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David FullerThe city had been socked in with a heavy layer of fog for weeks when I decided to drive up to an area I hadn’t been to before.

As I climbed through the layers of cloud, I wondered where I was going and why people would live up such a steep hill.

But as I neared the summit and beheld expansive farmlands, I was overwhelmed. There were no clouds on the hilltop, no fog – only bright blue skies and the dazzling radiance of the sun.

Shortly after, I bought land on the top of the hill.

As a business coach, I work with the employees of many companies in a variety of industries. More often than not, these employees are in a fog. They have no idea where the company is going and what they’re going to find after their uphill grind.

Unfortunately, the leaders of those companies don’t have a clear idea where they’re going either. They’ve lost their direction in the fog and dark clouds that may have covered their businesses during troubled times.

In order to have productive employees who are moving us quickly to the blue skies and bright sunshine, we need to provide clarity about where we’re going and why we want to get there. When employees understand the purpose of what they’re doing and how they’re contributing, and are recognized for their contributions to the goals of the organization, they become much more productive and effective, and happier.

Happy employees tend to stay longer in our companies, resulting in a significant reduction in the cost of recruiting and on-boarding, which is estimated in the tens of thousands of dollars per new hire.

Great companies not only have clarity on where they’re going, they involve their employees in forming that vision.

If we leaders think we have the best ideas about how our company should be run, we’re sadly mistaken. Almost all the best ideas I ever found for my businesses came from listening to my employees. They were so much more in touch with customer requests and market trends. And that resulted in a greater understanding of the future needs of the people they were serving than I ever had.

By this time of year (November), larger companies have been working for months on their annual plans for the coming year. They’ve been gathering data, looking at trends, talking to their employees and management teams, and making projections for the coming year.

Unfortunately, most small businesses don’t operate on a plan and as a result leave their employees in the fog. As small business leaders, we tend to just drift along, doing the same things hoping that the wind will continue to blow us in the right direction.

It’s not that having a plan will ensure you’re successful. But when we take the time to look at our performance in the past year, while implementing strategies for increasing success, the fog starts to clear.

When we determine some achievable goals and develop workable plans to reach those goals, our teams start to get clarity. With clarity comes productivity and focus in moving towards our goals.

Annual plans with realistic, measurable targets are the tools that drive organizations. Repeated studies show that having a plan increases success in achieving goals, while giving employees a higher sense of motivation and job satisfaction.

It’s no wonder that as business leaders we underestimate our employees’ abilities to fulfil our expectations. In most cases it’s because we haven’t been clear about our goals and expectations, and have failed to lead them out of the fog and into a brighter future.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Comments on business at this time? Email [email protected]

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