Monday, October 7, 2013

Vision – A Lot More Than Words

One of the never-ending responsibilities of a leader is to remind people what we’re trying to accomplish and why it matters. This is the essence of vision casting. Unfortunately, most leaders under communicate their preferred picture of the future.

Businessman holding paper

If the leader is sold out to the accomplishment of the vision, why would he or she under-communicate it? There are probably several contributing factors to this phenomena. Perhaps I’ll write more about some of the other root causes in the future. Today, I want to address one of the less obvious. Some leaders assume vision casting is all about what they say. This is a huge mistake.

What a leader says, about vision or anything else, really does matter. However, the leader who relies exclusively on words to help people catch the vision will never get everyone on board. I wrote a post entitled, 7 Ways to Help People Catch Your Vision in which I talk about several strategies beyond words. Beyond the ideas listed in that post, there’s another factor worth exploring – the indirect ways to help people get “it.”

Here are a few examples…

How you invest your time. People always watch the leader. Are you engaged in activities that people easily link to the vision? If you want to be a customer-centric organization, how much time do you spend with customers?

How you allocate resources. Are you serious about the vision? How can you tell? One of the ways is by evaluating how you allocate resources. Our financial decisions ultimately signal our priorities. If you want people to get excited about your vision, you’ll have to fund your vision.

The physical environment you create. If you want a collaborative and creative organization, have you created space to foster those behaviors? I’m still amazed how few leaders seem to understand the importance of physical space.

What you recognize and reward. This may be obvious, but I didn’t want to miss it. In any organization, there are people who support the vision and others who are indifferent. In the worst cases, you may find people who do not even support the vision. Recognition and reward send STRONG signals in our organizations. You can reinforce or undermine the vision with these decisions.

When you and I stand to speak, I’ve been told the majority of our message is conveyed by our non-verbal communications – our energy, our eye contact, our gestures, our appearance, our passion, etc.

I believe the same is true of our vision – sometimes people can’t hear what we’re saying about the vision, because our words get drowned out by what we’re doing.

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