Once your team has created a shared vision, the next step is to assess your current situation.
It’s important to have an honest and open discussion about what supports achieving your vision and what impedes you – what’s working and what’s not. This step anchors your vision and clarifies the gap so you can determine the best strategies, goals and action steps.
But be forewarned. It’s not as much fun as creating the vision. When you hold the picture of what you want and also take a serious look at your current reality, tension is generated.
If you’re not intentional, it can be the undoing of your vision. In an effort to reduce the tension, sometimes people let go of their vision saying, “It’s not what I really wanted after all” or “It’s not practical” or “It’s too hard.”
There is another option. You can decide to experience the tension and use it to reach your vision. In his book, The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Frtiz calls this “creative tension,” because the tension helps create the future you desire.
It is a law of nature that tension seeks resolution.
When you accept the tension as inevitable and are willing to live with it … and
when you continue to hold an honest picture of your current situation … and
when you keep your vision front and center …
current reality will begin to shift in favor of your vision.
Use tension to your advantage rather than expending energy avoiding.
Have you ever gone fishing? Consider the difference between the fish that got eaten and “one that got away.” When hooked on a line, the fish that gets eaten pulls against the tension of the line until he is worn out. Then he is easily reeled in. The smart fish swims toward the pole, keeping the tension loose until he finds a way to get off the hook.
The point is that it’s important to recognize your current reality but not be overcome by the tension. Use the tension to your advantage. Don’t let go of your vision.
Jesse, what happens if the vision changes or should change? Sometimes there is turnover in the team or a member may lose focus.
What do you suggest when the tension becomes overwhelming? There are some who cannot tolerate tension and completely self destruct.
Any advice is appreciated! Miriam
Miriam, These are big questions. Without knowing more about the specifics, here are some thoughts and questions:
1) was there really an agreed upon vision that everyone on the team was committed to?
2) was the vision used to guide you on an ongoing basis and did you revisit it frequently?
3) did you determine processes and practices and set goals aligned with the vision?
4) did you set up a way of ensuring you are all accountable to the vision?
Sometimes tension is generated because there is a so-called vision, but people are not really committed to it. Sometimes tension is generated because there is a vision, but no plans to achieve it. Those are a different kind of tension and need to be addressed in order to move forward.
If there are major changes, like a new boss or loss of a key team member, the vision should be revisited.
As a fisherwoman, I love the analogy! You make an important point in this post, noting that too many give up on their vision, because they are not willing or have not yet learned how to hold the tension in the balance. Sometimes that tension can be the catalyst that propels us forward…the push we need to see our vision through. To the faint-hearted or fickle-minded, I would remind them that realized dreams are all the more sweet often because of the tension, not in spite of it!
Beautiful, Sharon. I love this: Realized dreams are all the more sweet because of the tension, not in spite of it.
Thanks for the reference to the Fritz book. I thought the term creative tension came from Senge’s Fifth Discipline, but the Fritz book was published before Senge’s. Either way, one of my favorite concepts.
It’s one of my favorite concepts also. It helps team and individuals hang in there and not give up when it starts feeling hard. Senge references Fritz in his book.
I love the thought that after looking “out there” leaders pull back and examine the biting realities of the present.
Your article makes me think it’s wise to prepare everyone for the temptation to compromise or seek the path of least resistance. I’ve seen people roll over and play dead. I’ve done it myself.
If people are prepared for tension, perhaps the vision will have many champions to nurture and protect it through the gritty work of moving from the present into the future.
Your insights help me.
I couldn’t have said it better, Dan. If you know there’s going to be tension, you’re better prepared to deal with it and not give into the temptation to compromise what you care most dearly about. Great point that when there are many champions, they can support and nurture the vision and each other. Thanks for adding to the conversation.
I just finished up a… meeting… about a creative idea that I question. Needless to say, there is surely a bit of creative tension here this afternoon. I opened my computer and was reminded of this post. I appreciate your insight. It’s a great reminder for me. I often reference the Stockdale paradox that Jim Collins writes about – or the ability to really hold two ideas simultaneously. One that is of our current reality, and at the same time a hope for a better future (realization of the our vision). Luc de Brabandere writes about this as well in his book, “The Forgotten Half of Change”.
Thanks for the advice. I needed it this afternoon! 🙂
Glad it was a good reminder at the right time, Micah. And thanks for the references.
Great article! I just wanted to point out that , while you were referring to teams, this also applies to the solo entrepeneur. I think this inability to deal with that tension takes a lot of small businesses down. People often start out with a great vision that excites them. However when faced with the reality of where they are, compared to the picture of where they need to go it looks like too much work or it is too overwhelming.
I think that you can use that tension as a source of positive energy. If you want to compare it to a spring – you can compress it and hold the energy back, which accomplishes little – or you can let it go and use the energy to propel you forward.
Hi Laura, Thanks for showing how this applies to the solo entrepeneur. It also applies to our personal lives as well. I love your metaphor of a coiled spring.