How to use visual solutions to leadership challenges

A picture is worth greater profits, results and strategic outcomes

In today’s progressive business culture, hospitals, nonprofits, government groups and other organizations are searching for more meaningful and creative ways to illustrate their vision and strategies – literally and figuratively.  Just ask some of Colorado’s small and large businesses, who are storytelling with cartoon-like “maps”; shifting toward visuals for their employees; and reinforcing strategic plans and goals, in a more relatable format. They are dealing with complex problems and challenges every day, but they are breaking them down into simpler, approachable forms, like stories and maps.

Following are four common leadership challenges, each with a “visual solution” using stories, metaphors and visuals to reach faster, more-strategic, more-effective outcomes.

  1. Adaptability to change

Change really is constant now. And the fast-paced environments we are a part of can actually elevate efficiency, when we start connecting and having conversations (not e-mail and text exchanges) with our colleagues.

  • Visual solution:  When team members literally “see” the big picture of where leaders want to take them, they can engage on a visceral level — because the visual of the vision and goals allows them to ask better questions about why the company is changing and how they fit it to that change.  When employees get to share ideas and points of view on how to address challenges in the workplace, all kinds of great things happen, such as:
  • Everyone knows their role on the team.
  • Everyone knows why their goal is important to the team.
  • Creativity and innovation increase because each person is energized by telling his or her story of how to solve an issue.
  • Collaboration and cooperation increases and that breed trust and accountability.
  • Employees embrace change.
  1. Time to Focus on What Really Matters

Time and space are collapsing, it seems. Days, weeks, months are evaporating, and it is hard to keep the most crucial goals and projects on the front burner.

  • Visual solution: Block three hours of time in your schedule, at least three times a week, and focus on “what really matters.” Draw this heading, and scribe it on a white board in your office. Next to that list, draw connections to your top-three strategic priorities. Have fun and doodle and draw images that speak to you. Look at your white board every day, and check in with yourself: “Am I focusing on what really matters?” “If not, what do I want to do to get back to what really matters?”
  1. Consistent Execution of Strategy

Consistency is critical to every organization.  And, sustaining emotional connection to vision requires great people to cooperate and make informed decisions.

  • Visual solution: Leadership should define and communicate the company’s unique position through stories, metaphors and visuals, to engage people in understanding for themselves why they want to contribute meaningfully to the company they work with (not for). Goals and strategy get set after vision is agreed upon and employees truly feel connected to it. Then those trade-offs, choices and decisions to keep the company in motion are easier. A visual roadmap that is pinned up at desks throughout the company will help to focus attention on the most important work each day – ensuring consistent execution of strategy.
  1. Ensuring Customers and Employees Stay Actively Engaged

Leadership must provide the discipline to decide where to change, what to do, what not to do and respond to customer needs. All this while avoiding organizational distractions and sustaining the company’s distinctness!

  • Visual solution: Metaphorically, leaders are like conductors of the orchestra or the highly skilled and talented director of the movie – like a Steven Spielberg.  When leaders think of themselves in this way, it helps to shape the story for the team members and for customers. That requires vision and attention to details while holding sacred the people who help make you famous!  Encourage employees to create their own mission statements, which increases employee engagement because they know (and believe) that they are meant to do the work they are doing.

Visual “maps” are more relatable and approachable – and therefore more effective for stimulating results, such as increased profitability, reduced turnover and higher job satisfaction rates.  After all, people need maps to understand where they are going, so why not “strategic maps” for businesses?

Categories: Management & Leadership