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Vision is one of the most important things for companies and leaders. However, for most employees it seems to be very abstract and without any practical implications. So why is vision important and how can we create one?
All great things begin with a vision. This seems to be common knowledge which is being upheld throughout history. Napoleon saw himself being emperor of Europe, Columbus envisioned a shorter route to India and Kennedy had dreams of humans in space. Unfortunately there is a reason we do not speak French throughout Europe, we discovered a new continent instead of a route, and the Soviets were the first to send a man into space.
So were the visions all for nothing?
No, and that is exactly the important lesson that businesses should learn. Because in striving after these visions, each and every one of these examples accomplished great things. Napoleon is regarded as a strategic mastermind and in some sense the father of modern Europe, Columbus discovered a new and fruitful continent (with a dark history thereafter) which grew out to be a world superpower, and the Neil Armstrong set foot on the earth only eight years after Yuri Gargarin’s first trip in outer space. So in this blog we will describe what vision is, why it is important and how you can develop a better vision.
What is vision?
Vision in its widest sense is to be able to picture or imagine a situation, product or environment in the future. It is the skill to be able to look past daily obstacles and practical objections to imagine oneself how a situation in the future can look like. In some sense vision therefore collides with realism as you need to be able to ‘turn off’ your practical objections and freely imagine something new. A vision is often not realized in the short-term, but it is something realized in the very-very long term (if it can be realized at all). It is important to realize that a vision is not something final, it is a never ending objective which constantly develops according to the state of your organisation.
Ask each and every business student what the main pillars are of starting a company and they will tell you that it all begins with a vision (the why), mission (the what) and a strategy (the how). In this sense the vision is your starting point, your reason of existence, the ultimate dot on the horizon. It ultimately needs to answer why your company matters, why your employees are putting forward their best each and every day and what ultimately is your dream to contribute to this world. It is often somewhat vague, most likely cannot be achieved in one lifetime, and often tries to fix some of the bigger problems in life. Examples include “to provide access to the world’s information in one click” (Google), “to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online”(Amazon), and “to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential” (Microsoft).
Leadership and vision
Besides corporate vision it is also very important for C-level officers, managers and team leaders to be able to have a vision to a certain degree. It is important for them to be able to translate vision to employees and make them understand why what they are doing matters. They need to be able to take the corporate vision and translate that to their department and values. Definitely in a society such as here in Sweden, where people are more and more motivated by esteem and self-actualization (read more about that here), it is increasingly important to be able to translate vision to your employees and team members. This identification is crucial to stay motivated and to get the most out of your employees. Besides Napoleon himself, the French would-be-emperor had great visionaries and motivators by his side such as: Jean-de-Dieu Soult, Joachim Murat and Michel Ney, which were imperative for continuously translating Napoleon’s vision and motivating their troops.
Why does it matter?
A good vision works as a compass for your employees, as a guidance towards a goal. It brings them together in their values and their belief. It motivates them beyond just a pay check, it gives purpose and meaning. Think about it this way: if you have a job creating lines of code every day, but you have no idea what for, it might seem quite meaningless. However, if you have that same job and you know that you are part of a larger organisation which upholds the backend infrastructure of your country’s national health services with the vision of delivering world-wide health service, then it might seem like a much more meaningful job (definitely in these times of COVID-19). Visions connect people in this sense as they all have more or less the same goal. This transforms your employees from colleagues to team-players.
How can you develop a better vision?
The first key to vision was already mentioned: it is never a solid state, but it is in constant development. The world around us changes all the time and therefore our visions of the future for our companies as well. Furthermore vision is not only a written down statement. For many people a vision is too abstract and intangible. Therefore you need to break a vision down in a culture, with values, habits and customs so people can identify with it. Hold culture sessions to break down the different values, what they mean and how they connect to your vision. Make sure that everybody understands the vision and the underlying values and identify those with real-life business results in meetings. Show how progress is being made towards your vision so that people will understand that you are still on the right path. Last but not least, you need to be open to input from your employees on your vision. After all, you are trying to bring people together and make them work towards a common cause, so you should at least hear what they have to say and who knows; they might surprise you and show you a better way.
Want to read more in-depth what a vision is and how it evolves? Read this article from Larry Lashway. Or would you want to learn more on how a good vision can make you stand out from the competition? Listen to this presentation of Simon Sinek. Or are you perhaps looking for help to create a better vision, culture and values? Get in touch with us and see how we can help you to get the vision which gives you the brighter future.