How sharp is your business vision for next year?
I had a toy as a child that seemed super-cool at the time.
It was a remote-controlled car that had the capacity to make three-point turns when it bumped into something. I set it loose in the kitchen. It rolled along until it hit the oven, then promptly backed up at an angle and headed off again 90 degrees to the left until it hit the cabinets.
Once again, a three-point turn in the other direction until it hit the refrigerator; and so forth. Fun for a while, but the car never made it out of the kitchen.
I have observed many a team playing out the “remote-controlled car syndrome” daily at their workplace. Without a leader clearly outlining a vision – a path toward a goal – the team bumps into each other, stepping on each other’s toes, or lunging forward with false starts and quickly retracing their steps.
They may even think they are being agile, quickly pivoting when hitting an obstacle.
But they never leave the kitchen. They never get to experience the momentum of success. And, sadly, those employees who are craving clarity, get sick of hitting their heads into walls and eventually leave the team.
Those who stay, morph into a self-serving bureaucracy.
Wise Solomon declared, “Without vision, the people perish (run amok).”
I also believe that followers are desperately trying to figure out where their leaders are taking them. I’ve seen employees lean in and light up when their leader hosted an all-hands meeting and cast the exciting vision of the year ahead.
If you were to ask your team if they knew where your organization is headed, would they answer yes, and be able to pinpoint it as if one voice? Entrepreneurs, if you were to ask yourself what your one-year plan is, could you do it right now?
Research says that managers spend less than 3% of their time looking to the future. So, let’s be honest: It is difficult to get to vision-time (working on the business) when you are in the flow of your to-do list (working in the business).
Yet we know if we are crystal-clear with our vision, we are invigorated.
And, it’s been said that when employees believe in what they’re doing, they’ll walk through doors for you.
Why? Because they forget themselves and feel like they are making a difference. They know why they are working.
Author John Maxwell’s Law of the Compass: “Vision gives team members direction and confidence.”
If you are the leader, accept the role as vision-crafter.
The difference between a leader and a follower is the percentage of time spent forward-looking.
You can build your forward-looking muscles by finding a visionary leader in the Tri-Cities or your industry and picking their brain. You can also read biographies of visionary leaders.
It starts with crafting the vision. When I speak on this topic, I pull out my binoculars and say that a leader must first see the vision clearly before casting it to the team.
Here are five tips for crafting the vision:
- Determine where you are, and why you cannot corporately stay there. “Reality without vision destroys possibility: vision without reality destroys credibility,” said author Robert Quinn. The same type of thinking that got you here will not keep you growing. You have to show why your organization can no longer stay “here,” and must pursue the journey to “there.”
- Dream about where you want to take your organization. What is the fire in your belly? Visions stick to you; you can’t shake them off. Vision is a snapshot of the future.
- Build relationships with and then listen to your constituency. Hang out with people, eat lunch with them, work alongside them in their role for a bit. Manage by wandering around, being present and being a noticer.
Find the common aspirations of your constituents. This is the pre-work to buy-in of the vision. It’s not just your vision; it will be a shared vision.
In one-on-ones, ask why people stay working for you and why people continue to purchase from you. Hold listening posts. Ask three questions: What things should we stop doing (or do less)? What things should we start doing (or do more)? What do we continue doing well?
- Conduct focus groups. Look for patterns that emerge. A great idea is nothing more than three or four good ideas put together. And you get three or four good ideas by listening. Think bigger. A vision is outside of your current comfort zone, so you have to become more comfortable with the unfamiliar/unknown, but inside of a delusional zone.
Then, once you have the ideas of everyone:
- Draft a collective vision statement. It is putting into words (broadly) what your team/organization will look like if they are fulfilling their mission. The statement must have three components: the who, the behavior/action, the values evoked.
It has to be compelling. Don’t waste time casting visions that are insignificant. No vanilla visions!
A clear vision is:
- A destination: a place we want to go, appealing to the long-term interests of the team.
- Visual: to be able to picture it in our minds.
- Simple: very focused and compelling, inspiring enthusiasm, clear enough to provide guidance.
- Challenging, but realistic: an attainable stretch, ambitious that shoots for high standards of excellence, which raises everyone’s water level, and consistent with our organization’s collective personality.
To avoid obstacles and other bumps in the road, take time to map out a clear vision forward for your business and your team to ensure the smoothest ride into the future.
Paul D. Casey lives in the Tri-Cities and is the owner of Growing Forward Services, which aims to equip and coach leaders and teams to spark breakthrough success. Casey has authored five books and hosts Leader-Launcher.com for emerging leaders each month. Online at growingforwardservices.net.