Imagine sitting down with one of the greatest visionaries of all time and hearing their idea of what the future holds. What would it be like to sit with them? Would you be able to start to get a clear picture of where they’re headed within the first few minutes? Would it take longer? What kind of details would they use? Could you see the lands that great explorers dreamed of? Hear the music a great composer was forming in their mind? Smell the aroma of a new large coffee chain? Taste what a restaurateur was describing in detail for their next dish? This is what it’s like to truly see the vision.
The great part is you’re probably already a great visionary whether you believe it or not. We all have dreams, we can all envision what it would be like to be at some future state. The challenge arises when we have to share that vision with others in a way that inspires and motivates them to move towards it. This is what separates the good leaders from the great ones. The good leaders have a vision of some future state or goal and tell others about it. The great leaders share that vision and within minutes the people feel like they’re a part of it, they can feel the feelings, taste the victory, see the new lands, and are inspired to take immediate action towards it’s completion.
You’re probably thinking your vision skills aren’t up to par, or that your skills are superior, but the people you share them with are sub-par. The truth is much more complex than that however so let’s start to break it down so you too can become one of the great visionaries of our time.
Try in picture in your mind a time when you were happy, when you had done something or been somewhere and experienced something that made you truly happy. As you close your eyes and remember this try and repeat the image of what was going on at the time. What were you feeling? Were you cold or hot? Do you remember what you were wearing or where you were at? How about the people there with you? Try and remember every detail that you can. You’re likely able to remember some of the details, but the most important one you hold onto is that happy feeling. You can feel it inside and it might even have made you smile. That’s what we’re trying to get our people to do when they envision what the future state of whatever it is we’re trying to relate will be like. We want them to see and feel what it’s like to cross that finish line with you.
One of the keys to doing this is to first ensure we have a strong understanding and our own connectedness to what we are trying to accomplish in a compelling way. If we aren’t inspired by our own vision, if what we are describing or envisioning in our own minds doesn’t move us to immediate action, how can we expect those we share it with to be? This might take some work to craft what it is that you’re really trying to accomplish. Do you truly know the problem that you’re trying to solve with your vision, or is it not big enough? Our vision should scare us a little bit, should excite us and embolden us to do great things. If we feel those little prickly bumps on our skin when we think about our vision, then it just might be something worth pursuing.
One of the keys to getting to this level is in understanding the ‘why’ behind the direction we are taking. As Simon Sinek shares in his book ‘Start with Why’, people usually understand what they do and how they do it, but most do not understand or share why they do it. It’s in this why moment that great visions and companies are born. If you understand the why behind your vision, and share that in your message then people can truly connect to it and have a clearer picture of what they can do and how they can be a part of it’s completion. If you have a clear and compelling why, finding the how becomes that much more inspiring and motivating for your teams.
Part of it is in the way we describe it when we share it with others. If we cannot easily share the vision of where we’re headed in a short amount of time then we’ve already lost part of the battle. Research tells us that we only have a very short amount of time to capture someone’s attention before they move onto the next thought as their minds wander about. If you can’t capture their interest in the first 30 seconds into the conversation then it’s doubtful they’ll feel the excitement or see the picture you see of that future state.
Another part of that description should be the words and ways in which we share the ideas. We want to use feeling words, something that invokes a memory of their own about that time they crossed the finish line, or completed something they were proud of and how it made them feel. Try and give them something to connect to or relate to that makes it personal for them. They know what it feels like to be happy or to win inside you just have to make the connection.
Additionally let them truly see your passion and excitement about whatever it is that you’re trying to build. Many times this is lost because we only share it through requirements, emails or other mediums that remove the emotional, passionate context from the message. We talk about how excited we are about this new project, or how wonderful it will be to get this completed. We never truly allow people the opportunity to feel it, taste it, stand along side us and look out at the horizon and see the land come into view. Don’t trust a game of telephone to relay what could be the most important message you have for your company or team. The best way to share it is in person. This is very easy if you’re leading a small team co-located in the same building and you can just call everyone together, so do it. But what about when you’re leading a large global organization distributed across multiple continents? I guarantee you that you can still find a way to deliver this message face to face without actually circumnavigating the globe for months at a time. Leverage the power of video, town-hall meetings, or whatever medium makes the most sense for your situation and will allow you to share the conviction and passion you have for this vision.
Most important of all, don’t ever underestimate the power that sharing a great vision can have for your company, team, community or even family. Enrolling others in this vision in a way that inspires and motivates them and let’s them feel like they’re in the passenger seat, or even the drivers seat will go a long ways towards turning you and your company from a good one, into a great one.
(Excerpt from an upcoming book on Lean-Agile Leadership by Joshua Aragon)