“Vision is a lot more than putting a plaque on the wall. A real vision is lived, not framed,” says Jesse Lyn Stoner, when asked about how leaders can inspire a shared vision. Jesse is founder of Seapoint Center, a company that works closely with leaders, helping them create collaborative and engaged organizations. She is also a bestselling author, coach, and former executive.
Jesse shares 4 critical insights for leaders who are in the trenches and are looking to master the art of creating and communicating a meaningful vision.
1. Know What ‘Vision’ Really Is
“A vision is a picture of a compelling future that illuminates your underlying purpose and values,” says Jesse. She adds, “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey. Knowing who you are means being clear about your purpose. Where you’re going is your picture of the future. And what will guide your journey are your values.”
Vision is important because good leadership starts with vision. Leadership is about going somewhere. Vision helps you get focused, get energized, and keeps you going during times of adversity. Some people think a vision is a picture of the end result, but If you only have a picture of the end result, and it doesn’t clarify the underlying values or purpose, it’s really a goal, not a vision.
For example, some people might see the Apollo Moon Project as a vision, says Jesse, but it doesn’t explain the purpose or the “why” behind the project. The project did have a very clear picture of the end result, which was powerful, and they overcame what seemed like insurmountable obstacles, but the underlying purpose was not agreed upon by all involved.
“Was it to win the space race or begin the space defense initiative, or was it done in the spirit of Star Trek—to go where no one has gone before?” Jesse explains that because the purpose was not clear, there was nothing to guide decision making after the moon landing, and NASA never recreated those spectacular successes.
2. Don’t Underestimate the Importance of ‘Significant Purpose’
An example of a vision statement that had a deep, significant purpose was Henry Ford's vision to produce an affordable automobile for the multitude. Vision statements do not have to be one-liners, but this is one example where it worked.
It’s a vision because of what is implied in the statement: that the purpose was to make cars available to everyone, not just the wealthy, and that the underlying values were around affordability and equality. Last, there was a clear picture of non-wealthy people having access to be able to own and drive automobiles.
What made it most powerful was that it had a significant purpose. When there is a higher purpose, people who are involved care more deeply and are more invested.
3. Bring it to Life
There are two equally important aspects to create a compelling vision: content and process, which is part of the model described in her book, Full Steam Ahead!, which Jesse co-authored with Ken Blanchard.
Content describes what the vision says. “The three key elements that comprise a vision are purpose, picture of the future, and values,” explains Jesse.
Process describes how to create, how to communicate, and how to live out a vision. “In reality, creating a vision is not a linear process. As you clarify each of the elements of your vision, it is important to keep in mind the guiding principles of the ‘Three Hows’: how it’s created, how it’s communicated, and how it’s lived.”
Jesse expands on these factors that bring a vision to life:
How the vision is created: You might start with your own thoughts about the vision, but you must involve your team in discussions early on. The more involved they are in creating the vision, the better they understand it and the more strongly they are invested in it. Plus, the vision will be a better one when you have the opportunity for input from other perspectives. “The idea of someone going off to the mountain and bringing back tablets that everyone will immediately get behind only happens in stories, not in real life,” says Jesse.
How the vision is communicated: Talking about your vision can radically transform an organization. “Once your vision is well understood, it can be condensed to a rallying call. However, the rallying call needs to emerge from a shared vision— it can’t just be a marketing message.”
Share as much information as possible that can help to show and support how your vision is what is driving the company. This is for individuals as well as at an organizational level and a team level.
How the vision is lived: Jesse points out that you should “learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future” to make your vision a reality. It’s important to put supporting structures (or processes) in place aligned with the company vision. Over time, it requires focus on the vision and resetting goals along the way when events occur that throw you off track. Continually ask yourself as a leader, “How am I contributing to our vision?” Then ask the same of your team.
4. Make Sure Your Vision Isn’t Blurry
The strongest vision statements help to articulate why a company uniquely exists. To test your vision statement, ask: “Is the statement about being great, and not just beating the competition? Is it just about comparing yourself to others? To what extent does it really touch your heart and excite you and energize you over time?” If it doesn’t do that, it might just be high-level strategy, not a vision statement.
For example, Google’s vision statement is: “To organize all of the data in the world and make it accessible for everyone in a useful way.” It’s a jargon-free statement that can’t easily be adopted by another company. It also helps to articulate what the organization needs to accomplish from the customer’s point of view.
Crafting the vision and bringing the vision to life should be a collective effort. It should answer questions like: “How do I see my role in this? How do I make a difference in this vision? Can I contribute to it?”
Each person on the team needs to be able to see how they contribute to the vision. “If they don't or they are unable to see how they might in the future, then it's not their vision, and it is not something that will motivate or guide them over the long-term.”
Set Direction & Align Your Team
“Your company vision is a description of what your business will look like in the future, 10 or 15 years down the road. You want every employee to know it and to understand exactly where the business is heading.” -Clay Mathile, Run Your Business, Don't Let It Run You
Aileron’s Course for Presidents sets you on the pathway to the next best version of your business. Why register? Because you want to develop or evolve your vision, set direction, and advance your business. This is where you take possible and make it certain.