themselves again.

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Think about the history at Apple. Steve Jobs founded the company but left. After he left, the company floundered and he was invited to return. The same thing happened at Starbucks and Dell too. The founders created success, left, and had to return.

The point at which the success deviates from the vision is something Sinek calls the “Split”. The split can cause an otherwise very successful idea to lose its way.

So What?

If the Split is a highly probable event on the timeline of your company, what is a leader to do?

First, stay true to core beliefs that got you going in the first place. The Hedgehog Concept was originally based on an ancient Greek parable. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” [/perfectpullquote]

Business researcher and consultant, Jim Collins, used this concept as a metaphor for business in his influential book, “Good to Great.” Hedgehogs live their lives with basically one thing to do; be a good hedgehog. They don’t get distracted nor waver in their pursuit of life.

In business, it’s easy to get distracted, take your eye off the ball, and run after shiny objects. If you’ve achieved some level of success, the rewards may convince you to buy new equipment or expand beyond your capabilities. Doing any such thing without a consistent plan for growth is a fast way to deviate from the original vision.

Sharing the Vision

Leaders are usually associated with visionary thinking. OK, you have a vision. Great. Have you effectively shared that vision with those around you?

I have clients who are in fact, good leaders. Without exception, when asked about their vision for their company or team, they describe a large landscape picture in their mind. Every moving part and every detail of the end-game is painted into that picture. They see the integral movement of the pieces. They know the critical paths to success.

Yet the challenge these brilliant leaders face is the ability to share the vision with their team. Too much detail may overwhelm people. Too little detail leaves subordinates guessing.

Steve Jobs is often cited as saying he never wanted Apple to build the best equipment. No, he wanted a new user experience connecting to technology. There is a critical difference in that vision.

Leaders need to know when and how to share the exact parts of the vision map with the team members so that the work is in line with the vision.

Take a moment today and ask yourself “Is what we are doing right now consistent with what we intended to do when we started?” If yes, then congratulations. If not, take a fresh look at the original vision. Peel away the people and things that have taken you off course. Make the conscious decision to get back to the original vision.

If you need help working through the tough calls to get back to the right vision, perhaps a coach can help. My team and I will be happy to come alongside.