Episode: How to Make Your Vision a Reality
Michael Hyatt: Hi, I’m Michael Hyatt.
Megan Hyatt Miller: And I’m Megan Hyatt Miller.
Michael: And this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. Today we’re going to finally answer the big question everybody has about vision: How in the world do you get it done?
Megan: This really is the big question, because, believe it or not, vision does not accomplish itself. I think we’ve all had that experience before. We’ve had a big vision, and then we try to execute on it, and there’s some kind of disconnect. It doesn’t quite work that well. You may have something you think is super inspiring and super clear, and you think your team is aligned and motivated, but then life gets busy.
Business brings up unexpected challenges, and while you’re making a lot of effort, you’re just not making the progress you want. That’s why it’s really important to link your vision to your strategy to your execution, because if you get those things either in the wrong order or disconnected from each other, you will not be able to realize the vision you have for your company or your team.
Michael: Well, today we’re going to talk about how you link vision to execution, and we have a system that’ll ensure you’re able to execute on your vision, but we have to bring Larry on to guide us through the discussion. Hey, Larry.
Larry Wilson: Hey, guys. How are you?
Michael: We’re doing great.
Megan: Good. How are you?
Larry: I’m doing great. Great to be here. Beautiful day. Vision is about what, not how. Don’t let people derail you by talking about how. Focus on the vision, but as it turns out, you actually do have to get to the how.
Michael: You do. I think it’s important to distinguish between vision and strategy. Vision is the what; strategy is the how. The vision doesn’t change that often, but you can change the strategy as often as it takes. The important thing is whether it’s moving you toward the vision. Then the thing that is really important is execution. Do you guys remember that book The Secret that came out a couple of decades ago?
Megan: Oh my gosh.
Michael: I loved that book initially, because I thought, “All I’ve got to do is come up with this vision. You just kind of put it out to the universe.”
Megan: Just manifest it, baby.
Michael: And apparently, the universe will bring it to your doorstep and you don’t have to do any work.
Megan: Man, I wish that were true.
Michael: I know. You could see why this “law of attraction…” There’s probably something to it, but not in the way people think. I’ve never seen a vision come to pass without a lot of hard work. The execution is the missing ingredient. In fact, execution in most corporations is kind of the holy grail. Everybody talks about execution.
There have been entire books written on execution. Everybody talks about improving execution, but the truth is you can’t have execution without vision, you can’t have it without strategy, and the reason it’s so hard is because people aren’t able to link the vision with their daily actions. So, today is going to be all about creating that linkage.
Larry: Today we’re saying that every leader can connect their vision to execution through a chain of five links, and we’re going to give those five links to you right here. The first one is the vision script.
Michael: The vision script is the basis of everything else. A vision script is not a vision statement. This isn’t a motto for you to slap on a coffee mug or a tee shirt. No, this is more developed. This is something three to five pages long. Again, I get into it in The Vision Driven Leader. It’s a master document, not a slogan. It’s something that gives the specific details of what the future looks like and feels like, and it’s written. It covers four areas: team, products, marketing, and impact.
Larry: Michael, I think we ought to take next week and do a deeper dive on that vision script. I think that would make a great show for people and really explain what the book is about.
Michael: Okay. Yeah, let’s do it.
Larry: So, the first link is the vision itself, and that comes from your vision script, which Michael talks about in the book. The second link, then, is the annual plan.
Megan: This is where the rubber starts to meet the road. Your vision is the biggest of big pictures you’re creating from, but that then informs what you’re going to be doing in the next year. Now you need an overview of the route. How are you going to make progress in the next year toward that three- to five-year vision?
There are going to be a lot of paths you could take, so you need to consider those carefully, but when you think about that three- to five-year time horizon and you start to consider your annual plan, you want to ask questions like what you will do in this coming year to make progress on your vision. How far do you need to get, if you were kind of pacing yourself, to make it all the way to the completion of that vision in the time horizon you’ve set?
What projects are you going to undertake that will bring you closer? You need to get clear on what the outcomes are that you’re going to be achieving. What initiatives will you create? What products will you create? What will you stop doing? That’s a really important question. The great thing about your vision, as related to your annual plan, is it acts as a filter for your goals.
If you’re thinking about what you’re going to do and not do (and that’s ultimately how this works out in your annual plan: as a set of goals), the vision is so helpful in determining what fits and what doesn’t fit, what’s outside of the scope of the vision, for example. The clearer your vision script is, the more obvious the answers become. So that hard work you’re going to do in creating your vision script (again, which is outlined in detail in The Vision Driven Leader book) is going to inform everything else you’re doing.
