Part of a corporate leader’s job description is to provide clarity and create a sense of certainty in an uncertain world.
This begins with vision. Your vision, in its most basic form, is a concise explanation of why you are there and where you plan to go. According to research from the Center for Creative Leadership, 75% of CEOs believe developing and communicating vision is the most important element of leadership.
Whether you are a line supervisor or the CEO, you must have a clear vision of where you want to go and a willingness to communicate that vision in a way that will inspire other workers. Unfortunately, most leaders struggle with this most basic part of their job.
In the most basic sense, leadership is about influencing action. In order for any leader to influence action, leaders must provide a vision for where those actions will lead. People can’t take action if they don’t understand what the actions are and where they are supposed to take them.
In a recent Forbes article, Jimmy Leppert of Kotter International and John Kotter, professor emeritus, Harvard Business School, explained that when your team is unclear on what they are striving to achieve, it “will move slowly and defensively rather than swiftly and proactively.” Without a clear mandate your team will be unable to prioritize and likely waste a great deal of time and energy moving in the wrong direction.
You can’t lead if you don’t have a direction. Take the time to really think through what you want your vision to be and how to share that vision. When finding your direction, consider the following:
Focus on the Destination. According to the Center for Creative Leadership, vision is about telling the big story and expressing what the idealized state of the business will look like. In other words, your vision statement should express the outcome you are striving towards, not an outline for getting there. You want to avoid being too prescriptive around the “how” of getting there because you will end up limiting your team’s view of success. There will be many paths to your destination and whatever path you choose will be full of unexpected detours along the way.
Express Yourself Clearly. A vision must be unambiguous and easily digestible. It’s important to take the time to identify what really matters to your team, and consider the kind of language that will help connect them to the core values and ideology you are striving to instill. Don’t get too wrapped up in your own words. Try testing your message on friends or family unfamiliar with your organization to gauge the simplicity and power of your message.
Invite Inquiry. Just because your vision is clear to you doesn’t mean it’s clear to everyone else. Don’t ever assume that your team understands your vision and don’t mistake silence for agreement. Be sure to ask your team what they heard, how it makes them feel and what you can do to provide more clarity. If they don’t connect with your vision, their everyday actions will not get your where you want to go.
Empower Action. If you truly want an all-hands-on-deck mentality in executing your dreams, you have to let your team engage. You have to be sure to include and incentivize everyone to take part in striving towards your vision. Everyone’s contributions are valued and needed, and you must also provide latitude for making mistakes. They can’t fear taking action.
Celebrate Milestones. Reinforcement through reward is one of the most basic principles in psychology. If you want a behavior to continue, you must reinforce that behavior with some sort of positive reward. Though widely known, the technique is rarely put into practice in a consistent and effective way. Be sure to publicity celebrate every milestone that is a step towards making your vision a reality.
For a business to survive in the global marketplace strategies and tactics must continuously shift as conditions change. However, a strong vision should remain firm.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD is a CEC certified executive coach trained in organizational psychology. Dr. Woody is author of The YOU Plan: A 5-step Guide to Taking Charge of Your Career in the New Economy and the new on-line course The YOU Plan for Career Change on Udemy. Dr. Woody is the founder of Human Capital Integrated (HCI), a firm focused on management and leadership development. Dr. Woody also sits on the advisory board of the Florida International University Center for Leadership. Follow Dr. Woody on Twitter and Facebook.