One thing any business or organization wants to avoid is employees or participants who are disengaged. They’re physically present, but their minds are elsewhere, and who knows where their hearts are.
Yet the number-one factor to increase employee engagement is in the hands of the leader: Vision. Why is vision so important? Because vision provides hope for the future—yes, for the organization but also for the employees’ personal benefit, and that’s where they will respond and produce.
The two aspects of belief—about ourselves and about others—are parallel to vision. Genuine and effective vision starts with ourselves first and then expands to the organization. So, let’s start with ourselves.
Do you have a vision for your own life? If not, you’re likely drifting because vision is the creation of a preferable future, something to aim at and become. What is, or would be, that for you? Before moving on, can you articulate your vision clearly and simply? If not, you’ll do yourself a great favor by working on that.
Then, do you have a vision for your organization? If not, the whole thing will drift. What is the future at which you aim and want your organization to become? Everything else is secondary until you can express it clearly and simply. And one more step comes in here. Is everyone on board with the vision? And do they believe in it? Vision is only as effective as the participant’s engagement.
Clarify Your Values
A well-articulated vision that people engage with almost invariably starts with what’s important—that is, values.
We all have a long list of values. If something is important and non-negotiable to us, it’s likely a value. To clarify our values, it helps to write them down and then define them.
Having a clear sense of values, we are better able to make decisions and know what to pursue in life. We have a better sense of when to say yes and when to say no.
Most people hold three-to-seven top values. So, to strike an average, what are your top five values? Think about that, your most important non-negotiables.
If you’ve clarified that, great! And as you’ll likely agree, living out each of those values in real life is where they matter. Do you practice your values daily? Even when it’s not easy?
Of those top five values that you’ve defined and are hopefully living out, what are your top three? Can you narrow them down that far? Then finally, and you may resist singling one out, what is your number-one value? The more you can narrow down your values, the more you can clearly define who you are as a person and as a leader. Imagine the impact that can have.
Establish Your Vision
When we as leaders are clear about our personal values, it’s time to develop a vision first for ourselves, and then for our department or company. If we’re a good fit with the organization, personal and corporate vision will be in harmony.
You might be in the position now or in the future where you re-envision or re-create a vision for your own life at a different stage or for your organization in a different situation.
To develop a realistic, challenging vision worth having, Stephen Covey suggests we start with the end in mind. That is, what do you hope to become? The vision leads you toward that.
Then consider some key questions—from that end-result point of view—that added up will make a sea change of difference:
Who did you become?
What was important to you?
How did you make a difference to people in your life?
To what did you say yes or no?
What has been your legacy?
You can’t deliver value unless you ground yourself in values. As Bill George describes it, you must have a “true north,” a vision for yourself, your company, or your team that is essential to authenticity as a leader. And a good leader must be authentic.
Here’s the next consideration: the best vision in the world, if not communicated, is like a pretty picture on a wall. It’s nice to have, but it does nothing for the organization if all the participants don’t buy into it for themselves and act on it along with you. To put the need in emphatic terms: You can’t communicate enough. And if you think you’re communicating too much, keep communicating.
One often-overlooked key point that Simon Sinek has powerfully explained is the importance of knowing your Why. Before you simply start doing something, to be a successful leader, corporation, or organization, you must have a clear grasp of why you exist and do what you do. Or in other words, what is your purpose or your cause?
What’s your Why?
As you communicate vision, always to remember to speak and demonstrate compassion for your people. Make sure they know that you trust them, and they can trust you. So even if the vision falters or the world turns upside-down, together you’ll still stick together and have hope.
So, we go from values to mission to vision. And with that we create the future. You may learn more about everything covered in this article in UnCommon Leadership® for the New Reality.