Larry: Okay. I have a question about that annual plan. Are you saying you’re lining out your goals for the next three to five years and then just picking one or two of those goals for this year or are you just talking about this year that you’re going to look at?
Megan: Not necessarily. For the annual plan, what you’re doing is looking at that three- to five-year plan and saying, “What needs to happen in the next year in terms of goals to make progress that’s on pace with what needs to happen to reach the vision?” So, you’re really looking at, “In the next year, how far do I want to get?”
Michael: Megan, I want to just ask you, because some people may be curious: What does that look like inside of Michael Hyatt & Company? How do we put that annual plan together?
Megan: That begins in our strategic planning process with a review and then usually a revision of our vision script. Of course, that’s something we have had in place for quite some time, but every year it gets updated. We want to dig in deep to it. We’re reviewing it actually on a quarterly basis, but for the purposes of revising it, that happens on an annual basis.
That really puts fresh in our minds what we said we wanted to accomplish, what we’re about as a company, and where we’re going, and then that is a natural transition into the conversation about what goals we are going to work to achieve in the coming year. So those are directly related. Once we get to that point, then we begin building our operational plan, our hiring plan, etcetera, to support that.
Larry: Okay. So what does that process look like? Who all is involved in that review of the vision script and then the creation of the annual plan?
Megan: Typically, our executive team is involved in the review and revision of the vision script. Then we include, in addition, our leadership team, which are our directors, into the conversation about the annual plan, because once you get to the annual plan, you’re starting to have a conversation (as we’re talking about today) about execution, and they’re the people who are most charged with execution in our company.
Michael: So there needs to be ownership there.
Megan: That’s right.
Larry: How long does that process take? Is that like a half-day meeting or…?
Megan: Wouldn’t that be nice? I wish it was a half-day meeting. Actually, I don’t, because I really enjoy this process.
Michael: It’s one of my favorite meetings.
Megan: It’s one of my favorite things we do all year, because Futuristic is my number-one strength on the StrengthsFinder test.
Michael: I didn’t know that. I knew it was in your top five.
Megan: Yeah, it’s my number one.
Michael: It’s in my top five, but it’s not one.
Megan: It’s like I’m always in the future. This process has changed for us over the years, but at this point, it takes us two to three months to complete. Now, of course, it’s not two to three months of dedicated time. It just happens over that period of time. We typically start in August or early September and finish up before Thanksgiving.
That includes everything from beginning with this first step till, for us, the very end, which is a finished and approved budget, a calendar, a company-wide calendar, a hiring plan, those kinds of things, and then a preparation for our annual meeting. So that’s sort of where this all ends for us operationally, but I think allowing enough time, not trying to cram this in a couple of weeks is helpful, because you’re able to reflect and really refine each of these steps.
Michael: The important thing to see here is that we’re starting off with this big vision that’s out there in the future about three years, and we’re beginning to pull this into the present or to reverse-engineer that vision. That’s how I think of it. The annual plan is the second link, but it’s the first step in reverse-engineering how we get to the vision.
Megan: When I think back at the beginning of Michael Hyatt & Company when we weren’t doing this quite in this way and how much easier it is now for us to create our annual plan with the clarity that comes from the vision script, it really directs and guides our decision-making. Basically, the goals almost write themselves once you have the vision script, because you’re so clear on where you’re going and where you’re not going that developing your annual plan, I think, if you haven’t done this before, will all of a sudden feel so much easier for you, because you have this amazing filter you can use for the decision-making process.
Michael: Perhaps that sounds like a lot of time to dedicate to this, but we think this is really the engine of our growth. We’ve grown, on average, over 60 percent over the last four years every year, and the reason we’ve done that is because we have this process of creating a vision and creating this linkage to execution, and it creates momentum in the business so that this is, like I said, a key driver of our success and our growth. We wouldn’t be talking about this on the show today if we didn’t believe this could have the same effect for you.
Megan: I just want to be clear. I’m not saying two to three months is how much time we’re spending around a table working on this process. It’s not. We’re probably spending, I would guess, about 7 to 10 total days spread out over two to three months, meeting together as various groups of stakeholders to get to the end result, and then, of course, people are doing things on their own, you know, the finance team working on the budget or something like that.
