The Value of Vision Series - Mike Myatt

Mike Myatt Vision Series Is Vision Relevant Today?

Mike Myatt CEO, N2growth on The Value of Vision

In a word – YES! I’ve always said, leadership without vision is like trying to drive blind – it won’t end well. The best evidence of the importance of vision is what occurs in its absence– mediocrity, irrelevance, and ultimately, obsolescence.

If you accept my statements thus far as true, then my question is this: why do so many businesses struggle with creating a cohesive, aligned vision? The answer is regrettably obvious – many leaders are simply failing to lead.

Businesses don’t have vision issues – they have leadership issues. Simply holding a leadership title/position doesn’t make a person a leader. Let me be as blunt as I can… leadership decoupled from vision is nothing short of a farce. Vision isn’t just ethereal hocus-pocus; it’s the core manifestation of an organization’s values. Vision is what gives a company its forward leaning bias and constantly propels the enterprise beyond the status quo.

Vision statements, as implied in the construction of the phraseology itself, put forth a statement of envisioned future. This vision, if successful, must be underpinned by core ideology (values) and then expressed with clarity and conviction. A non-existent, ambiguous, or ideologically weak corporate vision is nothing short of a recipe for disaster… It would be akin to the proverbial ship without a rudder adrift without any direction or control.

It’s important to understand that vision statements are design-oriented. The vision is bigger picture and future-oriented. It is the vision that defines the end game, and the vision is what gives leadership the ability to create the strategic framework and the tactical road map to deliver a certainty of execution.

Okay, enough of the inspirational platitudes – let’s get practical…

Life is just plain easier when you can see what’s ahead of you. Some leaders clearly have poor vision – their most polished skill seems to be running into brick walls. Other leaders simply possess adequate vision – they avoid the obvious speed bumps, but fail to stand out from the crowd. Then there are those leaders who possess legendary vision – the rare few who can see around corners. What you may not realize is that everyone can learn to see around corners, and it’s not as hard as you think.

Great leaders understand the value of simplicity in all things, and nowhere does simplicity add more value than as it relates to vision. A vision not understood will be misunderstood, misdirected, or ignored. A vision that is values based and simple is easy to evangelize and operationalize. All a leader must do is focus on the right things.

Focus on the “why”, align the “who” with the “why”, and then allow the “who” to determine the appropriate course of action with regard to “what” and “how” – say that fast five times. All kidding aside, read my last statement a few times and let it sink in.

Don’t be in the business of business – be in the business of leadership. At its essence, leadership is the business of defining and articulating vision (why), and then aligning people (who) with said vision – these are the two key strategic elements of leadership (leadership + purpose + people = culture). The tactical elements of leadership (what and how) are best accomplished only after the “why” is clearly understood, and the “who” is soundly in place. A business that pursues a purpose-driven culture of leadership will simply outperform a business, which focuses solely on profit.

Much like an algebraic formula, there is a correct order of operation for leadership as well.  I developed the following sequence more than 20 years ago, and it’s as relevant today as it was then:

“Values should underpin Vision, which dictates Mission, which determines Strategy, which surfaces Goals that frame Objectives, which in turn drives the Tactics that tell an organization what Resources, Infrastructure and Processes are needed to support a certainty of execution.” ~Mike Myatt, 1988

Leadership isn’t easy, but it also need not be overly complex – it’s bad leaders who complicate things with poor understanding and flawed delivery. Great leaders, on the other hand, are gifted at simplifying everything around them – they are focused on the right things, which allows their processes to fuel creativity and innovation not stifle them. It’s the efficiency and effectiveness of simplification that attracts and develops talent, and builds healthy cultures. When these constructs are in place, vision just becomes their natural extension serving as a corporate compass if you will.

Lastly, don’t get caught up in attempting to develop something catchy to be encapsulated within a piece of framed artwork that hangs on the wall yet is never put into practice. It is much more important that your vision be understood by company employees, and translated into the resultant authenticity of their actions.

Your customers don’t care what you put on paper, but they care immensely about whether or not a company’s vision is reflected in a fulfilled brand promise.

Thoughts?

MIke Myatt

 

  About Mike Myatt

Mike Myatt is widely regarded as America’s Top CEO Coach, is the author of Leadership Matters, is a Forbes leadership columnist, and is the CEO at N2growth, one of the world’s top leadership development firms.  Follow Mike on Twitter: @MikeMyatt

 

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8 comments to The Value of Vision Series – Mike Myatt

  • Robert Walker

    Interesting point here – “Businesses don’t have vision issues – they have leadership issues.” It seems you’re saying vision is a “given” for good leadership. Maybe others are hearing more about vision, but I’m not in my own company – my boss and the senior leaders are focused on timely, efficient delivery of results. There might be a vision statement somewhere, but I don’t hear anyone talking about it.

  • Mike makes several very important points, the biggest being that those who lead an organization are the ones responsible for the lack of real vision in most companies. And it is very true, but the problem begins actually slightly higher than the CEO office. Shareholders and members of the boards of directors in most companies are nothing, but short-term grab the cash focussed people, so they go out and find executives that reflect that, vision doesn’t exist in the short-term it is always a distant future point. Until ownership starts focussing on long-term growth most instead of short-term dollars, companies will remain visionless, and continually drift in and out of profitability. Buffet’s biggest gift to the executives of companies he controls is the change to long-term growth as the ownership desire.

  • Hi Robert:

    Firstly having a vision statement and having vision are not always synonymous. Secondly, if you as an employee don’t know what the vision is, your leadership has failed to communicate the ethos of the ethos of the organization. Lastly, if senior leadership is solely focused on short-term results they might be successful for a season, but said performance will not be sustainable over the long haul. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Robert.

  • Love it. Some random thoughts for leaders needing to develop a vision

    Don’t base the vision on your personal fears. That territory is for the control freaks.

    If you can communicate an inspirational vision that everyone agrees with your leadership skills / style can be work-in-progress. Think Steve Jobs.

    Don’t base the vision on your personality. Think Paula Deen.

    Political leaders must have a vision and communicate it. But don’t create it based solely on getting elected and listening to the pollsters. Populist visions are dangerous.

    Having a vision may not always win you a lot of popularity, but you’ll have respect.

    It’s not just the CEO that needs a vision. So do the C-suite and division leaders, and other managers. Those leaders need a vision for their team that will implement the overall organization’s vision. Think Citibank’s Andy Weil.

  • Hi Jesse and Mike

    Thank you for highlighting the importance of values when it comes to creating vision. Too often, that gets ignored. And I’m talking about the personal values of both leaders and the business. Leaders need to understand themselves well enough that they know what their values are….sadly, many do not. They just want a bigger paycheck.

    The same with business. I look at companies like Patagonia who are creating new ways of looking at the environment….they are living their values. In fact, they are starting a new provisions department that focuses on identifying and marketing food that reproduced in natural, not artificial ways. Other companies might need a bigger purpose in life than just making a better piece of software…..

    • Hi LaRae:

      Thanks for highlighting the importance of purpose in your comment. I’ve always believed purpose fuels passion, which creates focus, which in turn drive performance. All leaders need a higher purpose to be truly effective and to remain engaged over the long haul. Thanks again LaRae.

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