I was reading a post in a much admired blog – Leadership Freak by Dan Rockwell – who, besides sharing his own wisdom, regularly interviews and relates compelling thoughts and comments from some of the current thought leaders in the world of leadership and management.
This week he touched on a subject very dear to my heart – that of VISION! Anyone who knows me well will know that this has been a passionate focus of mine for many years, alongside that of strategy, agility and resilience – more of which another time.
Dan was speaking to Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner, co-authors of a new book, entitled “Full Steam Ahead: Unleashing the Power of Vision in your Work and Your Life.” They offered five reasons why vision is vital, which I’d like to explore in relation to a recent assignment in support of a large voluntary sector organisation facing significant budget pressures.
Ken Blanchard and Jesse Stoner proposed the following five reasons vision is vital and I’d like to share why I fundamentally agree with them.
- Vision is the starting point of leadership.The starting point for my client was a wish to develop a sustainable base from which growth could develop, not just shrink to survive! Yes, adjustment needed to be made within the organisation but not to the detriment of future potential. This perspective, fuzzy at first, was nurtured into a strong driving vision that has underpinned the change process and this included the evolution of a new, more powerful headline vision for the organisation.
- Vision determines direction. Leadership is about going somewhere. If you aren’t going somewhere, your leadership style doesn’t matter. Once the vision became clearer and more concrete, other things were able to flow from this – the change plan, a new strategic plan and a new annual operational plan, all with the vision clearly and strongly identified within them. These plans and associated processes were then shared across the workforce with my client reinforcing the vision contained therein at every opportunity.
- Vision is something to serve. Without vision, the only thing left to serve is yourself. Vision-less organisations will eventually be led by self-serving leaders. The strong vision gave staff something to focus on, to rally to and to underpin their value and contribution to the organisation, at a time of real turbulence in their lives. This maintained and, often enhanced their commitment to the organisation, despite monetary concerns; clarified and re-rooted their purpose; and gave them a positive future focus. Their creative response to potential future scenarios was impressive, to say the least, and their energy to do so at a full staff event facilitated in March made me feel very humble. Once grasped, the vision being portrayed to them by the CEO – a focus on some reorganisation and then sustainability and growth for the future, clearly focused on providing excellent quality services to young people – really captured their support.
- Vision overcomes the power of criticism. Without vision squeaky wheels control organisations. I particularly liked this part and have a strong visualisation in my mind what Ken and Jesse meant by ‘squeaky wheels’! I have worked with these types of people for many years of my adult life – the habitual moaners, critics, nay-sayers – for whom any change is a thing to be attacked, subverted or stopped. In my experience, they too often win the day, even if it is only by slowing change processes down to a slow drip effect, which ends up frustrating too many people and disaffecting the rest … and stops! I have seen over the past few weeks a strong vision galvanise an organisation, whilst providing ample opportunity for those who are less certain or committed to say their bit. What has been clear is that the vision, fully supported by those things that have emanated from it, have provided powerful responses to those who were or potentially were ‘squeaky wheels’!
- Vision creates unity. Without vision you can’t get on the same team. I noted above that I have been very impressed at the ways in which this vision has galvanised my client’s organisation. It has also brought a strongly unifying sense to the organisation. Sure there are still issues to resolve; some people have not achieved what they had hoped; and unfortunately, as happens when budgets drive an agenda, there are some casualties. Despite this, staff in the organisation demonstrates a greater sense of purpose, of drive, of direction … and a very real sense of excitement at the prospects that the future holds. Uncertainty exists and some trepidation as a result but the leadership demonstrated, first by the CEO and now a critical mass of leaders and managers across the organisation, built on a strong vision will create a strong forward momentum. No mean feat in times like these!
It is interesting to note that, in their book, Ken and Jesse say, “Less than 10% of the organizations we visited are led by managers who have a clear sense of where they are trying to lead people.”
I hope that, in relating this to a lived current experience, you might agree with my sources and myself that vision is vital! Hopefully, this might inspire you to re-visit your vision for your organisation and see if you are one of the lucky 10%?
One last thing … if you need help to check, refresh and re-energize your vision, you know how to reach me … just ask!