Three Steps to Inspiring Vision in Your Team

Vision sustains an organization, and inspiring vision is a critical part of leadership. When vision falters, the organization loses focus and can wander from its original path. If your team loses their vision, they can lose passion and enthusiasm for their work. Even worse, if a team or organization has never had an inspired vision, they have been wandering with neither direction nor meaning for their work.

In leadership, the value of inspiring vision cannot be overstated. Time and time again I will mention the importance of inspiring vision because it is crucial that leaders, teams, and organizations be purposeful in maintaining a solid vision. However, it is common that a team can lose or outgrow its vision. Sometimes a vision needs to be re-envisioned, re-purposed, or reinvented.

The process of re-imagining your vision is so important that I have dedicated this post to three steps on how to inspire your vision back into your team (or inspiring your vision for the first time).

1. Stop everything

It is vitally important that you fix this, and that might mean stopping everything. In his book Creativity, Inc., Edwin Catmull describes a vitally important measure that Pixar had to take: they closed their campus for an entire day and paid their staff to attend a workshop that would design their corporate vision for the future. In order to get Pixar’s staff on the same vision, they stopped everything and made that vision their number one priority.

Starbucks did something similar in 2008. Business Insider has a great article about how Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz turned the company around. One of the ways he did that was by closing every Starbucks store in order to retrain their staff. The purpose was to rediscover Starbucks’ vision for perfection. According to this article, this cost Starbucks over $6 million, but it was worth it to perfect the vision that would make Starbucks excellent. This is a good example of how vision and excellence go hand-in-hand.

If your team has lost its vision, it is imperative that you, as a leader, make regaining that vision a number one priority. Stop everything and make vision your focus.

2. Dare to dream

If you were a Canadian hockey fan in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you probably remember the Kokanee beer commercials featuring the Sasquatch (if you haven’t seen these, I highly recommend them). One such commercial is firmly imprinted in my memory. For those who don’t know, these commercials feature a forest ranger and his assistant, Arnold, who protect the Kokanee Glacier from the Sasquatch. In this commercial, the ranger hires three beautiful women to help protect the glacier from the Sasquatch. Arnold turns to the ranger and says, “But I thought the Sasquatch wasn’t real.” The ranger’s classic response was simple: “Dare to dream, Arnold. Dare to dream.”

When it comes to your vision, you have to dare to dream. The grander the vision, the greater the accomplishment. There are a few ways to produce such a vision.

  1. Corporate vision. The case of Edwin Catmull and the Pixar vision seminar is a classic example of this tactic. The Pixar organization engaged their entire staff, from their accountants to their executive, to produce a corporate vision that included participation from their entire staff.
  2. Team vision. I worked with an organization that saw a marked decrease in enthusiasm and ownership in their team (I’ve written a separate article on ownership). It was decided that the problem was in the communication of the vision to the team; they forgot why they did what they did. This particular organization decided to create a team vision that would reinvigorate the team. To do so they took a select number of trusted team members — in their case six — and together we created a vision for the rest of the team to follow.
  3. Personal vision. If you are an entrepreneur, chances are that you have a vision that you want to realize. This is not a vision that you have created with others; it is yours. It is perfectly acceptable to use your personal vision as the head of a team.

Regardless of whether your vision is the result of corporate consultations, a small team brainstorm, or your own brain child, the creation of your vision is only the first step (steps on creating this vision will be discussed in a later post). Now you have to communicate that vision.

3. Insane communication

A vision is only a picture in your head if nobody else can see it.

That means that once you have your vision established, you have to sell it, and not to your customers. Before anything else, you have to sell your vision to your team.

If you are an executive, that would mean selling it to your executive team. At you’re at a lower level of leadership, that could mean selling it to your own team, or even to your peers. If you want someone else to carry that vision, they need to  be sold on it. I have a couple tips for the initial sale of your vision.

  1. Keep it simple. If you over-complicate your vision, you will kill it before it has a chance to take root. There will be plenty of time to go over the intricacies and the individual steps to success later. But to inspire vision, keep it simple.
  2. Focus on the why, not the how. Another way to put it is focus on the result, not the process. Again, you will have many opportunities to lay out your fifty-step plan to achieving your vision, but people don’t buy into a vision because they love the idea of the process; they own a vision because they desire the end result.
  3. Make it personal. People are, deep down, selfish creatures, and the question burning in the back of our minds is, “What’s in it for me?” We will all deny that, of course, and sometimes we aren’t even aware that we’re thinking it, but there is a selfish lens that we all use. So make it personal. Tell your team exactly what the realization of your vision will produce for them, personally. Will stakeholders get a financial return? Will staff be able to be a part of a revolutionary industry that changes the way the world works? Can the volunteers at your non-profit be able to change lives? The more people you are selling your vision to the harder it is to make it personal, but at the end of the day, you want your team to have a personal stake in the realization of your vision.
  4. Be realistic. Don’t try to sell anyone a unicorn. Your vision is going to take a lot of hard work to realize. It will probably call for a lot of sacrifice, both in time and money. Be realistic with your team. Let them know that it will be tough. Give them a taste of what is to come. If you sow your vision in reality, your team won’t be surprised when things get tough a month down the road. There won’t be a mob at your door complaining that it’s too hard. They need to know exactly what they’re getting themselves into. And they need to know that it is all going to be worth it.

Speaking of realistic, it is not an easy thing to sell your vision. But it is necessary, and it will be worth it when your team buys into it.

Communication does not end when the vision is sold. You will need to be in constant communication with your team to ensure that your vision does not die. Remind your team regularly about why you’re doing what you’re doing. That vision will empower everyone.

Dynamic lessons

Are you, your team, or your organization struggling with maintaining or developing a vision? The good news is that you’re not alone; thousands, if not millions, of individuals and organizations are going through the same thing. The better news is that there is a solution.

I gave you three simple steps to reinspiring vision in your team and organization:

  1. Stop everything. Vision is vital to your organization’s survival and success. Take the time to get it right.
  2. Dare to dream. This is the time for big dreams and aggressive goals. If you want the comfortable route, get out of leadership.
  3. Insane communication. Once you’ve developed your vision, you have to communicate it. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

If you want more help in developing vision for you or your team, there are resources available for that. I have published a workbook dedicated to helping you develop a personal vision for yourself. To inspire vision in others, first you must inspire vision in yourself.

Have you ever struggled with developing or maintaining a vision? How did you make it work? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

Creating Your Personal Vision

Check out You Can’t Reach What You Can’t See: Developing a Personal Vision for Your Life. This workbook will help you create a vision that will guide your career planning.

Career Planning

Books that influenced this article:

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell

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