I learned a valuable lesson today about vision and leadership. A vision is easy to see in your mind but hard to communicate to someone, and even harder for that someone to execute exactly how you “saw it.” It could be a company vision, a vision about your families living situation, or how you visualize yourself in 5 years.
Think about a simple statement: “Be Prepared for Tomorrow.” So simple, so genius. You type it up, print it out, and put this simple statement all over your office. You’re confident that when people read it, they will react and shape right up – because preparation is an opportunity your organization currently has. You go back to your desk and kick your feet up because you just solved the issue of preparation within your organization. You told people to be prepared!
What do people see on the other end? A statement they may not understand. Understanding it would mean that they had a fix for this preparation issue and they will jump on it and fix it now. They just needed to be reminded to be prepared. But no, that’s not how it works. People require more context than that. They need to be connected to what prepared looks like to them and, most important, what prepared looks like to the original author of the statement.
Right now my backyard is nothing more than grass. So let’s say that I had a vision for a lush backyard with a pool, cabana bath, outdoor shower, grill area, and tons of trees and shade. My backyard paradise. I wouldn’t hire a contractor and tell them on the first day of construction “make my backyard awesome! See ya!” No. No no no no. The contractor and I would sit down and talk about what I wanted, how I wanted it to look and feel, different finishes and patterns, placement of the trees and shrubs, etc. We would spend tons of time planning it out, drawing blueprints, and confirming it was exactly what I wanted (well, exactly how my wife wants it done). I would be there during construction just to make sure that what we planned out was actually happening and I would sign off on the finished product once everything is done.
So why is it that vision and leadership can sometimes be reduced down to a single statement like “Be Prepared for Tomorrow”? It’s because you think people “get it” and that they are thinking just like you are Mr. Visionary. If this is you, you’re probably doing too many things and not willing to spend the required amount of time on the blueprints of your vision. Common curse of a business owner or leader.
Take it from me, someone who has learned many lessons in leadership while doing my best to manage a vision that I have – focus sharply on the details of your vision. You want to lead people? Assume from the start that you have to explain everything. Confirm that your team “gets it” and then watch them in action while providing feedback/coaching. Once you see that all the pieces are coming together and your vision is being fulfilled, you can sign off on that project and start thinking about the next piece of your vision!