I once worked for an organization where, even with an inspiring mission, its inability to convert its vision for the future into concrete reality made going working lackluster and frustrating. The employees had no clear direction for how to bring the vision (and consequently its mission) to life despite knowing their work was important.
Your company might have an aspirational 10-year vision statement. But are you really using it to propel your company forward? Do you have the courage of your convictions to turn that inspiring but abstract collection of words into concrete reality?
Many leaders stumble when it comes to turning any idea into tangible results, and it’s no different with a vision statement. It does take thoughtful intention and attention to bring an idea into physical form. Here are some ways you can do just that:
1. Chunk it down.
Your grand vision might be a 10-year projection, which makes it seem too large and too remote. Make this distant dream easily digestible and immediately relevant to employees by focusing on what you want to do in only the next 2-3 years. Thus, create a shorter-term vision for your current company goals (which tend to go out 18-36 months). By aligning the stepping stones of your overall vision with company goals meant to measure progress toward the vision, you start to connect the dots that allow employees to see how the longer-term vision is becoming reality incrementally.
2. Talk about the vision in all employee gatherings.
Give weight to the long-term vision by referring to it frequently. Whether there are 2 or 2000 employees gathered together, use the company’s long-term vision to remind employees why the topic at hand is relevant or important. This works in weekly meetings, project launches, employee performance review sessions, milestone achievement celebrations, employee recognition gatherings, etc. Referencing the vision when discussing, planning, or reflecting on what has been done helps others to see how the vision influenced and continues to influence decisions, conversations, and physical outcomes.
3. Tell stories.
Tap into our innate love of stories to illustrate ideals, concepts, or principles related to the vision. The stories you use can be timeless parables, “legends” from your company, or actual experiences that have happened to you or other noteworthy individuals and companies. You will find you often can convey an idea better with a story than with a mound of data.
4. Walk Your Talk.
Not much to elaborate on here. Based on the vision (and corresponding goals), start bringing that vision to life by acting on it. Use it to structure how you spend your time and attention. When employees see you altering your actions and attention based on the vision, they see you mean it and are more likely to do so themselves.
5. End interactions with a call to action.
Ask employees to take specific, vision-related action before ending any interaction. You might think that employees should be able to figure this out on their own. Some can. But don’t leave it to chance. Overtly ask employees for what you want them to do next to move the vision forward. And even better – hold them accountable to do so.
Nothing happens just because you think it. That goes for your vision statement, too. To bring your abstract vision to life, you must drop a bread crumb trail from the abstract to the physical for your employees to know how to breathe life into it.
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You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman shows business leaders how to increase productivity and retention with their employees focused on the daily tactical work, so they can focus on the strategic work required to move their businesses forward. Learn more about her company Firebrand Consulting LLC at: firebrandconsultingllc.com.