Vision is the big-picture view of the future your organization is here to create. Setting the vision is a core responsibility of a leader. As Jim Collins said, an effective leader “catalyzes commitment to and vigorous pursuit of a clear and compelling vision, stimulating higher performance standards.”
Creating and communicating vision to engage and inspire the organization is essential to leadership success.
John Kotter states that the role of a leader is to “define what the future should look like, align people with that vision and inspire them to make it happen despite the obstacles.” A compelling vision of the organization’s bright future keeps people from obsessing over present-day obstacles or getting stuck in the past.
A vision statement represents an organization’s highest ambitions. It describes a future state and is inherently aspirational, creating a picture of what the organization wants to become.
Whether you are setting vision for the first time or refining it, here are the six steps to make it compelling:
- Gather the right people. Who are the core stakeholders that understand the organization and its dreams for the future? The more homogeneous the group, the more rapidly you can complete the exercise. The more diverse the group, the greater perspective you will have and the more comprehensive your vision. Perhaps it’s just the leader following these steps or maybe it’s the leadership team. The people involved in setting vision need to be deeply connected to the ethos of the organization.
- Dream and tell stories. Vision is timeless and transcends the status quo. There are many facilitating approaches, including appreciative inquiry, that are beneficial to create a structure for the discussion. Share the answer to questions like, what do we want our company to mean for us, our employees, our clients or customers, and our community? What will the world look like and benefit from because of the work we do? And more specifically:
- What problem are we solving for the greater good?
- Who and what are we inspiring to change?
- What are our hopes and dreams?
- Document it. What are the words that resonate and are juicy? Capture them. Write out a vision statement that is authentic and inspires action. Rewrite it five to seven different ways. Then relook at the nuances and identify the one that is compelling to the entire group.
- Evaluate it. Vision is useless unless it can direct action. Ask for feedback. Does the vision meet the criteria of Clear, Concise, Credible, Future-focused, Idealistic, Inspiring, Meaningful, and Memorable? What can be improved? Find out the impact and inspiration level for each person who reads the statement. Are there words that create confusion or mean different things to different people?
- Refine it. Take the feedback and reflect it in an updated statement that attracts commitment and energizes people, creates meaning in workers’ lives, establishes a standard of excellence, bridges the present to the future, and transcends the status quo.
- Live it. A compelling vision statement is the starting place for strategy. It’s a north star that guides and directs action.
All leaders have the capacity to create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place, and the ability to translate that vision into reality. – Warren Bennis