Experience has taught me that leaders who can articulate their vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion ultimately find the professional and personal satisfaction and success in life they are looking for. Clear visions have helped shape and propel impressive organizations, individuals and companies. For example, Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express, had a vision that packages could be delivered around the United States by the next morning. Disney wanted to make families smile. Coca Cola wanted its refreshing beverages within the reach of every person in the world. Microsoft wanted to create beneficial software that would compel people to have a computer on every desk at work, home and school.
Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.” Don’t sell vision creation short. You must learn to understand, value, and appreciate the essential role of an exciting vision for a healthy life and career. Start thinking and planning more. Escape the tyranny of the urgent and create an exciting future, destiny and direction for yourself and your career. Effective visions also help lead leaders, athletes, musicians, businessmen, world leaders – keeping them motivated and challenged.
Let me state a warning. Fully realize that your followers must buy into you as a leader before they buy into your vision. They must believe and trust in you to believe and trust in your vision. You may need to do some repair work to establish yourself as a caring and competent leader before you start creating and selling your vision. You will need to connect with their hearts before connecting with their heads.
Allow yourself a month to create a new vision, or sharpen and update an existing one. Consider yourself the Chief Listening Officer during this early phase. You cannot build a vision on your own. For buy-in later, seek the input of others now. Include as many of your personal and professional stakeholders, family and advisers as possible in your process. Spend a week or two gathering ideas and input from these stakeholders about your direction, strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. If they do not participate in this creation phase, they will not want to participate in the vision implementation phase. In addition, do an environmental scan of yourself and your business by studying the impact of social, political, economic and industry trends. Understand your current and emerging competitors not only for your business but the quality of your life as well. On all fronts, do your homework.
After listening to and studying others, be certain to listen to your inner voice and gut. While others’ input is critical, know that the buck stops with you. You are ultimately responsible for the vision of your career and life. Your vision becomes your compass for direction, objectives, priorities, strategies, and tactics—it is that magical and that important.
Therefore, get away from the daily interruptions and go into your CEO Cave. This could be your home office, a coffee shop, a park, library or beach. Spend two to three days forming or crystallizing a picture of what you want your career and life to look like in one year, three years and five years. See things the way they can be. Dream the big dream; unleash your spirit. See in your heart what you truly want to create. A bold, daring, super-sized vision, even if only partially achieved, yields greater rewards than a small, wimpy vision fully achieved.
Remember, there are no rules while you create a desired future state. However, don’t deal in pure fantasy. There is a difference between a vision and a delusion. Stay somewhat grounded. You must see things the way they are now in order to visualize the way they can be. You must build from a foundation of realism, acknowledging your current strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. However, once you gather the facts, let go and let her rip.
Grab hold of the future, bring it into the present and then go about creating it. Give yourself and those who follow you something to be proud of. Find a voice to express the common dreams, emotions, potential and needs of your team. Let your vision inspire, motivate, and galvanize your team. Small visions do not stir the soul. Give people a reason to follow, something to shoot for. Make the vision intoxicating—something that captures the imagination. Show your team the finish line in bright, Technicolor detail. Sell more to their hearts than to their heads. People change when their feelings change, not merely when their thoughts change. Powerful visions unite groups and take them to new heights and places.