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Thursday, Aug, 20, 2015

What Makes a Vision Inspiring?

Vision matters. Effective executives know that leading from a shared vision is critical. But how?

Here are some key elements that transform a message about direction into such a compelling picture of the future that it rallies people to a greater purpose, energizes, infuses meaning into everyday efforts and lifts a people, country or company out of managing from crisis to crisis to shaping a positive future.

Two critical contexts:

  • Who is delivering the vision--the credibility of the leader The listener’s perception of the speaker (trust or suspicion) dramatically alters the meaning of what they hear. I suspect many people were not delighted with King's message but recognize the power of words spoken with a conviction of being true to a set of core values.Credible leaders speak with a commitment that is echoed in a consistency between what they say and what they do. Beyond words of a wonderful vision of the future, they make a stand for what they care about every single day. Who they are attracts people to them because they trust them.Visionary leaders are courageous. Despite criticism they stand up for what they believe. As the editor of Charlie Hebdo once said; “I'd rather die standing than live on my knees.” And Gandhi proclaimed; “I must first be the change I want to see in the world.” Authentic commitment inspires and attracts others to stand with you.
  • The Audience: Who do you want to inspire? Who is the intended audience? Shareholders and business owners might get giddy over visions of positive financial projections. The employees not so much. Perhaps that is one reason a recent Gallup poll found only 13% of the workforce comes to work committed to their jobs and energized to make a positive contribution. The right vision connects to something that people desire and generates meaning and purpose for their work. The language is inclusive. For example, King began his speech with “I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.”
  • Elements of an inspiring vision message:
  • It paints a clear compelling picture of the future. It is built on the purpose (why we exist) and values (what we most deeply care about). The vision translated into specific, audacious visionary goals declare this is the future we want. It is specific and although challenging is believable. It also acknowledges the way won’t be easy, the starting place might be difficult, but “we can overcome”
  • It comes from the heart. The message reflects the aspirations, dreams and values of the audience. It creates an emotional connection.
  • It is about excellence. It is bold, exciting, idealistic. It focuses on what can be done, not the problems. It seeds hope.
  • People can see themselves in the vision. The message spans between the present and the future in a way that people can imagine being part of the vision. It will seem realistic. Under Armour was­ recently selected by Forbes as one of the most trustworthy companies. Armour’s vision To empower athletes everywhere supports employees who see their work as not just making athletic clothing but giving athletes a boost in overcoming obstacles and becoming winners. Their work has meaning.

Key questions to get started on your vision: Imagine the year is 2020

  • What do you want to become, achieve by this point in time?
  • Why is this important to you?
  • What impact do you want to make in the world?
  • What is the higher purpose of your work?
  • What is a bold but realistic achievement that would be a valuable contribution to humanity?

Of course, dreams need to be transformed through strategy and actions, but that is a topic for another day.

Connie Meyer is the president of Performance Partners, a management consulting firm. Our mission is to support our clients in “Transforming Vision to Results.” 301.270.0558

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