As a leader, you may have asked yourself, “Do I really need to have a vision?” In Episode #65 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry answer that question with a resounding YES! Here are 10 qualities your team vision should have and how to make your vision a reality.
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Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach, and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining. As a reminder, if you would like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps bring one of us in for a 5 Levels private workshop for your organization, we would love to do that! Please leave a comment or question for Perry and me on the John Maxwell site. We would love to hear from you. Also, we now offer Learning Guides for every podcast episode which can be found on our website.
Today’s topic was brought to us by a listener who asked the following question: “Do I really need a vision?” I’m looking forward to unpacking this. It’s a great question because all leaders, no matter the size of your team, must have a conversation about what their vision is for their team.
The answer that came to my mind immediately upon hearing this question was “Yes! You absolutely need a vision for your team, no matter how small your team may be.” However, if your small team is under the umbrella of a larger organization, your vision for your team needs to be in alignment with the larger vision of the organization or the company at large. On the flip side of that, sometimes it’s easy for us to lean on the bigger vision of the organization that our CEO set and hope that broad vision inspires and motivates our team. As we’ve said before, hope is not a strategy. We want to make sure we have a unique vision for our small team while staying faithful to the vision of our larger organization.
What comes to mind as I listen to you is that a small team’s vision connects your people to the bigger vision. A lot of the time, your team has a hard time connecting those dots. A team vision communicates to your team what they’re here to do. Sometimes people forget they have a role in achieving the organization’s big-picture vision. When you create a smaller vision for your team that connects to the bigger vision, it communicates to your people how they are specifically contributing.
You need to repeat your team’s vision frequently. It communicates to them what they need to be doing. This is really good for employee engagement. If I know what my purpose is on my team and how it fits into the bigger purpose of the organization, I have greater motivation to do my job. John teaches a great lesson on the 10 things that your vision should include. We’ll go through those 10 quickly.
To Make Your Team Vision a Reality, You Need Feedback on Your Leadership.
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The first three qualities that a team vision must possess: number one, clarity; number two, connectedness; and number three, purpose.
Clarity brings understanding. How many of us have worked for a leader before who, when they communicate an idea to you, you just sit back and think, “What did they just say?” Clarity in your team’s vision brings complete understanding.
Connectedness brings past, present, and future together. It also connects your smaller team’s vision to the bigger picture. So, to go back to what we were just talking about, connectedness shows us where we fit into the big-picture vision.
Purpose brings direction. Purpose is why we exist. People get into a daily grind, and we sometimes feel like we’re in a vacuum. We wonder, “Does really anybody care what my department or team is doing?” That can lead to a feeling that they’re not part of the bigger picture, they’re not important. A lack of purpose might also lead to resentment of others. They might see the sales team gloating about revenue while they’re just sending out the invoices. As a leader, you’ve got to tie each and every team member’s purpose to the bigger vision in order to increase your team’s engagement level.
John’s fourth quality that a vision should possess is goals, and number five is honesty. Goals are big in regards to setting targets that align with your organization’s values. So your team vision should break down the bigger vision, setting smaller, short-term goals that you can track and measure. Having goals means setting up systems and processes to get achieve the big organizational vision. The big organizational win will only come when you have small wins within the smaller teams or departments.
As for honesty, this one is about your credibility as a leader. There has to be honesty between you as a leader and your team. Be honest with yourself: is your vision based in reality? I’ve met some leaders who had really grand visions and painted an amazing picture, but nobody really bought into it, because it wasn’t based in reality. To go back to our point about being connected to the bigger picture—what have you done? How are you going to get to your grand vision if you aren’t taking small, concrete steps to get there? Honesty is about keeping things real.
Number six: John says that a vision must possess stories. This is one of John’s sweet spots. He does this well at the macro level, but you can model how he does this on your smaller teams. Stories bring relational equity to your team vision. Stories build loyalty and affection among your team members when they buy into the stories you tell, because what do we do when we hear a story? We immediately put ourselves in a role in that story. It goes back to that word “connectedness.” Stories bring the human connection we’re looking for to get our team to buy into our vision.
One other thing I love about stories is competitive advantage. I’m sure there are some great stories that you can tell about the vision of what you want to accomplish. There are stories that happen every day inside your team that give your team a little bit of competitive advantage. It could be a story from within your team, or maybe it’s from completely different department. You have to communicate those stories to your people often, because they are what will stick not only with your team, but with the entire organization about their importance. Just think about the word glue. Stories are your glue, and like you said, they make your team stick together.
