“I call for all leaders to awaken and plan for the future with hope and creativity.”
Jim Hessler, my business partner, wrote those words in his blog post this week. There’s more power in them than you might recognize. He was discussing strategic planning in a depressing time … but he was really talking about so much more …
Though he didn’t use the word, Jim’s post was a call to engage the power of vision. Without a vision, you can’t realize your potential for success — however you define it.
Vision defines — and inspires — the path forward. “If you don’t know where you’re going,” somebody once said, “any road will get you there.” How well does that approach describe your organization?
“Almost all peak performers are visualizers,” writes Stephen Covey in the classic 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. “They see it; they feel it; they experience it before they actually do it. They begin with the end in mind.”
It’s equally true for individuals, for teams and for entire organizations: Your vision, diligently pursued, is your North Star. It keeps you on course. It offers the light of hope, pulling you toward it.
To be an effective motivator, a vision wants to be ambitious enough to require courage and diligence to get there, but not so ambitious that it feels hopelessly out of reach.
Why create a vision? Because, as Peter Senge writes, “the truly committed can accomplish the seemingly impossible.”
Organizational visions (as opposed to personal ones) must evolve through a collaborative, creative process. A vision handed down by fiat from the top is unlikely to spark much motivation or momentum. It’s not vision, but shared vision, that inspires the troops.
In fact, shared vision is so critical that it forms one of the five essential disciplines Peter Senge explores in his groundbreaking leadership book The Fifth Discipline. “Few if any forces in human affairs,” Senge writes, “are as powerful as shared vision.” Why? Because those who share a vision are committed to it. And as Senge notes, “the truly committed can accomplish the seemingly impossible.”
The process of creating a vision is pure creativity — you’re the artist; your future is the medium. Create a vision that wakes you up (and those you work with) — a vision that lights a fire under the process of getting up and going to work each day.
YOUR PATH FORWARD: Does your organization have a vision? If so, if you asked 10 random employees, how many would even be able to paraphrase it? And if they could, how much energy do they have for realizing it?
If the answer to any of those questions is “not enough,” create a collaborative, organization-wide process for brainstorming and refining a vision ambitious enough to challenge, but not so ambitious as to be hopeless. Then keep that vision alive with frequent dialogue at all levels of the organization.