Here’s how to create a strong vision that moves your business forward fast. These 6-guidelines will increase employee engagement and get every leader moving in the right direction.
1. Ask the right question.
When a business is trying to come up with a vision, usually the question is, “Where is the business going in 5-years?” That’s where the trouble begins. Discussions often turn into a long debate, and alignment is difficult if not impossible. If you’re seeking alignment, and you should be, at your next strategy meeting try a different approach. Ask the question, What does the business want in five years? That question is easy because as humans we have been programmed to answer “What do you want?” since we were children. I want this… I want that… Applying the question to a business is just as easy: The business wants more money. The business wants to be more efficient. The business wants its people to be engaged. Once you figure out what the business wants, what you have really done is created a roadmap for where the business is going. You’ve simply described the vision in a new way by asking the question differently.
2. Make it about more than money.
The destination will be an uphill battle if money is your vision. In fact, making the vision money will actually disengage employees and slow your business down. In today’s society, the topic of money for most people creates a sense of anxiety, fear, and shame. Very few people in this world, if any, are emotionally moved by a business whose vision is to make money. In fact, when money becomes the vision, people subconsciously detach themselves from the business emotionally as a means of protection. The last thing you want anyone in your business to do is emotionally detach themselves. Yes, you’re in business to make money, but money should always remain the outcome and not the destination.
3. Make it sustainable.
I’m talking about sustainable performance. When you determine where the business is going, you need to make sure the path to the destination can—and does—hold up for the long-term. If it’s not sustainable, you’re going to fuel sabotaging thoughts and emotions, a lack of trust, and a tremendous resistance to change going forward with anything you do. People will make the joke that anything new in your business is just the “flavor of the month.” Yes, our world is full of change, and you need to be adaptable and flexible to keep up with the competition, and in terms of strategy, that’s great. But when it comes to the vision and purpose of your business, you never want a moving target.
4. Make it about people and the world.
If the vision and purpose of your business lacks humanity, you can forget about engagement and a healthy culture. Healthy, productive energy is magnified when people are contributing to something greater than themselves and taking care of our world along the way. People are driven to work for a business that cares about the world as much as they do. People want to work hard for and be loyal to a business with practices that mitigate and clean up harm to our environment. A piece of your vision and purpose needs to be about creating solutions for a better world, a healthier humanity. In the future, if your vision and purpose doesn’t include humanity and the world, people will leave to work somewhere else regardless of money, and customers will stop buying your products and services.
5. Make it bold but attainable.
People are energized by a bold business vision and purpose. Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, said it best when he introduced the world to the BHAG—Big Hairy Audacious Goals. You want your vision and purpose to be big, but yet attainable. It doesn’t matter how aspirational and inspiring your vision and purpose is; if the destination seems too far out of reach people will become demotivated. Another word of caution: A big piece of attainability is whether leaders are able to “walk the talk.” If you’re not 100-percent confident that your leaders can live up to a vision and purpose that includes taking care of humanity, keeping a sustainable focus, and making the destination about more than money, first make sure the business is taking the time to develop high-character leaders. It’s very difficult to attain a vision if your leaders aren’t functional.
6. Keep it simple.
When you develop your vision, use real language that everyone understands rather than “corporate speak”. Seriously, throw out the binder of terms you had to create because of made-up business jargon. If the fancy words you use are not technical terms having to do with products and services, get rid of them. I’m talking about terms like foundational excellence, cultural efficiencies, communicative leadership, and operational effectiveness. When people outside of management see “corporate speak” here’s what they say when you’re not looking: “What the hell does that mean? What do they want me to do? Cultural what? Excellent what? Yeah, I have no idea. I’m just going to keep doing what I always do until someone says something.” If it’s not simple, it gets you nowhere fast.
Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Email Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter.