As leaders, we have to lead first by vision. If we can’t create a compelling picture of the future, something that’s really desirable, it will be very hard to motivate our team to change or to take on big tasks to fulfill our purpose.
That’s why I wrote The Vision-Driven Leader, to help leaders develop a clear, compelling vision of their own.
Having a vision is vital, but that’s really just the beginning of vision-driven leadership. You must also be able to communicate that vision in a way that enlists others to help achieve it.
In over 40 years of business leadership, including a stint as CEO of what was then the largest Christian publishing company in the world, I’ve learned what it takes to communicate vision in a way that makes others eager to follow. It comes down to these four steps.
Make It Inspiring
The very first step is you have to make your vision inspiring. Everybody wants to be part of something that’s larger than themselves. No one’s individual life is really big enough to satisfy the desire we all have for significance. The chance to make a difference, that’s what motivates people.
Sure, they’ll get excited about a raise or a bonus, but not for long. Your vision cannot be about personal success or achievement. It has to inspire others to get beyond themselves and change the world for the better.
What is the change you want to make in the world? How will the lives of others be made better if your vision can be fulfilled? Show people that transformation, and they’ll jump on board with your vision.
Make It Concrete
The second step is to make it concrete. Inspiration is vital, but it’s not enough. Often, the inspiration for a vision is carried through stories or values. They touch the heart and move people to take action. But what action?
You must go beyond abstractions to cast your vision in concrete terms. That way, people can see what you’re trying to build. And believe me, if people can’t see it, they will not join it.
One way to do that is to write a narrative statement that describes the outcome of your vision. Here’s an example.
At Michael Hyatt & Co., “We want to cultivate a work culture that is congruent with our core values.” That’s one of the four basic tenets of our vision for the future. That sounds great. Many people want to work for a values-driven company. But how does that work its way into our daily operations?
To flesh that out, we added these key details:
We only recruit people who are highly talented, extremely competent, and possess impeccable character. They’re positive, confident, and willing to serve others.
Our employees know our core ideology, can articulate it to others, and understand how they fit into the larger picture.
Each of our employees knows his or her unique ability and is able to express it in his or her specific role.
We’re getting, again, very specific. We want our teammates to have a snapshot of what the vision will look like in real life. We’re trying to describe it with enough clarity that other people can join us in what we are creating.
Make It Practical
The third step is to make it practical. A vision statement can be very helpful in making decisions. For example, the example I cited earlier about the culture we want to create is an extremely practical guide for recruiting. It informs how we present ourselves to prospective candidates, how we screen them, and how we conduct interviews.
When you have a specific vision it brings clarity to every member of the organization. It enables your executive assistant, for example, to decide what appointments to schedule and which to decline. It tells your marketing team which opportunities to pursue and which to let go. When you have a solid Vision Script, as I describe in The Vision-Driven Leader, everything in your business can be filtered through it.
Make It Visible
The fourth step is to make it visible. For any statement of vision to be effective, people have to know about it. You can’t go off somewhere to the mountain, cook up a vision, and then keep it to yourself. It has to be expressed, and it has to be expressed frequently.
How many times do you think it’s necessary to communicate an idea before people begin to “get it”? Three? Four? Five? That seems like a lot. But according to the authors of The CEO Next Door, the true number is closer to eight. If you have presented your vision so many times and in so many settings that you’re tired of talking about it, congratulations! You’re about half done.
As leaders, vision begins with us. If we’re not visionary, no one else on the team will be either. This is one responsibility we cannot delegate and dare not abdicate. Begin with a clear vision of the future. Then make it an inspiring, concrete, and practical tool, and communicate it relentlessly. People will follow.