“Imagine a tomorrow compelling enough to guide your choices today.”
Thinking about vision in the context of business can feel abstract and fuzzy.
Can you relate?
If so, you need to make space and devote time to clarifying your vision, i.e. your picture of the future. Here’s why:
If you don’t have a clear understanding of the future you desire to create or the direction you’re leading your team, it’s going to be harder to win. Things are going to be more frustrating, more exhausting, and you’ll waste valuable energy and resources in the process.
That’s the collateral damage of not having a clear vision.
Vision Is Often One Of The Most Overlooked Parts of the Business
The reason so many leaders struggle to articulate their vision is because they don’t slow down long enough to create it OR they don’t know how to clearly define it.
In The Vision Driven Leader, Michal Hyatt illustrates why vision is an essential ingredient for a successful leader. Yes, you need a mission statement, strong culture, and a plan, but vision frames and directs these things.
Let’s define vision.
Hyatt calls it “a clear, inspiring, practical, and attractive picture of your organization’s future.” In other words, vision is a vivid picture of a future worth working toward and how your organization is going to create it.
Your vision needs to be big and bold enough to inspire the imagination and the heart and concrete enough that you can make plans and people-decisions around it.
For example, let’s say that your company’s vision for the future is to improve environmental and human health by reducing plastic waste with eco-friendly, compostable garbage bags. That’s a great start toward defining a compelling view of the future.
Now let’s take it further. Because vision can help you win in the market, but only if you take the time to put skin on it.
Here’s why refining and clarifying your vision further, aka putting skin on it, is so important:
- Vision moves you forward – faster.
- Vision unifies, builds confidence and reduces stress.
- Vision allows you to find the right opportunities and teammates.
Vision Moves You Forward - Faster
When you know the why behind what you’re working toward, it motivates you and your team to head in same direction.
Take Spotify, for example.
Spotify entered the online music streaming industry back in 2008 with a vision to create a frictionless listening experience. Prior to Spotify, you’d have to pay for each song or album you wanted to download. And that wasn’t really ideal for music lovers or for someone who wanted to explore and listen to new artists and songs.
Spotify knew right away that this was a problem and that they wanted to be the company to change it and give control to listeners – and that’s exactly what they did.
In just over 12 years, Spotify has built a $20 billion business AND changed how the world listens to music.
The company, as cited by Dejan Gajsek in his 2020 case study, “has 286 million monthly active users, has users in 79 countries worldwide, owns a catalog of over 50 million songs and adds 40,000 new songs every day.”
Those are impressive stats driven by a clear, this-is-what-we’re-creating vision, which informed everything from their investment in the music platform to being able to attract global listeners in other markets.
Vision Unifies, Builds Confidence, And Reduces Stress
The unifying power of vision is a shared focus and purpose that provides strategic direction, guidance for your team, and reduces the need to micromanage.
When people know why they’re doing something and what future they’re helping to create, it’s easier to set them free to implement it. Unification around purpose and autonomy to achieve it is a powerful combination – and creates fertile soil for confidence to grow.
This reminds me of the famous story of the NASA janitor who, when asked what he did at NASA by John F. Kennedy in 1961, said, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”
Your people need to believe in your vision as much as you do and know how they contribute to it. When that happens, they take ownership of making the vision a reality, too.
Vision Allows You To Find The Right Opportunities And Teammates
As an entrepreneur, you need to be able to differentiate opportunities from distractions because you don’t have the resources or bandwidth to do it all. A clear vision helps you filter what opportunities to pursue and who you need on the team to take advantage of them.
In the absence of a clear vision, distractions often masquerade as opportunities. If you aren’t clear on your direction, then you’re just wandering. At best, wandering is distracting. At worse, it will cause you to become hopelessly lost.
Listen to Michael Hyatt share his experience with distraction and its negative impact on his first business in this interview.
Don't Be A "Vision-Deficient" Leader
One of my favorite parts of The Vision Driven Leader is Hyatt’s section on vision-deficit leadership. It shows what’s at stake for leaders, their people, and their businesses if they continue to operate without a vision, i.e.:
- You won’t be prepared for the future.
- You’ll miss out on the golden opportunities (because you won’t recognize them).
- You’ll waste money, time and talent.
- You’ll add unnecessary stress to your team’s plate.
- You’ll fail to gain the strategic momentum you want.
Start Developing Your Winning Vision Today
Go beyond a single-sentence view of the future by writing a vision statement for a date in the future (five years is a usually a good time horizon to start with). This statement will include the specifics you’ll share with your team and other key stakeholders.
To define your future vision, start by asking yourself:
- What are we driven to change or achieve as an organization?
- What problems do we want to solve in the next few years?
- What impact does this make on lives and in the market?
- Where do we want to go as an organization?
- What will we accomplish in the next five years?
If you’re struggling to make your answers tangible, ask these additional questions to breathe life into your vision:
- What do you want and why does it matter? Paint a picture of the business you’re creating. Think about:
- The team you want and how you’ll work together.
- The products and services you’ll offer, the results they’ll create, and how they’ll make your customers feel.
- Who you want to be in the marketplace.
- Your winning approach of how you’ll go to market.
- The impact you want to make.
- Use Michael Hyatt’s 4-point check to ensure your statement is powerful by asking:
- Is it clear?
- Is it inspiring?
- Is it practical?
- Is it sellable?
- Identify any parts of your vision that feel unclear or fuzzy and ask for feedback from your mentors, colleagues, employees, etc.
- If you’re having trouble visualizing the future, imagine you’re being featured on the news. What are you and your company being recognized for? What would you be proud to have said about you?