Mark Cole, our CEO, and I have had conversations about this: every team meeting, you should be telling some type of story, and these stories should be directly tied to the values of your organization. So, leaders, as you think about the stories that you want to share, make sure the stories emphasize the values of the organization or your team, not the individual. You can mention the individual, but make sure that you highlight in those stories the values of what you want to bring out in your culture.
John’s sevenlth quality that your team vision should possess: a challenge. Human nature has a tendency to be complacent, so sometimes you have to challenge your people. Your challenges must be attainable, but you’ve got to make sure you’re challenging your team. It will stretch them to accomplish things that they probably never thought they could accomplish, which, again, drives the bigger behavior of the organization.
Number eight is passion. This brings energy, the fire, the fuel to your team’s vision. Without passion, you’ll never achieve your vision. If your people aren’t passionate about your vision, it’s a problem that needs to be addressed.
Number nine: modeling. This brings accountability to the vision. John talks about leadership as a visual sport. People are going to do what they see. As the leader of your team, whatever your vision is for your team, you need to make sure that you’re modeling it. Vision without a challenge is really more like a wish. People really won’t develop the passion needed to overcome the challenge unless they see it modeled by you.Finally, the tenth quality Johns says a vision must possess is strategy. Strategy really brings a process to the vision. How are we going to do what we say we’re going to do? This is how you get your house in order. Earlier, we related a small team to a family, and team values to family values. Each of us, as leaders, should look at our team as a family. So, when you think about your strategy, think of it as your “how.” How am I getting my team in alignment with the greater vision? A strategy helps you address problems, capitalize on opportunities, and align your talent to the grander vision.
As we wrap up this discussion, we have a few final statements that may encourage you. Your team’s vision statement drives behavior. We talk a lot about a common language driving behavior. Your vision, too will drive behavior, as well as creativity, commitment, and determination. Any of us would want a team that embodies those four areas, right? Great behavior, creativity, commitment, determination—I’d take it any day of the week! A vision is a challenge. It will stretch the comfort zones of some of your team members. Finally, a vision gives people a sense of what could be. We talk a lot about leaders needing to see further than others see—a vision is how we can communicate that. We have to believe in and paint a picture of something that our team doesn’t understand. It’s our responsibility as leaders to create that sense of what could be for each department and each individual that aligns to the bigger vision of the organization.
So, this is all good and fine to have a list of 10 qualities a vision should have, but put some meat on this bone. Tell me, Chris—say you’re a leader in an organization, and you have a small team. Give us an example of how you apply these tips to creating a vision for your team.
In my job, I’m responsible for leading one of the divisions of John’s organization. So, I have to be very conscious about how I show my team how they are a part of the bigger picture. Every single one of our employees has a card on their desk that talks about the John Maxwell enterprise. Our purpose as an organization is very simple: adding value to leaders who multiply value to others. That is a massive statement right there. For John, it doesn’t matter the country, it doesn’t matter the type of leader or the industry. We are in the business of adding value to those that are in the corporate space. So, every single day, as we are talking to leaders that are in the grind, that are in the field, that are leading teams, we ask ourselves, “How are we adding value to leaders? What does that look like?” What does that look like with coaching, facilitating content, our culture, even down to what we’re doing here on the podcast. We share stories with each other of how we’re achieving our team vision on a micro scale. John’s adding value to people all around the world, but for us, our focus and our challenge is impacting people that may not have even heard of John because they’re in this corporate grind every single day and they haven’t taken initiative to develop themselves. I can tell you, my team is passionate about it. They feel it, they’re connected to it, because all the 10 qualities we’ve discussed today are working in sync. Those 10 qualities along with a powerful leader like John—the passion permeates through the organization.
So, to circle back to our listener’s question, “Do I really need to have a vision?” Our answer: Yes. Absolutely.
We went through those 10 items pretty quickly, so if you’d like to see them listed and take some notes, check out our Learning Guide tailored to this episode of the podcast. You can find that at the top of this blog. As reminder, if you want to know more about the 5 Levels workshop, you can visit our website. You can also leave us a comment or a question we always love hearing from you. Also be sure to download our Learning Guide for this episode. We’re grateful that you’ve listened in today. This has been the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.