4 Strategies to Give Your Vision Traction
Even if you’ve done a masterful job of casting and communicating the vision, your team’s pursuit of the preferred future will almost certainly face inertia, wheel spinning, detours, and possibly even mutiny. These challenges can occur when the vision loses its luster over time, when the vision is vague and undefined, when the vision is not obviously actionable, or when the vision is simply not compelling. The hurdles can also result from internal factors, some of which are discussed in Five Reasons Why Team Members Haven’t Embraced the Vision.
There is an infinite number of stumbling blocks that stand between your team and a fully-realized vision but that doesn’t mean that you should abandon it, give up, or concede defeat.
1. Share Vision Ownership
It is great to own your vision but if it is yours alone, your team members are probably completing many to-do items only for the sake of the task itself. A slightly more optimistic view is that they could possibly be working for the sake of a short-term performance goal. The worst case and most likely scenario, though, it is that they are working only for the sake of the pay check and benefit package.
The most engaged, loyal, and effective team members share a passion for the vision, not a passion for the tasks. They are driven by core beliefs and the vision is simply the vehicle that brings them to life – beliefs about the world, about humanity, and about the way things ought to be. Give your vision traction by sharing ownership; invest time to identify each team member’s passions and emphasize how they reflect and contribute to the preferred future.
2. Train Vision Champions
A simple yet effective way to evaluate your team’s trajectory and potential is to ask each member to communicate the vision. Some team members will be at a total loss for words. Others will simply recite the organization’s written vision statement. The keepers, though, will be the people who can confidently present a clear, compelling, and inspiring description of the preferred future.
Team members who can effectively communicate the vision are much more likely to model it and to encourage others around them to do the same. They are your best cheerleaders because they have internalized the vision and are equipped to transmit it throughout the organization. Give your vision traction by training champions; teach team members how to effectively communicate the vision and empower them to create environments where it will take root and grow.
3. Prioritize Vision Activities
Busyness can derail even the best teams. The vision can easily get lost through the forest of details and deadlines. It is also possible for team members to appear quite busy but in actuality to be wasting a lot of time, energy, and money. And the most destructive consequence of busyness is arguably that it can confuse the ends with the means and falsely convince team members that completing tasks is the ultimate measure of success.
But checking items off a to-do list is clearly not the primary goal. And furthermore, completing tasks does not consistently result in feelings of success, satisfaction, and fulfillment. They instead emerge when a team member clearly sees how their efforts contribute to the preferred future. Give your vision traction by prioritizing activities; help every team member identify the tasks that most directly support the vision and evaluate their performance based on those responsibilities.
4. Celebrate Vision Victories
Visions by their very nature point to a distant and optimistic future. In fact, they often point so far off and are so lofty that many leaders have exactly zero anticipation of ever waking up to find that it has arrived. Left unchecked, this can create a trance-like condition and cause the vision to lose its influence on the leader, the team, and even day-to-day decisions and activities.
The best way for a leader to keep a distant vision relevant is to do at least one strategic thing every day that reinforces the preferred future. Then give public recognition when the team or members model the vision and when it is reflected in even the most basic ways as a result of the team’s efforts. Give your vision traction by celebrating victories; seek out examples of the vision in daily behaviors, interactions, and environments and build momentum by giving credit where credit is due.
Visions are inherently and stubbornly elusive, otherwise we would have already witnessed the end of hunger, injustice, disease, and every other social ill. Yet this should not paralyze the leader or the team because there are effective strategies that can in fact produce victories that bring the vision to life in important ways for specific groups of people – beginning with the team itself.
Jeffrey Derico, PhD
Center for Church Leadership