Michael: Not everybody is involved in every part of it. For example, as the CEO, I’m not involved in the part where the budget gets put together or the calendar gets put together. Now, I ultimately approve those things and I have an opportunity to review it, but I’m not in the weeds making all that stuff happen.
Larry: So, we are forming the chain that links vision to execution. The first link is the vision script itself. The second link is the annual plan. Megan, you mentioned annual goals for the company. We tell people 10 to 12 personal goals for the year. Does that number hold for the company or is it a different number?
Megan: We believe it does. As a company, we practice the same application of that number of goals both personally and professionally. How we think of it is that each goal needs to have an owner. Every goal company-wide for us is owned by an executive and, therefore, his or her team, so nobody has responsibility for too many professional goals as a result, and that has worked really well for us.
Larry: One more question about this annual plan. Are all of those 10 to 12 goals directly linked to the vision or are some of them just other things we’re trying to do in the company?
Megan: I think they have to be all related. Now, they may be a component that’s not explicitly stated in the vision, like something that has to happen in order to achieve one of the outcomes in the vision script, but if it doesn’t fit into the vision, we really don’t have any business doing it.
Michael: This is the secret to eliminating overwhelm in your company and the secret to getting the double win, to win at work and succeed at life. If you’re doing all this stuff that’s unrelated to the vision, why? Why are you doing the stuff that’s not part of your vision? It keeps everybody busy, but it ends up being a lot of fake work, a lot of busywork. The vision, properly done (as I talk about in The Vision Driven Leader) acts as a tremendous filter for filtering out the opportunities that look like opportunities but are really distractions masquerading as opportunities.
Larry: That brings us to the third link: quarterly goals.
Michael: Quarterly goals are the next link, and they’re important because you have to develop a reliable cadence of execution. We’ve found that the quarter is a natural period for doing this. You know, 90 days, 12 or 13 weeks, depending on how you count it. There was a very famous book written called The 12 Week Year. It talks about the idea of thinking of that as a complete cycle in and of itself. We do the same thing here at Michael Hyatt & Company. We teach the same thing to our BusinessAccelerator coaching clients: to really focus on what those quarterly goals are going to be for your team.
So, you have those 10 to 12 goals for your year. Now what are the two to three goals you’re going to focus on company-wide for this particular quarter? For a lot of people, they think, “Well, that’s not enough. There are so many things we want to accomplish. Why can’t we have 10 to 12 for the quarter?” It’s because you have a business to maintain, and the business you’re currently maintaining demands a lot of attention, a lot of focus, a lot of resources. A goal, by definition, is going to be an initiative that’s outside that daily activity, outside of business as usual.
So you have to be very strategic, very thoughtful, very focused in terms of what you’re willing to commit to it. We recommend (and we think the research supports this and, certainly, our experience supports it) that you have two to three goals to focus on each quarter. You also don’t want to take your annual plan and make all of those goals due at the end of the year. That’s a recipe for people to procrastinate or for that last quarter, that fourth quarter, to be a flurry of activity, and people cross the finish line (if they do) out of breath, stumbling, ready to die. You don’t want that.
Megan: I think it’s important to say that these quarterly goals are not different than your annual goals. These are not milestones you’re trying to accomplish toward your list of annual goals; these are the annual goals that have deadlines in the next quarter that you’re pursuing.
Larry: We talk about goal visibility constantly here on a personal level. What do we do to keep these quarterly goals, which are really annual goals pulled down for each quarter…? How do we keep those visible, because it’s pretty easy to lose things in the shuffle?
Megan: It is, and it’s a really important part of execution. You can’t execute if you don’t have clarity and visibility. What we do at Michael Hyatt & Company is once a quarter we have an all-team training. We believe in investing in our team with professional development, and we really want to see our team as an investment we’re making. How can we continue to develop the value of that investment? As a part of that, what we do is we review the goals we’re focused on for that quarter. That lets everybody be reminded and get refocused on what the mission is for that quarter, and that’s a great way to do it.
Michael: Now, I don’t want to get into this in depth. We do in our coaching program, but I do want to mention that that also cascades down. So, from those company-wide goals we have departmental goals, and individuals have goals for the quarter as well. We recommend the same thing for individuals as we do for the company: that you have two to three goals for this quarter that you’re focused on. That’s going to become important in the next link.
Larry: I’d just like to add, Megan, for business owners out there, these quarterly trainings are the highlight of the quarter for I think every team member. If you’re hearing “quarterly training,” you’re thinking about getting hauled down to the cafeteria for an afternoon every three months to go over the non-discrimination policy or something like that. This is really an enriching time, and focusing on goals and goal achievement is part of what makes it inspiring.
