Every manager aims to be a leader but no one knows how to become one. Now by saying that, I cannot deny that some people are born with leadership qualities, however; others can learn these leadership skills with grit and determination. Moreover, there are leaders out there struggling to make it in the corporates.
Every leader is constantly trying to learn new ways and frameworks to make themselves better at what they do.
One such framework that will help all of the above problems is the VAE Framework.
VAE stands for Vision, Alignment, and Execution. If you understand these three areas thoroughly, it’s most likely that you’ve understood the leadership game.
Let’s get into who formulated it and how does it work?
Who formulated the VAE Model?
The VAE model was introduced in a well-researched, thought-provoking book titled “The Work of Leaders” written by Julie Straw, Mark Scullard, Susie Kukkonen, and Barry Davis.
How does the VAE Model work?
VAE Framework consists of three broad categories that depend on each other and are defined in the said book as follows:
I. Crafting a Vision: imagining an improved future state that the group will make a reality through its work
II. Building Alignment: getting to the point where everyone in the group understands and is committed to the direction
III. Championing Execution: ensuring that the conditions are present for the imagined future to be turned into a reality
Creating a Vision is a major job responsibility of leaders that is expected from them at every level of the organization. A leader directs or takes the team in a certain direction. Determining this direction is what creating a vision is all about.
Vision should spark imagination and help elevate the work of the organization. It has to be uplifting, inspiring and should provide a purpose. It should be unique enough to differentiate them from the competitors.
One can craft a vision through three ways, namely:
Keep an open mind while creating a vision. Do not fall for the assumptions and myths that exist for ages. Being curious promotes exploration. Leaders are expected to find new opportunities. Invest time in exploring the what-ifs. Give yourself enough time to wander and rule out the possibilities once you have a handful of them.
Prioritizing the Bigger Picture
While developing a vision, prioritize the long-term effect or the Bigger Picture of your vision.
To do so, you can ask yourself six critical questions laid down below adapted by Patrick Lencioni’s book, “The Advantage”:
Take time to thoroughly understand your context. Communicate with other departments like customer service or vendors and learn how to handle them. Keep an open conversation and ask your colleagues about the work issues and changes required. Allow ideas of the members to be parked in a parking lot section.
Leaders have to be brave, bold, and think outside the box stretching the existing boundaries. Write down the worst-case scenario and the best one to rule out the options if any. Challenge yourself to face your biggest fear. Being adventurous can be an opportunity to show you believe in the group’s ability and people generally tend to live up to expectations. Explain your bold idea to people and bring them aboard. This will enable you to share responsibilities with your team members.
We all are scared of looking stupid at the workplace especially leaders. But ask or challenge people to hear your bold idea without judgment. The idea may seem unconventional or impractical at first but those are the ones that work the most. Maintain a repo with your team members so that you can ask for feedback. Not every idea you propose is going to be successful but it’s a shot.
Testing Assumptions can help you find out if your idea is ready to be out or if it needs more work. It’s good to get multiple perspectives by testing your assumptions.
Seeking Counsel means taking advice from people who have relevant skills, knowledge and can give you a fresh take on how your vision might unfold. Find advisors that you trust and try to approach individually to avoid any influence on each other.
The aim here is to visualize the effect the proposal would have on your company. While exploring implications, think outside the box but don’t overlook the obvious. Some of the forms of conducting thorough examinations are market research, prototyping, and concept testing. You can ask for reasons for failure or what the possible outcome could be.
To summarize, leaders should develop a vision that fits their role.
“Unless you know where you are going, and why, you cannot possibly get there.”
- Warren Bennis
Building Alignment means ensuring that every working member of the organization understands the strategies and work required to turn the vision into reality along with their contribution to the same. This part is the bridge between Vision and Reality, it is the actual deal. Here, it involves the most human participation and hence is a little complex. Communicating complex messages easily and elegantly is an art.
Communicating complex messages, easily, and elegantly is an art.
Explain Your Rationale
Be transparent in providing explanations. If the change required is unconventional, it would be vital to provide a solid reason.
Sometimes, you might need to over-clarify or over-communicate to avoid speculations. When explaining your rationale, try and understand the concerns of the team and discuss them with them. Monitor people’s reactions for comprehension.
You have to take time out to structure your message!
Come up with a headline and test it out on people. Write specific points you want to talk about. Balance the big picture and provide the details. Refer to the messages repeatedly to ensure retention in people’s memory.
Dialogue involves two-way street communication, helping to understand other person’s points of view. Leaders use it as an opportunity to give people a voice and build engagement. This can lead to shared responsibility and accountability.
All people working want to feel heard and involved and is often a strong indicator of job satisfaction. In a place, where leaders genuinely listen and consider other people’s ideas and inputs buys gain-in. Create an environment where a person feels safe to open up and share their opinions.
The way you talk during the conversation sends a vibe to other people whether you’re receptive and approachable. To verify your receptiveness, check the tone of your voice and body language is not intimidating. Don’t try to counter immediately when people are talking. Being receptive involves having empathy and emotions for others. Make sure people are not just complying with what you want to hear and are being made comfortable enough to give honest feedback.
Inspiration is the pathway to help leaders bring life to their vision. Leaders are supposed to paint an exciting future that makes members emotionally invested. It’s about bringing positive energy to your group and goals.
Being expressive is to communicate your passion in a way that connects to the audience at an emotional level. It is your job as a leader to believe in the vision and help people recognize the deeper meaning behind their tasks. Clearly explain why you’re so passionate about your vision. Be authentic. Tie specific results to the Big Picture that you’re asking everyone to invest in.
Being encouraging is about giving support, confidence, or hope. People should feel good about the work they’re doing. Give people a common goal that they can share and hold on to.
To summarize, know your audience and what resonates with them. Clearly explain the vision to every member and their role contribution in turning them into reality. Talk openly. Find out what motivates them and give them a shared goal that will inspire them.
The leader's role here is to create an environment that aids execution. Championing Execution is a tangible sign of a leader’s commitment. It gives people a sense of purpose and assures the development of concrete strategies. The role of leaders at all levels is to make sure the strategies, people, and culture are in place for the vision to become a reality.
Momentum is a collective desire to get something done earlier rather than later. It derives from the conviction that the job we do directly leads to our progress and that we are eager to achieve our aims at all times.
It is about pushing yourself and others forward. Believe that things could always be better and are eager to prove it. In the said book, they explain how do you gain the confidence to push people to be the best versions of themselves?
Leader displays entrepreneurial spirit in identifying and seizing opportunities to do things better. They find the energy to champion new initiatives and models a stance that says we are not only open to ideas for improvement but thrive on them. Leaders need to Prioritize, Cultivate a Habit, Help People.
You can’t be a good leader without being a good manager. A leader must delegate the work and should not involve in micromanaging as it is one of the major reasons for execution going wrong.
Providing a Plan
Providing a plan will ensure that all the members are on the same page and have a common ground to refer to and rely on. Every leader is responsible to ensure the right level of planning is happening in the organization but how much contribution they should make in it depends on their leadership role.
Try to involve the team members in the planning process as it improves buy-in & reliability of the plan.
Critical thinking is essential to the planning process to understand the connection across various parts, possible execution challenges, and opportunities. It enables understanding cause-and-effect mechanisms.
Analyze in-depth the possible reasons for failure or check if any new opportunities may arise.
3. Championing Execution through Feedback
Last but not the least, it is vital that a leader builds a culture of transparency and feedback in the organization. Work at the ground level and understand the challenges.
Create an open and interactive culture where people do not feel threatened to voice their problems.
The major reasons why employees don’t speak up are political factors: entanglement of alliances, self-serving agendas, grudges, prejudices, legacies, and personal insecurities.
To be an effective leader, you’ll need to address problems that are tough and handle them with respect, to ensure transparency.
Have regular dialogues about what isn’t working. Focus on the problems and not on the people. The purpose of exploring what went wrong is to help get it right.
Honest appreciation can transform a group’s attitude beyond Responsibility & Accountability to Purpose & Aspiration. When people feel valued, they are emotionally connected and they find meaning in their work. Make conscious efforts to let your team members know that you appreciate their work and the praise should be genuine. To offer genuine praise, a leader needs to know what people are doing and invest time to understand.
To summarize, a leader needs to be driven, must initiate action, plan, analyze, address problems, and offer praise to master execution.
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Ayushi Vanzara is currently pursuing Chartered Accountancy. No secrets there that she loves to read! She believes words have the power of healing and is a medium that can convey like no other. She hopes to connect with people through her empathy, thoughtfulness, and by adding value to their lives.
*Note: The content published above was made in collaboration with our members.
An artist by heart and a writer by profession, Prachi is a vivacious reader. She believes in hard work and her dedication has never let her down. She puts her heart and soul in everthing she does. Though life has not been a bed of roses for her, she affirms that the best way to live it is to maintain an equillibrium between the tunes of life.