That vision thing, revisited

Vision statement.

In one of my recent training programs, I coached the participants through the exercise of creating their personal vision, something the vast majority had never done before. After going through this process, one of the people in the class, a high-ranking executive, came up to me about to talk about how meaningful this exercise was for her. In fact, she said that since she had created and refined her vision, she now had a new, solid foundation for her future decision-making. She was thrilled! In fact, it had such a powerful impact on her personally, she went back to her company and is now leading an initiative to revisit their corporate vision and mission.

Most organizations today seem to have a vision and mission statement. The question is: Do they truly have a vision of what they aspire to be. A few years ago, I was sitting down with the CEO of an area company, and I asked him about his vision for his organization. He started looking for the company vision statement in the most recent strategic planning document. I interrupted and said there was no need to do this just to get the exact words; I just was interested in his vision for the company. He insisted on looking for the document. It’s unfortunate when the leader of an organization cannot articulate the vision of that organization. You can only imagine if the leader can’t do it, how can the rest of the company be expected to look to the future?

Here’s the point: It is not the vision statement that is important. What is important is that sense of shared vision that every associate in the company can relate to and articulate in their own words. The more simply stated, the easier it is to express. Remember the vision of Bill Gates: “A computer on every desk and in every home.” My guess is that he was thinking that all those computers would probably need software. In the today’s world of Microsoft, now under the leadership of an enlightened Satya Nadella, that vison has shifted: “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

St. Mary’s Hospital here in Madison has a simple statement and another that goes into a bit more detail. I prefer the simpler one: “Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God.”

Even our Dale Carnegie Training organization does this well: “To be the global brand of choice in the people side of learning and performance (organizations and individuals) with multiple distribution channels.”

The right vision can be a powerful tool in moving forward, both individually and organizationally. Almost 20 years ago, I was coaching a young salesman who was out there going through the paces, without any real sense of direction or vision. When we sat down together, we started talking about where he would like to be one year down the road. I kept asking questions that got him into more detail than he had ever thought of previously. Questions were related to income, new client business, more business from existing clients, where he would like to be living, what kind of vehicle he would like to be driving, how he would be recognized by his company — the list goes on. When we met about one and a half years later, he had either reached or exceeded almost every goal he had set in his vision. The vision acted very much like a magnet that drew him to making his dreams a reality. That is what a powerful vision can do.

Mike Vance is the former chairman of the Creative Thinking Association of America. He is also the former, original dean of Disney University and had the opportunity to work directly with Walt Disney. He used to tell a story of the many, many people who came up to him over the years and said how unfortunate it was that Mr. Disney died before he had a chance to see the completion of Disney World in all its glory. His response was that Walt Disney probably saw Disney World in even more detail and glory than we see it today.

In our fast-changing COVID and business environment, vision — not just a vision statement — is more important than ever before. This holds true for individuals as well as organizations. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare did not even exist a few years ago. Yet individuals with an incredible magnetic vision, who shared that vision and got other people on board, brought these new organizations to life.

So where do you see yourself and/or your organization down the road in one year, three years, five years? Start building the magnet that will draw you to that vision. Get excited! Get the team on board! Make it happen!

And finally, remember that if you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there.

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