By Dr. Robert P. Hewes, Senior Partner, Camden Consulting Group
How to become a better leader? There are many ways to go about it. A good place to start is a specific leadership competency focused on the big picture of what you do. Start at the beginning with visioning—where are you going? Great leaders are able to paint a compelling vision. They know where they are going and then they work to get there. They motivate others to do the same. And, finally, they use it to guide work and make choices about activity. Sounds simple, but in practice, it is anything but that.
Why is this important? Over time, you face many choices about where you and your group spend time. How do you make those choices? Also, people need to understand the what and why of where they are going. Maybe not everyone, but most do want to know the context. Your vision is the context—specifically and exactly.
Covering the Objections
Before describing how to go about creating an effective shared vision that you will use, let’s cover a few objections. Why do this? Think about this counterexample: Imagine if you were doing a home renovation. Would you ever embark on such a huge personal project without a vision of what you wanted? You’d be nuts! In fact, you’d have an extensive vision of what you wanted and what you wanted it to look like. You’d describe a future use, many neat features, and so on. Do the same with a vision of your organization and work. You spend so much time at work that it is important to have a clear picture of where you are headed.
Another key point is that you, yes, you should have a vision no matter where you sit in an organization. One might think, “Hey, this vision stuff is just for the top managers in our organization, maybe even just the CEO.” Not! No matter where you sit, you need a vision for your area. It should align to an overall vision, but nonetheless, you need one.
Another issue is that working on a vision can seem like one of “those” activities. “Can we just get on with what we need to do?” is an often-heard refrain. In the short term, it might be fine to operate like that without a vision. But eventually, people want to know why they are doing what they are doing. You simply can’t avoid having a picture of where things are headed. As a coach, I recommend getting in front of this.
3 Central Ideas
Here are three central ideas to visioning that you can put into practice to become a better leader.
Creating a Vision
So, where to start on creating a vision? Take a step back and see the bigger picture. Describe the “what” and “why” for your area. Don’t get tied up in the how. Start with the goals and activity of your group. Many times, you can start with things right in front of you. You don’t need to start with a blank sheet of paper. Describe what you are doing. Describe where you are going. Answer the vision questions:
Next, think forwardly: It is one year from now—where do want to be? A final activity is to test it with other people. Talk it through with others. Identify what is clear and what isn’t. In the end, develop the ability to describe your vision in 30 seconds (the classic elevator pitch), three minutes, or 10 minutes depending on the need. I recommend writing it down. It should be short, pithy, and, most importantly, instantly understandable. It causes others your group interacts with including customers to say quickly, “I see it” or “I get it.”
Make It a Shared Vision
The vision should not be something that stays in only your head. In fact, it can’t just stay in your head. A powerful vision can’t be held by just one person. Others should talk about it and believe in it as much as—if not more than—you do. A leader makes it a shared vision. This is a critical leadership point as this will not happen without effort. A key test is to see that others understand it and communicate with it. If people are describing something different, it is not yet a shared, coherent vision. A leader addresses this and works to have it be shared and coherent. One excellent way to create a shared vision is to think about it being shared from the beginning. Involve others in creating the vision. Another action is to have people in your group communicate with and about the vision. A third technique is to identify the different forums in which you can socialize it. There are many forums and methods; you need to be creative to choose what works best in your organization or business. This takes time, but a shared understanding builds over time if you are diligent in this second step.
Your vision should not just sit there. Heck, with the work it takes to create a descriptive, compelling shared vision, you should want to use it! Many times, however, this step is missed. If a vision were just a description and it ended there, this would be just an exercise. Ultimately, you and your group have results to achieve. The opportunity is to put your vision to work by using it to motivate and make choices. Regularly check that your work and that of your area is in the vision’s direction. If activity is not aligned appropriately, make adjustments. This provides an excellent way to ask some big picture questions about all the work that is being done. Be disciplined about checking the alignment.
Creating and using a shared vision puts you on the path of becoming a better leader. Developing the skill of having a compelling vision will powerfully guide your efforts and motivate those around you. Don’t let any more time go by without having a vision for what you do. The future doesn’t wait. So, put these ideas into practice to shape your future.
Dr. Robert Hewes is a senior partner with Camden Consulting Group, with oversight for leadership development, coaching, and management training. A strategist, facilitator, and executive coach, he designs and delivers executive coaching and leadership development services and programs for Camden clients across many industries. He has deep experience in helping clients with strategy, decision-making, and achieving results.
Headquartered in Boston, MA, Camden Consulting Group (http://www.camdenconsulting.com) is a consulting firm that provides focused, practical, customized, and integrated human capital management, leadership development, executive coaching, and training services to organizations and their employees..