Published Date: 06/23/2014
By Linda Taylor
When business people discuss the need for better leadership, the issue of vision inevitably comes up. Sometimes we share a visualization technique with audiences describing what happens when vision is not clear. The facilitator asks everyone to close his eyes and imagine themselves driving to work on the highway in the morning. When asked to describe what they are doing, they say they have their cruise control set at 75 MPH, are listening to rock, country or talk radio, drinking coffee, and talking on the phone. Basically, they are making progress toward their destination.
When the facilitator describes the appearance of a sudden fog bank, he asks the class how they’ll react to the fact that visibility is suddenly cut drastically. Most people report slowing down, turning on their headlights, switching off the music, putting down their coffee cup and phone and even leaning forward in an effort to see better. As long as the fog remains thick and visibility is limited, people creep along warily gripping the steering wheel hard because they are unsure what is ahead.
Finally, the facilitator announces that the fog has lifted and people immediately relax, resume their speed and begin moving forward at full speed again. This exercise illustrates something similar to what happens in an organization when the path forward is unclear. People tend to withdraw and avoid risks; some stop moving forward altogether.
If a leader is able to paint a mental picture of the future for employees, they are more likely to forge ahead toward the goal. Even if they’ve never been to a particular place before, people can envision themselves achieving the goal by imagining a compelling vision. So, it is critical for leaders to be able to describe a positive future state that people can “see.”
Many unknowns lie ahead – how we will fare against global competition, how we’ll integrate workers raised in the tech era with those who were not, and how we’ll meld our cultural differences to make the most of everyone’s skills and experience. But, one thing is certain. When a leader can articulate a clear vision for the future, followers get onboard.
Some leaders may discount their own ability, believing they must be extraordinarily articulate to be heard. While great oratory talent may be helpful, it is more important to have a compelling message. Think of social media messages that have been sent out describing a vision and as a result people have rallied to accomplish great things. The messages were not fancy, but they were compelling. (They may not have been full sentences!)
The same thing happens in a corporate environment. Recently, I became acquainted with some of the employees of The Bull City Burger and Brewery. What struck me was how each person knew the owner’s vision and was 100 percent dedicated to it. What’s the vision? “Eat Pasture-Raised Beef and Drink Freshly Brewed Beer.” Now, that may not change the world, but it has a tremendous impact on how the employees approach their jobs. Letting people know what the business is all about has resulted in Bull City Burger and Brewery’s ability to attract and retain great employees. They know the vision and they believe in it. This has had a favorable impact on the company’s bottom line.
If you’d like to learn more about how YOU can inspire your employees to have a positive vision for the future, consider enrolling in our The Leadership Challenge® Workshop. Classes are scheduled on August 5 and 6 in Raleigh and September 11 and 12 in Greensboro. For more information, go to http://j.mp/LC-CA.