What We Get is What We See
by Jim Clemmer
Your ability to develop an energizing vision for your team or organization determines whether you're be a high performing leader or a Technomanager, technician, supervisor, project manager, administrator, or bureaucrat. At the heart of leading others is your ability to develop and communicate a clear and compelling picture of your team or organization's preferred future.
Within two months of joining forces in 1981, Art McNeil and I developed the first of many visions for The Achieve Group (a training and consulting we founded and eventually sold to California-based Zenger Miller Inc.) It became a yearly ritual for us, and later our team of Achievers to review and revise our vision (and values) and then set that year's strategies, goals, plans, and budgets. In 1983, we collaborated with Tom Peters' to develop "Toward Excellence" an executive action planning process. We went on to help hundreds of management teams (some much more successfully then others) in many countries establish their vision, values, and purpose and then put together implementation strategies and build the leadership skills that brought it all to life. These rich experiences showed that a powerful team or organization vision:
• creates organizational energy and enthusiasm for change and improvement.
• provides an overarching "big picture" direction, focus, and passion to strategies, budgets, plans, systems, processes, and technological change.
• focuses and builds teams much more effectively than wilderness experiences, simulations, or group exercises
• counterbalances the pain, suffering, and helplessness that downsizing, disaster, or other such depressing activities usually bring.
• vaccinates people against the Victimitis Virus and Pessimism Plague by giving them a sense of hopefulness and self-determination.
• sets up a "magnetic force" that will attract the people and "lucky breaks" needed to move toward the vision.
• repels those people who don't want to be any part of anything so "unrealistic", "fanciful", "stupid", etc.
• boosts everyone's "psychic pay" and make them feel like winners who are part of an organization that's going somewhere exciting.
Organization Pathways and Pitfalls
Highly effective leaders take many different pathways to help teams and people throughout their organization clarify or clearly see pictures of their preferred future. Here are a few tips and traps:
• Like mission and vision statements and values, goal setting and visioning labels often get confused and used interchangeably. Generally that doesn't matter. As long as you and the people on you team and in your organization are clear and consistent with their meanings and approaches, don't get hung up on definitions and jargon. But many people really are confused about the conflicting and complimentary aspects of visions and goals. Goals are management issues. They deal with rational analysis, planning, measurement, and discipline. Visions are leadership issues. They deal with feelings, energy, ideas, and fantasy. These are not either/or choices -- both are needed.
• You and your team need to picture and describe your preferred future as vividly as possible. One approach is to imagine it's five years from today and you're being interviewed by a leading journalist on the phenomenal success your company or team have had. Describe the results you've achieved and perhaps the approach you've used. Speak in the present tense as if it's all happening around you right now. What are your highly loyal customers saying about your team or organization? How are people throughout your organization talking and acting? How about suppliers? Shareholders? Other external or internal partners?
• Too many managers try to delegate "the vision thing" to a committee. It doesn't work. If you're a senior manager, caring for the context and providing organization focus isn't just part of your job, it is your job.
• Unless you're an exceptionally clear and inspiring writer, be very careful about drafting a "vision statement" and using that as your communications center piece. Visions are about feelings, beliefs, emotions, and pictures. It's very hard to bring those across on paper. Visions are the most compelling when they are delivered in person by a leader who's an effective communicator. Powerful personal communication skills and energizing leadership are inseparable. Learn how to use "impassioned logic" by adding metaphors, stories, models, or examples to help everyone "see the big picture" and rouse their emotions to make it happen.
Vision is the critical focal point and beginning to high performance. Powerful pictures produce passion and persistence. The clearer and more compelling the vision, the stronger the passion. And the more likely we are to hang in there during the inevitable downs, discouragements, and defeats as we reach for our dreams.
About the Author
Jim Clemmer is a bestselling author and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, workshop/retreat leader, and management team developer on leadership, change, customer focus, culture, teams, and personal growth. During the last 25 years he has delivered over two thousand customized keynote presentations, workshops, and retreats. His web site is www.clemmer.net/articles