By Dr. Jeremy Graves

Vision. Even the word can seem overwhelming to some. What is our vision? How will I know if my vision is in alignment with my organizational needs? How do I ensure clarity throughout my organization around vision? Do those within my organization even understand the vision?  These are the types of questions that keep many leaders awake at night.

The need for vision clarity is paramount for any organization, leader, or team. But how do you go about creating a vision that is sticky and moves beyond words on a paper to behaviors that can ultimately transform your organization? 

It Begins with Clarity
How detailed is your vision? Vision is most powerful when it is both specific and engaging. It comes alive in an organization when it connects people to something bigger than themselves. If it doesn’t, the vision is not shaping the company culture, but rather is in danger of being shaped by the loudest voice in the room—and sometimes that voice is not the voice you want shaping the vision. So how do you ensure clarity?  Here are three questions to consider when determining your vision.

What does the vision mean to you?
Start by finding out what the vision means to the individuals on the team. How do you do that?  Ask them. Either privately or in a group setting, ask this question and give them a chance to respond. Then really listen. Oftentimes, creating space for your vision to be articulated by others gives you great insight into the strengths or weaknesses of the vision. It also gives you the opportunity to engage in conversation and bring correction to someone who is unclear, unsure, or may be misinterpreting the vision—or worse yet misrepresenting the vision to others. You’ll also get the chance to identify where the breakdown in communicating the vision maybe coming from.

How do we put the vision into action?
It’s one thing to talk about vision; it’s quite another to see it in action. This comes through in the behaviors of both you and your employees. Identify a list of behaviors that exemplify the vision. This can be another great exercise to do with your team. For a vision to be more than just lip service, it must translate into action. Organizations lose momentum when they talk about vision but don’t apply the vision in practical steps. Ask your team to share where they have seen the vision in action, and where they could expand the vision into their daily work.

The flip side to this question is where have you seen the vision talked about but not acted upon? Or worse yet have no intention of acting on it? If you can’t talk about the vision personally, or you haven’t seen it in action, chances are your vision is not sticky enough. 

Is there a disconnect between the vision and the actions?
If there is no disconnect, then the first two questions will be answered with clarity and you will know your vision has staying power. If there is a disconnect between the stated vision and the behaviors of those in the organization, then begin to brainstorm why that divide exists. It might be because the leadership on the balcony has created a vision without seeking input from the people who will be walking it out every day. It might be as simple as helping translate or explain what the words mean within your organizational context. Or maybe no one has explained why this vision is important. Ferreting out the issues can be hard work, but is well worth the conversations, even the uncomfortable ones.