“Kai, with you, people always know where the journey is going and what the goal and your vision are.” I have often received this feedback. Of course, that makes me happy. It’s a great compliment. And it gets to the heart of the matter.
Further, I don’t like to do anything if I don’t know why or where to do it or I miss the big picture. I am not comfortable with it.
If I don’t find a vision, then as a leader, that’s the first thing I’ll work on.
When it comes to articulating the vision, sometimes something comes out like, “Online is the future—we’re faster, better, and most importantly, always available. We’re going to become the most important division in the company.” (2009, as Head of Online Sales & Marketing).
Or I may say something eerie like, “Our company will become the first vertically fully integrated travel provider.” This happened when we were tasked with closely integrating a tour operator and an online travel agency—two companies that couldn’t be more different.
Later, it became something more digestible: “With us, the customer gets the security of a package tour with the flexibility to determine everything the way he wants it.”
It needs a reason.
Otherwise, I can’t do it. Otherwise, my co-workers won’t do it either. A vision is a picture of the outcome you want to achieve – a picture so clear and strong that it helps make that outcome a reality. You need that as a leader.
A vision is not a vague wish or dream or hope. It is a picture of the natural results of genuine effort. Vision comes from the future and informs and enlivens the present. It’s the most powerful tool I have wielded in over twenty years as a leader.
In practice, using a vision is mainstream. Some companies use it to communicate their values and goals.
Professional sports teams use vision to improve their performance—some studies show that soccer players who practice the penalty kick just by imagining the ball going into the goal improve their shooting percentage almost as much as those who actually kick the ball.
The director of a play can “envision” a perfect production before rehearsals begin.
Here are the reasons why a vision is so powerful.
A vision inspires action. A powerful vision attracts ideas, people and other resources and creates the energy and will to effect change. It inspires individuals and organizations to commit, persevere, and do their best.
A vision is a practical guide for creating plans, setting goals and objectives, making decisions, and coordinating and evaluating work on any project, large or small. It helps keep organizations and groups focused and together. This is especially noticeable with complex projects and during stressful times.
Your vision should be a picture.
The vision needs to be clear – so sharp and detailed that you can see, smell, and taste even the most minor details.
And be positive. Acknowledge difficulties, but don’t try to motivate yourself or others with a vision of something bad that might happen if you fail.
I don’t want to deny it: an image based on fear can help you take immediate action. Unfortunately, such an image can also limit your results to pure damage control instead of leading to positive change.
Grow beyond yourself. Create a bigger picture of your work’s impact than just solving the problem at hand. Too small a vision may not generate enough inspiration or energy to overcome obstacles.
Include change in the creation of the vision. The challenge you see before you is only part of the problem – think of it as an iceberg.
Get a clear picture of your personal role, not just your company’s. This is not about ego. It’s about you taking full responsibility for getting the results you want.
It comes from your heart, not your head. Don’t try to think yourself into a vision. To create one that is exciting and compelling, you must give yourself the freedom to dream.
Use your imagination to see and feel what doesn’t yet exist. A vision is not the same as goals or objectives; those come from the mind.
A vision comes from the heart.