I was a new middle manager on my first trip across the country to the Corporate Office and was seated in the Executive Boardroom for a meeting. As we were preparing to take a short break, the CEO leaned across the table and asked me,
“Chery, have you shared your vision with your team?”
I gulped and my mind raced… Oh no! I’m supposed to have one of those? (My mind quickly visualized the formal vision statements that are printed and hung on the wall for all to see.) As I exited the boardroom, I wandered down the hallway wondering what a vision was and how to get one FAST!
What I did not realize immediately is that I had already pieced together many critical elements in a vision building process:
- I knew what the company goals and objectives were for my team.
- I knew what the company vision was.
- I knew what the company core values were.
- I knew that I wanted to create a customer focused, result focused, fun place to work that would provide an opportunity for every person to bring their own personalities, knowledge, experiences and natural strengths to work every day.
- And I deeply believed that if the team were given the right environment they would achieve amazing things.
Several days later I gathered everyone together and shared the question our CEO had asked. And then shared this story:
“We are on a journey together. We are going to a majestic castle. It is so far away that I can’t describe it in detail, but on a clear day, the towers and flags that are billowing in the distance are evidence that it exists. As we journey toward the castle together, we are going to experience new lands, slay dragons, and cross rivers. Sometimes we will be afraid. Sometimes we will disagree. Sometimes we will have more fun than we can imagine. The journey is whatever we make of it, it is ours to own, ours to experience, ours to celebrate.”
Then we reviewed the organization’s vision and core values, the department’s objectives and the desire to create a customer focused, fun environment that would embrace and unleash their individual strengths while building a strong team. The castle became the symbol for our goals. The foundation of the castle became the symbol of our core values. The journey served as a dual reminder that:
- We were on an adventure together and that we needed to be curious, joyful and courageous.
- No matter how prepared we were there would be times of challenge, defeat and loss, as well as times of discovery, growth, uncommon camaraderie and victory.
…We have observed that the biggest impediment to managers becoming great leaders is the lack of a clear vision. Yet less than 10 percent of the organizations we have visited are lead by managers who have a clear sense of where they are trying to lead people.
By consistently focusing everyone on that vision: Team-members brought their unique personalities and strengths to the job. They took ownership of their goals and ownership of opportunities to add value outside of their job descriptions. They laughed and played a lot. Sometimes they argued like siblings. They met and then exceeded their objectives. They consistently found new ways to do things that added significant value to the organization as a whole.
…And it all started with a simple question that every leader should consistently be asking themselves…
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