Team Vision

by Ron

Abraham Lincoln united his followers with the vision of preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. Lincoln successfully gathered people to his vision, based on a strong set of personal values, and he accomplished an incredible feat. How was Lincoln able to do this? How is any leader able to set vision into reality?

Consider the following suggestions:

Establish a clear direction

Have you ever taught someone to drive a car? As teens learn to drive, their first instinct is to watch the road directly in front of the car. This results in constant course correction—the front wheels turn sharply as the car swerves from roadside shoulder to the center divider, back and forth. When you approach a curve, the swerving worsens! But when young motorists learn to look as far down the road as possible while they drive, the car’s path straightens out. They are then able to negotiate corners, obstacles, and other dangers much more smoothly. A distant reference point makes the path straighter.

Focus your attention

We often focus on too many methods and alternatives. Building vision means focusing our attention on that vision. Focus is necessary so that lower priorities do not steal time from the central vision. If the vision is deeply planted in your heart and mind, you can proactively, rather than reactively, respond to outside forces and issues.

Articulate values

Leaders need to clearly express their inner values. On what values is a vision based? Team members need to know—and leaders need to share—this basic insight. People knew that Abraham Lincoln was a man of integrity, honesty, hard work, and fairness. These basic values supported his vision of a unified country.

Enlist others to help with implementation

In his book Leading Change John Kotter writes:

No one individual, even a monarch-like CEO, is ever able to develop the right vision, communicate it to large numbers of people, eliminate all the key obstacles, generate short-term wins, lead and manage dozens of change projects, and anchor new approaches deep in the organization’s culture. Weak committees are even worse. A strong guiding coalition is always needed—one with the right composition, level of trust, and shared objective. Building such a team is always an essential part of the early stages of any effort to restructure, reengineer, or retool a set of strategies [or, I may add, move a vision to reality].

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Leaders who want to create and implement a vision need to start a fire in the belly of the people they lead. They need to use all available forms of communication to get the word out. It is akin to brand management. A company that wants to launch a new brand will use every form of communication available to get people to try the new products. The same is true with implementing a vision. Leaders cannot overcommunicate what they see in the future.

Empower followers

In order to implement a vision, leaders need to encourage clear buy-in from the people. This requires moving beyond communication to collaboration. The goal is to develop a supportive environment and bring along other people with differing talents and abilities. It also means that when the followers truly understand the vision, the leader needs to step aside and let them do the work to “produce” the vision. The leader needs to give them the authority and responsibility to do the work necessary in order to bring his or her vision to fruition.

I witnessed a meeting recently in which the leader brought together a crossfunctional group to brainstorm some marketing campaign ideas for the company. People from different departments assembled and were led through a planned exercise on corporate marketing focus for the following year. The best idea came from a person far removed from the marketing department. She quite innocently blurted out just the right direction and even suggested a great theme for the entire campaign.

If the leaders of this organization had simply called together the “marketing types,” they would have missed a tremendous idea. Or if the leader had done the work alone and not opened it up to input from others, he might not have secured the necessary buy-in from the staff to implement the project. Studies show that when people understand the values and are part of the vision and decision-making process, they can better handle conflicting demands of work and higher levels of stress.

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