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VISION

Ahh, Vision- what can we say about it? This has to be the most over-used, misused, maligned, smarmy, misunderstood, and detested word in the modern business lexicon. It’s also one of the most important.

 

 

When I think about vision as it relates to business, I think of the leader of a company going off to the beach or the mountains with a highly-paid guru or coach. There, they do a day or three’s worth of soul-searching and navel-gazing about their business. What’s my actual role? Where are we going as a company? How can I connect better with my direct reports? Is the market we’re attempting to serve the best market for us? All good stuff. Then, they come back to the business all refreshed and full of good ideas, along with either a folder full of notes and action items, or a plaque with a sentence or two about what they’ve come up with, or both.

I’m not denigrating this process- it’s important to figure these things out. I’m just not sure of the value of the exercise for the rest of the company. It’s difficult to get buy-in from people when they have no input on whatever it is we’re trying to convince them of. All the work done in the above scenario can really only appreciated by those who’ve done the work to arrive at conclusions that result. So, the folder of work goes into the desk drawer- “This is important- gotta remember to follow up on this”- and the plaque with the sentence or two goes on the walls of the office or plant in prominent places so everyone can be awed by such awesomeness.

Vision should be looked at as a practical thing.

When it’s used to its greatest potential, it provides guidance for the leadership in making decisions, and inspiration for all the employees. Building a vision isn’t complicated- all that has to be done to build it is to answer two simple questions:

1. Where are we going?

2. How are we going to get there?

You’ll notice I said simple, but didn’t mention anything about easy. It’s actually a lot of really hard work. To accomplish it, a lot of teamwork muscles that aren't normally used get a serious workout. Questions like- What are our core values as a company? What is our core focus? Where do we want to be in 1 year, in 3 years, in 10 years? Who is our market, and how do we want them to see us?

If you asked a leadership team of six in the average company these questions, you’d get six different answers. Or blank stares. Or hoots of laughter.

If the hard work is done in building the vision, everyone in the company has a target to hit. If everyone is rowing in the same direction toward the same target, great things can be accomplished. If one person- or even a whole leadership team- has to do all the rowing, with the rest of the employees either rowing in different directions or just providing dead weight to be towed along, it can be very tiring for those that are dragging the rest.

Do this important work with your leadership team. Make sure your vision is practical AND inspiring. Share it with the whole company. Let everyone know how important it is, and then follow that up with action that proves you mean what you've said. You’ll see great dividends paid.

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