Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Got Vision?

“Most leaders undercommunicate their vision by a factor of 10 (or more)…” 
 -John Kotter, Leading Change

“He lacks vision,” said the Vice President of Organizational Development. I had just asked him if there was anything in particular that he thought my new coachee needed coaching on. Hmmm, I thought. Coaching a leader to “get vision” is like teaching a rhythmically challenged person to dance. It’s certainly possible, but they will never be a natural. It will always take a lot of concentration and conscious effort.

Being forward-looking is an essential leadership quality. Your leadership position is an indication of how far ahead you need to look. The more strategic your role, the further out you should be looking. All leaders should develop their abilities to look forward a minimum of five to seven years. For senior leaders, it should be at least ten years. Leaders responsible for large organizations need to be able to envision twenty years and beyond.

If you have vision, you can create a vision. According to John Kotter and Kouzes and Posner of The Leadership Challenge, “one of the most important practices of leadership is giving life and work a sense of meaning and purpose by offering an exciting vision”.

Without holding a strong vision and communicating it, a leader ends up expending energy prodding people forward instead of inspiring them. Without a vision, employees don’t have a guiding light, and like a boat without a star or lighthouse to guide it, they are bound to meander into undesirable waters, wasting more time, making more errors, and feeling more frustrated, than is necessary.

Coming up with a vision involves asking important questions such as what does my ideal organization look like? What are we passionate about? What do we want to create? What legacy do we want to leave; what impact do we want to have on our customers and our community?

It takes time and thought to create an exciting vision, and no doubt you will continue to fine-tune it often. But once you have it, don’t keep it to yourself. Learn how to convey your vision in stories, in verbal images, and for sure, in graphic images too. Invite conversations about the vision. Find new ways to communicate it. Get others talking about it. 

If you think vision is not a strength of yours, you can exercise your vision muscles. Ponder others’ visions, study visionary leaders, keep informed about future trends. Develop a vision for yourself personally, and for your family. If your organization already has a vision, figure out ways to engage your employees so that they are truly inspired by it. Show your employees how their individual work connects directly to the vision. Mention it often.

Speak from your heart, and spark imaginations with your stories and emotions. Sharing a vision engagingly and often is one of the most fun things a leader has to do. Don’t miss out!

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