Megan: We love that time. It’s very fruitful.
Larry: So, the first link between vision and execution is the vision script. The second link is the annual plan, which leads naturally to the third link: quarterly goals, and then the fourth link: weekly objectives.
Megan: I feel like for a lot of people this is the missing link between the accomplishment of their annual goals or their vision and their daily actions. They can understand tasks, they can understand goals, but the link between those two things is unclear. I think weekly objectives is one of the main parts about how you get there.
We recommend that you’re reviewing your annual goals or annual plan on a regular basis, at least weekly, and when you’re doing that and you’re doing in the Full Focus Planner what we call the Weekly Preview process, which happens at the end of a week and is your preparation for the coming week, the very last part of that is identifying your weekly objectives.
These are significant outcomes you want to achieve in the coming week. They’re not tasks. Those are different. Those are discrete things. They’re also not goals. These are the next things you need to accomplish in order to make progress on your annual goals. When you ask yourself that, it becomes very clear where you need to have your focus for the coming week.
It’s a great thing to do with your team, because it can feel like everything is important, but the truth is if you accomplish three important outcomes on a weekly basis, you’re going to make major progress toward your goals and, therefore, your vision on a weekly and annual and beyond annual basis. This is a really important practice, and you can institute this, as our teams do, as a part of your weekly planning process.
Michael: The other thing about this we have to talk about is the psychological benefit. When you have three items you want to accomplish for the week, three objectives, it all of a sudden makes the week feel manageable. Whenever I go through the process, I might look at my calendar and feel overwhelmed, but if I can isolate the three objectives I’m trying to accomplish, all of a sudden it feels manageable and I’m not overwhelmed. So there’s that added benefit, which makes me eager to take on the week. I’m not reluctant. I’m not hesitant. I’m not dreading Mondays. I’m looking forward to getting to it.
Megan: I often say that completing this Weekly Preview process that culminates in the decision about what your weekly objectives are going to be is the antidote to that terrible feeling many of us have had on Sunday nights where we’re dreading Monday, we can’t sleep, we’re thinking about all of the things we have to do. It’s just kind of that swirl feeling that feels terrible.
Michael: It’s because everything feels the same level. Everything feels equally important, and it’s just too much, but when you isolate, you say, “Okay. Maybe I have a lot of meetings this week” (like I, frankly, had this week) “but here are the three things that are the most important. If I didn’t do anything else, if I got these three things done, I’d feel great about this week.”
Megan: It really does help you sleep at night, it helps you know exactly where to focus when you wake up on Monday morning, and, maybe most importantly, it defines a win. Sometimes it’s hard to measure a win. Like, “Are we making progress? I don’t really know.” There’s that kind of feeling when you’re thinking about execution, but if you know that if you and/or your team just achieve these three objectives for the week that’s a win, that means everybody gets to go home on Friday feeling like they killed it, and that’s an awesome feeling.
Larry: What I like about this weekly objectives link is that this is where it’s starting to get real in terms of execution. With a quarterly goal, you can’t procrastinate forever, but you can procrastinate for 12 weeks. You really can’t procrastinate too much on a weekly objective. You have to get right after that. So we’re already getting from way up to vision down to things that have to happen in the next five business days. Let’s talk about the fifth link, which is the final link in our chain between vision and execution: daily tasks.
Michael: This is where the rubber does meet the road. The average person, based on our research with our clients, has 15 tasks they have to get done per day. So, people who use a task list, on average, 15 tasks. The problem with that is even if they get half those done, they still feel like a failure at the end of the day.
Megan: And they probably added more all day long. They’re just stacking up while you’re in meetings or you’re taking notes in your meetings.
Michael: Totally. It feels like you’re playing this perverse game of whack-a-mole, where you check something off and two more things appear, so you can never get ahead of it. As a result of that, because of having these unwieldy task lists, you wake up overwhelmed, you go to bed defeated, and it’s just this vicious cycle. Your team can sense that. When you show up at the office with that kind of energy, your team can sense it. You can sense it. It’s why you feel that sense of dread about going to work. The cure to that is to identify three and only three tasks that have to be done.
Not all tasks are created equal. Some are less important. You know, running that errand or making that phone call may not be as important as making movement toward one of your goals or toward an important project. That’s our rule for the Daily Big 3: they either have to be linked to a goal or they have to be an important project. They can be one or the other. They have to be important, to use the Eisenhower Matrix. They don’t have to be urgent, but they do have to be important.
