Would you set off on a journey without knowing where you’re going? I’m guessing you wouldn’t.
In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat tells us that it doesn’t matter which road we take if we don’t have a destination in mind, and that is absolutely right for leaders too.
Without a vision, both you and your team can end up feeling lost, without anything to look forward to.
Everything that we do at The Leadership Detectives, together with our previous careers, tells us that you’ve got to have a long-term vision if you want to move forwards.
In this article, we will look at the importance of having a vision, and how you can create a vision that compels you and everyone around you to start taking the right steps towards progress, successes and life fulfilment.
Starting with the end in mind
In his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the importance of beginning your journey with the end in mind in order to avoid taking the wrong actions in life.
However, a vision needs to be about more than just knowing where you are going. For it to really stick, and for you to follow it through, it needs to be compelling too.
Leaders need to make their vision exciting and inspiring so that when people come into work, they know what they are contributing towards. They need to know how their energy is impacting their business, their customers and society as a whole.
This means that your vision needs to be compelling for everyone involved. You might be excited about your vision, and you might love the words or the diagram that you’ve used to articulate your vision, but if it’s not exciting for everybody else, they’re not coming on the journey with you.
Examples of compelling visions
Back in the late 80s to early 90s, Microsoft’s founding vision was to put a computer on every desk in every home. This is a great example of an exciting vision that gave everyone who showed up to work a very clear picture of what they were working towards, and no doubt helped drive their innovations forward.
Another great example of a compelling vision is Elon Musk’s Tesla. Their vision is to “accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”. It’s about creating a sustainable planet where we can all live, so when people come to work, they know they contribute to the survival of the planet. How compelling is that?!
Providing focus to achieve the impossible
The amazing thing about having a compelling vision is that it can turn crazy, seemingly unachievable goals into reality. Like taking an organisation from 43% gross profit to 50% in 12 months for example (listen to Albert’s story on this by tuning in to series two, episode two of our podcast The Leadership Detectives).
The vision gives you a focus point to work on, and if everybody’s actions are aligned behind that focus point, then you’re moving in a direction, making decisions and taking actions that are propelling you towards that vision, even if it seems impossible.
Back in the 90s, the military introduced an order called “commander’s intent”. This was about knowing your commander’s intention and taking actions that might contribute to that intent. It meant you could make decisions on the ground, so long as those decisions were aligned with that commander’s vision.
That’s why the commander needs to set out a clear, compelling intention from the start, and as a leader, you should too.
Your vision doesn’t have to echo word for word the company’s vision or that of your boss. You can take elements of that vision and personalise it to your team to make it more real and more compelling for them.
And if your boss hasn’t set a vision, there should be nothing stopping you from creating one for your team. A good leader can take responsibility for their team, which means being responsible for creating a vision for them.
Vision and goals
When we set out our vision, it doesn’t always have to be completely realistic and achievable. Sometimes, it’s better to be bold and set out something that looks impossible at first.
Then, you can set smaller, incremental goals to help you move towards it.
Your big vision is about the future. It’s where you’re trying to get to and something you’ve got to reach for. It may look unachievable, but that’s all part of the challenge.
Then you can start to set goals. These break your vision into more achievable chunks. They are the more immediate and personal things that you can do here and now to move towards your vision. This is where you can start to use things like SMART goals to help you.
People need something to look forward to
The thing is, humans need something to look forward to. Our mission in life can’t just be to come to work for 37 hours a week. We need to know how we are progressing, what our contribution is, and we need to feel like we are doing something meaningful.
This is why every single leader, whether you’ve got a team of one or a team of 1,000 reporting to you, needs to set that intention, set that vision and make it exciting and compelling.
It’s your job to translate that business objective that you’ve been given into something that your team can get excited about, and set clear milestones for them to know where they are going.
Setting out your vision
You need to rip your or your company’s vision apart, put it back together for your team without getting too attached to it, because other people might tweak it and make it even better than it was before!
Also, try to avoid vision-building exercises in a normal management meeting. If you’ve just spent hours sitting down reviewing customer complaints and your sales forecast for the quarter, trying to bolt on vision building at the end won’t work.
It’s got to be a specific meeting about the future and, if you can, try to run it in an environment where you don’t normally meet. Go somewhere that’s nurturing to the brain and put yourself and your team in the right frame of mind to get excited about your vision.
So, if you haven’t got a vision yet, setting one out should be top of your priority list. With a vision to look forward to, your business will perform better, your team will perform better, and you will be a far more effective leader in whatever you do.
Alternatively, you can find out more about how The Leadership Detectives could help you by booking a free coaching session with us via our website.
More to come next week!