Articulating Your Vision as a Leader

by Guest Contributor on July 14, 2011

Vision | ArtPrize 2010
If you are at the very top of your company, if you are leading a team or unit inside a large organization, or even if you are leading a small group of individuals toward a destination, they all think you know where you are going. They think you know!

But what if you don’t?

In that case, a visioning process is your way out. That is, you’ve got to give yourself permission to Dream Big.

There are two major challenges with Dreaming Big:

1. Getting rid of “The Negative Voice” that interrupts your process to tell you that you can’t have something, that it’s crazy, too risky. You must get rid of The Negative Voice.

If you can’t, at least leave it in the parking lot while you go inside.

Instead, The Positive Voice is the one you want to cultivate, the voice that says, “What if?” and then prods you to push beyond your own current thinking. This voice is the sidekick to innovation, creativity, and invention.

2. Thinking that you have to have a whole bunch of people to help set the vision or strategy. In the name of good intentions, inclusion and shared governance, this emerges as a big mess. Everyone is not in on this process, nor should they be.

Layers of people in your organization have a role to play in carrying out the vision and mission, but they do not set it. You set the vision for your scope of responsibility.

Taking time to do the individual, reflective work is essential before you bring in others to brainstorm with you. What generally happens, however, is that a leader starts to get signs of a rudderless journey and thinks, “We should probably do some strategic planning or something,” which may or may not result in your desired outcomes.

The handoff is how you, as a leader, help craft the transition to the process of executing your Strategic Vision.

The Handoff involves 3 steps:

1. Framing and Language

Many a great vision has died in someone’s head. People who are visionaries must be able to get their brilliant ideas out of the creative parts of the brain and into articulated language.

There are lots of ways to do this: writing, talking, or a combination thereof, but the point is you must be able to use language to convey your vision. This is not only important in the first stage but throughout. 

2. Roll-out and Translate

You and your team of executives or other top leaders in the organization create the message for the roll-out of the vision and the strategy. This is the part where you help people really see themselves in the big picture, important because you want to proactively remove any obstacles to buy-in, to commitment, or to getting on board.

3. Carry the Flag

Continually enforce and reinforce movement toward the vision and fulfillment of the strategy—because you, as the leader, were the one who came up with this vision in the first place. It’s not the easiest part, although it might be the simplest.

When you shift your focus from the big vision, and you drift from it, your group follows.

So a clearly articulated vision helps your team focus on what’s important and offers them a compass by which to navigate their daily decisions and tasks.

Once you’ve articulated your vision, to yourself and to your teams, then you can truly begin to do the work you always intended. Get started by dreaming big!

Image: Fellowship of the Rich via Flickr, Creative Commons

Libby Wagner, Libby Wagner & Associates, is one of only a handful of published poets regularly welcomed into the boardroom. Author of the new book The Influencing Option: The Art of Building a Profit Culture in Business (Global Professional Publishing), she has been labeled The Influencing Coach™ by her clients. Her expertise in leadership, strategy, management, and executive team development helps organizations create environments where clarity and increased trust lead to unrivaled results, shaping such Fortune 500 cultures as Boeing, Nike, Philips and Costco. For more info, visit www.influencingoptions.com.

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