Consulting
April 14, 2022

Get Out of the Breaker Zone - Part 1

Get out of the breaker zone – Part 1

Most of us have had the experience of standing in the ocean, only to be unexpectedly slammed by a wave that comes crashing into you leaving you gasping for air and being carried by the current. After regaining a sense that your feet are again under you and on the sand again you get slammed again leaving you caught in a cycle of coming up for air and being pummeled again unable to break free. Feeling the need to quickly move back toward the shore or past the crashing waves is not an experience relegated to kids playing in the ocean, but a vivid metaphor for the experience many entrepreneurs and small business owners feel in the complexities of their emerging organization. This wave-laden stretch of beach is known as the breaker zone. Entrepreneurs are often drawn out to sea by the idea that their business is an opportunity that will enable them to surf the waves. However, their experience is often closer to the reality of the breaker zone, feeling the need to simply brace themselves and stabilize as waves continually and relentlessly keep coming, then later surfing the waves with the ocean breeze in their hair.

There is a common feeling among business owners who experience living in the tension of wanting to look forward towards growth but feeling stuck and unable to break free from daily operations and the unplanned problems that arise in any business. This whirlwind is unrelenting! If you’re starting to feel that sense of drowning, there is hope. Leaders who commit to a process of developing organizational clarity, alignment, and accountability are able to break free from living in an urgent reactive state and have a clear plan that allows them and their team to effectively focus on their growth strategy to see their goals become a reality.

 Clarity

Vision, mission, and values have all become household business buzzwords for a reason. They are wildly important but having them live on your website or personnel manual is not remotely synonymous with those core principles living in the hearts and minds of everyone working in your organization. Leaders often have the vision for their company embedded deep within them, but when asked to communicate it, it comes out different every time resulting in employees often knowing the spirit or direction of vision and not being able to repeat it with clarity and precision.  At the very least, this is a missed opportunity to envision your organization and to intentionally create the culture you desire. At worst, this yields confusion causing people to move in conflicting directions. When an organizational leader has vision clarity about the impact they plan to have, and the future outcome they can see and feel, it serves to motivate and focus the entire organization. This is where meaning and shared vision can become a reality for employees, vendors, customers, and all those who interact with the organization.  Even daily activities become tied to the larger, most important organizational intent, creating significant job meaning and ultimately increasing employee retention.  

Mission is knowing how you will cause the vision to become a reality. At its core, your mission is the purpose your organization exists to live out and fulfill.  Clearly defining your business and product or service offerings acts as a filter to know what new opportunities to say yes to, and which ones to pass on. Business owners and senior leaders are typically characterized as having no shortage of new ideas to incorporate into their strategies. If those ideas aren’t attached to pre-existing lines of business, they run the risk of adding new work that doesn’t move the company forward to accomplishing its goals. If vision is the destination on a trip, mission is the specific route you will drive to get there allowing you to know what detours to avoid.

Finally, when leaders know where they are going and how they are going to get there, clearly established values communicate to everyone inside and outside the organization the cultural norms and experience you should expect. To maintain a competitive advantage, every organization must highlight and cultivate unique attributes that distinguish them from their competition. Values should never simply be turned into inspirational office posters. They are seen in the behavior of every employee. They are used to inform every new hire and used to evaluate the performance, training, and development of everyone on the team. To intentionally build the culture you desire you must cultivate your values into every fiber of the organization.

In “Get Out of the Breaker Zone – Part 2”, we will discuss the importance of building your daily activities and accountability around the clarity you have established.  While it is true that an organization without a vision will surely perish, it is equally true that a lack of focus and execution will cause the same demise. It is not only worth your time to establish clarity and communicate it throughout your entire organization, it is essential to align the resources of your organization to that same end.