Leaders casting vision often have an internal sense of what is needed. They size up an organization, see possibilities, and cast a vision. Whether their passion is to close a gap, fill a need, or expand to new heights; the leader sees what can be achieved and sets goals based on this. The vision makes the invisible thought a “picture” of what, with work and heart, can become visible. The team and the leader work together to “fill in” and “color” the picture. At times parts of the drawing get erased and redrawn. However, bringing a vision to light is about developing concrete shape, depth, and reality to parts that make up the whole.
This is why the team needs more from the leader than “just the vision” shared at some annual meeting. Leaders are often on the move, have 1000 ideas, and move quickly to what they intuitively know needs to happen. They feel the vision is clear because it is clear in their mind. They struggle to understand why the team says “What is the vision?” or “I understand the vision but what does that mean? What are we doing?”
Leaders casting vision need to better cast the vision AND help the team bring it to reality, the following steps are useful:
- Document a Clear Vision Statement. Share the vision, including “why” it matters, as a digestible statement that can be written, shared, and repeated. Make it memorable so people easily repeat it and come back to it.
- Discuss the Vision. After sharing the vision and the purpose (why). Create space for people to ask questions or ask them how they might see achieving it. This helps to enroll your team in the vision as well as better understand where you are in alignment versus where there might be gaps.
- Check-in along the way. Create milestones to check in and ask questions like: How is it going? Are we on track? Where are we off track? What is working? What is not? Also in this time share your perspective of where things are on track or where they need more attention. The team is a big part of making a vision come together so if they don’t understand it or are struggling with clarity, you want to provide an opportunity to discuss and clarify.
- Make Adjustments. Where things are not working, explore why and make adjustments. This is not about abandoning the vision and changing direction. It is about reviewing the vision, focus, and actions needed. Often the team needs more definition, structure, and systems as they work to implement a vision. They want more information from the leader, which the leader often feels has already been shared but regular repetition helps the team to see the vision as they work at it.
- Affirm what is right. Where is the team getting the vision and headed the right way? Notice, affirm, and recognize it. It helps to affirm and connect the dots between the idea shared and the tangible steps taken. It can be challenging to implement and execute the vision and a great leader is generous with feedback to help support and champion actions, steps, and achievement that supports the vision.
As a leader, there are many different versions of the vision that come up along the way. It can get confusing for the team. Clear and regular communication is needed. The vision is truly the art of seeing the invisible, which is the gift of the visionary. The challenge, however, is taking the time and investing the effort and conversations to help the team see the same vision. Team members often think on the level of detail and order, while the visionary carries the big picture. A leader must be willing to lay out baby steps, reiterate the vision, and coach his team along the way. This process doesn’t mean the team was not listening or doesn’t understand, they just need more information to help bring the next stage to light. Frequent communication (weekly, monthly), regular check-ins, and team encouragement will help and support everyone to bring to reality the vision that started in the mind of the leader.