By by Jo Lord, director at Learning to Inspire
Research into why businesses succeed or fail reveals that the presence or lack of, a clear and shared vision is often at the top of the list. A compelling vision is one that captures the organisations core values and engages the imagination in a big picture of what the organisation will look like, and be like.
There are three fundamental elements to defining and implementing a vision for your organisation;
The first is vision Creation! It is important to distinguish between a vision and a mission statement. A mission defines what an organisation does and what the core business is. A vision on the other hand looks to what the business or team will look like, it is less about what it does and more about how it does it. It is more about painting a visual picture of what people will see going on. One of the first steps to creating a vision is to ask three key questions ‘what kind of team/organisation do we want to be part of?’ ‘what will we be seeing when we have achieved our ideal?’ and ‘what will it be like to work here?’ These questions not only help get a much clearer representation of the vision but also draw out the core values by which a business will operate. This sounds simpler than it actually is. It appears that most of us are comfortable describing missions and objectives but become distinctly uncomfortable talking about visions. At some level it is often seen as ‘fluffy.’ The truth is, to capture hearts and minds a vision is essential. Very few employees get deeply excited or motivated by mission statements or business objectives. Visions have the power to truly engage, motivate and inspire.
To overcome the initial discomfort with this concept at learning to inspire, we often use’ visioning cards’, which are huge numbers of pictures from all kinds of sources. We simply ask stakeholders to pick up three or four cards that represent the future for them. This visual technique removes blocks and barriers and genuinely opens up rich dialogue in teams.
The second element of the definition is that it needs to be communicated.
Often vision can be held intuitively inside a person, and they can assume everyone else sees what they see when they look towards the future. This is seldom the case — a good leader needs to find ways to express the picture of the future.
As executive coaches we will ask leaders to tell us about their vision, and as they talk, we ask them lots of questions for clarification. This does two things, it helps us to know how clear their vision really is - If they can’t get us to see clearly what they see, then we can assume that they will have trouble getting others to see the vision clearly too! Secondly in writing down copious notes to catch as many words as we can, they have the basis of a whole document full of words that describe the vision.
From this you can begin refining the words to develop a statement that communicates your vision in a way that others can clearly understand.
The third element of defining and implementing a vision is that it needs to have committed followers. If the people within an organisation are to put their energy into pursuing the vision it is essential that they understand what that vision will do for them. A compelling vision in itself is not enough to attract willing followers; it needs to be clear how the vision will meet their needs and aspirations too. There is no shortcut to this step. No cute games that will transform employees into raving fans. This step comes from understanding your people, knowing who they are, what they stand for, and what they need. With this understanding, leaders can dovetail the vision of the organisation with the personal needs and aspirations of those who choose to follow.
Visions that are attractive, inspirational, credible and futuristic hold great motivational power. They act as an internal compass for individuals and teams when the going gets tough, and compelling visions are the difference that makes the difference when attracting and retaining talent. So how are you doing on yours?