Does your organization have a vision? If you answered, “I don’t know” or “We do, but I’m not sure what it is,” don’t feel alone – you are in the majority. Although many organizations have a vision statement, often it’s filed away somewhere or framed on the wall collecting dust.
Yet we know, and research has proven, that having a vision is one of the key differentiators between being average and outstanding.
When people are guided by a shared vision, a tremendous amount of energy, excitement and power is released, and they are able to overcome tremendous obstacles and achieve great victories.
Without a clear vision, we are inundated with demands for our time that that get us off focus and waste a lot of time and energy.
Leadership is about going somewhere. Leaders need to be clear about where they’re going if they expect to lead the way. Without a vision to serve, leaders can become self-serving.
Why are so few people guided by vision?
Some people just don’t get the “vision thing” and have no idea how to create one. A vision is not a warm fuzzy ‘pie in the sky’ statement. When the three elements of a vision are understood, we are able to create a compelling vision that shows a clear destination and gives each person a motivating reason to do what they do and clarifies their role in what needs to be accomplished.
Sometimes a leadership team creates something they’re excited about, but don’t know how to bring it forward into the organization. Announcing a vision or trying to sell it usually doesn’t work well.
Sometimes people get organized around a vision and then lose their focus. The vision must be integrated into every aspect of the organizational life and used to guide daily decisions. And must be revisited when change occurs, not to change the vision, but to reset the course.
In some cases, organizations have used a so-called vision as the basis for downsizing and restructuring. It’s hard to get excited about something that is causing pain. As a result of the misuse of the visioning process, some people have become cynical about the value of vision.
Sometimes people think they have a vision, because they’ve put a plan together or agreed on a statement, but it’s not something that’s really guiding them on an ongoing basis.
Does your team really have a vision?
Here’s a checklist you can use to see if your team’s vision will get you where you want to go.
A real vision:
- Helps us understand our team’s purpose
- Provides a picture of the desired future that we can actually see
- Provides guidelines that help us make daily decisions
- Is enduring
- Is about being “great”—not solely about beating the competition
- Is inspiring—not expressed solely in numbers
- Touches the hearts and spirits of everyone
- Helps each person see how he or she can contribute
Great post, Jesse. I think you did a great job anchoring down the concept of vision from floating back up into the clouds.
It’s important that leaders understand that the purpose of a vision is to provide context to their team – of why this effort matters and how their individual contributions will impact the fulfillment of reaching that objective.
Hi Tanveer, I think many leaders don’t understand the importance of providing context to their team, nor do they see that as their role, which is probably another reason for why we find so few teams guided by a vision. Thanks for raising this point, and also thanks for your kind words.
Thanks for sharing your insights. One of your points stands out to me personally. Vision helps us make decisions. Specifically, vision helps me say no. In a world with so much to do, being able to say no helps me focus my energy and prioritize my efforts.
Thanks for teaching me about vision,
Great point, Dan. Vision helps you “know” what you need to do, and to say “no” to what you don’t. So could someone please help me understand why it’s not more prevalent?
A very insightful post. I agree that vision needs to be more than words; it needs to be lived by the leaders and members of an organization or team. Said another way, the words need to be evident in the actions, enlivening the words. Actions are what will make the words more meaningful. Hopefully, when people look for the vision, they will see it in what the people are doing. Great post! Thanks!
I love that, Jon! You find the vision in the actions of the people, not on the wall.
‘Nice post, Jesse; following these guidelines will help people and organizations avoid “vision and values fatigue.” I’m glad that you included the last guideline; people need to see themselves in the vision. Yes, what’s often more important than stating a vision and values is what happens before and after, including engaging everyone in the process before and integrating them with ongoing operations after. Al
You summed it up! – three major points that when done well will help avoid “vision fatigue” (love that term). Thanks for joining the conversation.
Great post Jesse. In my experience, the root cause of the problem is as you say “Some people just don’t get the “vision thing” and have no idea how to create one”! I think people get so absorbed in the words they want to use in the vision statement. They want catchy and fancy words and try to cover a whole lot of things they like or aspire to be, losing focus. The simple message gets lost. I do think people overwhelm themselves by complicating what is probably very easy to articulate if they just said it like they were speaking to a person casually.
That’s exactly why we wrote the book – to uncomplicate it and make it actionable. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts after you finish it. Hope you’re having a great evening in Sea Point!
This is a great post, thank you.
Can you give an example of a powerful vision?
One that has lead a team to outstanding results?
Also, perhaps even a vision that was not clearly or well articulate that led to mediocre results?
Or perhaps that’s why I need to buy the book…
Thanks for doing what you do!
Richard, I struggle to respond to your request in the few lines of the comment section. Although I could give you an example of a powerful vision, but I would also need to explain what made it powerful. You could certainly read the book to get that information, because all the examples are from real companies (even the ones in the story itself). Another option would be to read through my blog posts. I’ve discussed several examples in various posts and will continue to do so in the future. I’d welcome your own thoughts on this. My best, Jesse
One of my favorite quotes reads “A vision, without a plan, is just a hallucination”- Will Rogers. A powerful vision that everyone can believe in and translate into their own daily aspirations still needs to be put into action at all levels of the organization.
Keep up the good work!
Couldn’t agree with you more, Danie. Love that quote. And along those same lines, I would add “A plan without action is just a piece of paper” or to paraphrase Robert Burns “The best laid plans of mice and men often end up in the wastebasket.” Thanks for adding to the conversation.