How Vision is Caught and Taught

Creating a clear, compelling vision as we discussed in last week’s Tip is only the beginning. Communicating it in a way that matters to and motivates your team is an essential part of your role as a team leader, even if you weren’t the one to set the overarching vision.

You are responsible to generate a commitment to the vision by inspiring your team to believe in it, commit to it, internalize it and pass it on to others. If you can’t effectively communicate your company vision to your employees, you’ll never be able to reach it.

A carefully crafted vision is designed to be easy to remember and meaningful enough that people want to talk about it. But don’t assume that once you’ve explained the vision at a launch event, everyone has now ‘got it’. If they don’t hear about it again, they will either forget about it or decide you didn’t mean it! You need to keep describing it, using lots of different channels (speeches, newsletters, social media, inter-company communication, one-on-one conversations) until it becomes part of your organization’s culture and woven into ‘how we do things around here’. Remember, it is impossible to over-communicate vision!

Humans understand complex ideas better as stories, so engage others by telling the story of why the vision matters to you.  Sharing stories creates a powerful connection between individuals, and between individuals and ideas. When you tell a good story, you give life to a vision. Plus, people find it easier to remember and repeat a story than to talk about a vision statement!

Conveying the personal importance of the vision also creates an emotional appeal, which is a much more powerful motivator than intellect or logic. Appealing to the emotions is how you get buy-in, and how you can shift your team member’s response from “I have to,” to “I want to.” Learn how to incorporate “impassioned logic” by using metaphors, stories, or examples that illustrate what success looks like and rouse your team’s emotions to make it happen.

Here are 4 other key elements for effectively communicating vision:

  1. Who are you addressing? Target your message by considering your audience. The team in marketing has different needs, concerns and motivators than the IT team. As a leader, you are responsible for translating the same vision into different messages that each team will connect with and respond to. CAUTION: the core of the vision needs to be consistent so that no one gets confused, the way you communicate gets targeted to ensure understanding.
  1. How are you embodying the vision? If you are talking about the organization being agile and responsive to change and there are 47 approval steps to get something simple done, then your words and actions are in conflict and people will believe what they see before they believe what you say. What needs to change so your people can “catch” the vision from what they observe?  
  1. What does the vision encompass and how will it be put into action? A vision answers the question of where your organization is going (future state) without describing how it will become that. Address any questions and concerns to the best of your ability, then connect the vision with your annual operational plan (goals) so your team understands how what they are doing moves them toward that future. What measurable actions will pave a way toward the vision that the team can actually see?
  1. What’s in it for me (WIIFM)? A list of general benefits (improved customer satisfaction, better ROI, etc.) is great for the organization but too removed to feel personally motivating. Make it meaningful by highlighting the benefits at the individual level. Give your team members a reason to feel proud and invested. What are their strengths, and how will their contributions move them forward? What will success look like for them?

When all team members know, understand, and believe in your company’s vision and what it will take to bring this vision to life, it provides the direction and guidance they need to bring success to your organization. And when your team understands not just where they’re going, but what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, they’ll be more productive, efficient, and satisfied in their role with your company. That’s the value of vision.

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