Just consider the Pareto principle. The Pareto principle teaches that 20 percent of the effort drives 80 percent of the result. If the average person has 15 tasks, then 20 percent of 15 is, magically, three. So, if you can focus on the three tasks that are going to be the highest leverage tasks that are going to drive the biggest results, and if you can get those done in a day and can declare it a win, just think what that does for how you feel about work. I do this every day. I know you guys all do this every day too. It’s fantastic. Our clients report this is the single biggest thing that gives them a sense of progress. It’s deceptively simple but incredibly powerful.
Megan: This is the one thing I will not compromise on a daily basis. I mean, if I don’t have time to take a shower, I am still writing down my Big 3 for the day, because it’s so important in directing my focus and driving my execution and making me feel good about what I’ve accomplished. Confidence is so important in terms of execution and, ultimately, achievement. So I love this, and I practice it religiously and have for a long time.
I think it’s important to say, if you’re trying to discriminate between weekly objectives and daily tasks, we’re really talking about discrete actions here. We are not talking about a project. If what you put on your daily task list has a bunch of steps to it, it’s probably a project. These are things like, “Attend an executive team meeting,” “Make 10 sales calls,” “Finish a report,” “Have a phone call or a lunch with so-and-so.” Those are daily tasks.
Tasks and projects are not the same things. Your weekly objectives can be projects. Those are very often projects. They have multiple components, and the individual tasks on those may populate your daily tasks throughout the week, but if you really want to manage the overwhelm, you have to keep your daily tasks as discrete actions and not projects.
Larry: That whole system is worked into the Full Focus Planner.
Megan: It really is, and if you’re wondering, “How am I going to put all this together?” either for yourself or for your team, the Full Focus Planner is an invaluable tool. We built this with this model in mind. You know, how can we make it easy for you to create execution, drive execution in your own life and in your organization?
The first page of the Full Focus Planner is your annual goal page, and you’re going to list your annual goals. There’s a column that’s going to be where you identify which ones you’re pursuing for the quarter, so you know exactly which goals are your quarterly goals, as we talked about earlier, along with your annual goals. Then, in the Weekly Preview process, as I said earlier, the very last step is to identify your weekly objectives. So, you’re going to get crystal clear on that link between the quarterly goals you’re focused on and what you need to do in the next week to move the needle on those.
Then the daily pages within the planner are going to have you identify, right at the top, your Daily Big 3. This is the practice I was talking about a minute ago. It’s so easy, and it makes the connection really clear between your annual goals, your quarterly goals, your weekly objectives, and your daily tasks. We’ve had great success not only for individuals using the Full Focus Planner, but we have many teams that are using this organization-wide, and the feedback we get from those teams about the practice of using the Full Focus Planner in driving execution is just incredible.
Michael: I don’t want to miss this opportunity, because some of you might be interested. You can find out more about the planner at leadto.win/planner.
Larry: So, today we’ve learned every leader can tie vision to execution with these five links. It begins with the vision script, which is your destination three to five years in the future. That links to the annual plan, which are your goals to be accomplished in the next 12 months. The next is the quarterly goals, which are two or three of the annual goals that are selected for achievement in any given quarter. Those lead to weekly objectives, which are the big three things you want to accomplish toward your quarterly goals. Those link in turn to your Daily Big 3, which are high-leverage, specific actions you can take today. Final thoughts, guys?
Megan: If you’ve struggled with execution or you’ve really wanted to take your execution to the next level in your company, I think this provides a useful framework for understanding what the missing pieces might be. It’s very possible that the vision piece has been lacking for you or that maybe, downstream, the weekly objectives and daily tasks have been disconnected from the big picture. On either end that you’re struggling, if you can connect the dots and get these links connected to one another, the power of that working in unison is incredible.
Michael: I’m obviously passionate about vision. I’ve written a new book on it, The Vision Driven Leader. We’ve talked about it on several episodes. But the vision is only half the process. You have to execute, and the linkage we’ve talked about today is how you bring that vision to life, because ultimately, that’s what we’re after. We’re not just trying to create the vision as an exercise, but we’re trying to create a bigger, better future. The way you do that is to implement this linkage.
Larry: Michael and Megan, thanks for sharing this today. Very practical framework that every leader can use.
Michael: Thank you, Larry. Thanks, Megan, and thanks to all of you for listening to us today. We’ll join you right here next week. Until then, lead to win.