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Leadership: Vision

Updated on May 7, 2017

It All Starts With Vision

The importance of a simple and inspiring vision of where the organization is going can not be overstated. When work pulls the team in multiple directions with often conflicting priorities it is vision that rights the ship and steers you clear of certain doom.

As the leader of any organization large or small, it is your vision that provides the threshold for acceptable and unacceptable behavior, ventures and risk. So, what is your vision for your organization?

Too many teams get wrapped up in crafting a clever and introspective vision that is all encompassing and ever-lasting. An effective vision doesn't need to be complicated, in fact, the larger your organization the simpler your vision MUST be in order to transcend disciplines and tasks.

Remember, the vision of an organization must translate to everyone under it regardless of role, rank or influence. This is especially difficult for technical leaders whose teams range not only organizationally, but often geographically.

So what makes an effective vision and how do I get there? Read on.

A vision exercise for you and your executive staff need not require a 5-day retreat, and if you're doing your job correctly, you shouldn't have time for one anyway. The establishment of an effective vision is as simple as asking (and answering) a handful of short questions.

But before we get into those a quick note about time. A vision is aspirational and slightly out of reach. I recommend you focus at least three years out when considering answers to the following questions.

First, what problem do you solve in the market? Not, what product or service do you provide, but what problem are you solving? From the customer's perspective can you clearly and succinctly state what pain your team alleviates?

Next you should state what products and services you provide. List them all, not just your favorites or the ones you're pushing in today's market, but your full catalog.

Independent of those questions...what is it that your organization does better than any of your competition, past or present. Not sure? Check your feedback mechanisms: customer service calls, emails, surveys, anything that has the actual voice of the customer. What are you famous for?

But It Always Starts With Customers

Now, profile your customers. Your real customers, not the ones you imagined you'd serve, but those who actually spend money for your wares. And, just as importantly, who don't you serve? Once again, use facts not opinions or memory, they're flawed and biased and can cause a great deal of damage to your brand and this process.

Now switch gears and get subjective by describing what your business and its processes do that is unique in your market. Is it the way, location or medium in which you conduct business? How is your group differentiated against the competition?

How about your market, are you local? National? International? Where are you located and how does that effect your ability to reach and serve your customers? Is geography a key element of your business or not?

What processes, technology, expertise, people and systems facilitate your vision of the future? Think of the toolbox and resources your organization relies on for execution of your ultimate purpose. Does your vision of the future incorporate more systems, or less?

How big is your organization (remember you're envisioning at least 3 years into the future) and what share of your market do you hold? To answer this you may need to do some homework to understand where you currently sit in the marketplace, this is an essential business metric.

What are the key milestones you need to achieve along the way to your ultimate vision? Does your team require certain certifications or approvals? Will you venture into an international market for the first time? This is essential to understanding what resources will be critical in pursuit of your vision and which are frivolous or nonessential.

The Crucial Way to Sustain Momentum

Finally, and this is the part that gets glossed over the most, how will you celebrate along the way? No accomplishment is too small to celebrate and appreciate. This is hard especially for STEM organizations that are hardwired to be humble and rarely come up for air. With respect to vision though, defining your celebration methods and criteria is also defining the culture of your overall team. If you openly celebrate success you are more likely to have an organization that openly discusses challenges and mistakes too, ultimately contributing to overall success.

With the answers to these questions you have all that is necessary to define a vision for your organization. By utilizing what you know and hope for your organization you can now craft a vision that is equally compelling, inspiring and audacious - one that will get you and your team out of bed in the morning and give you a reason to get up, one more time, when adversity knocks you down.

Whether you perform this exercise alone or with your team, create the best draft of the statement that works for you (Secret: the best vision is the one that speaks to you, even if it seems a bit uncomfortable).

Example:

In five years we are a wildly energetic consulting company that helps STEM leaders become successful business owners. Executives and human resource professionals from the most dynamic organizations in the nation call us first for executive coaching and customized training. We are famous for helping teams make massive leaps in performance, and for our practical and powerful programs for getting organizations 'unstuck' and profitable.

Quick Dashboard:

What is your vision for the organization?

What problem will your organization solve?

What value does your team add, and for which customers?

With what products and services?

Where?

How?

How big is the opportunity?

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