Imagine that you have a bow and arrow in your hands right now. You pull back and take aim at a white wall and release. Then you walk up, pull out your red marker, and draw a bullseye around it. Imagine the joy you feel knowing that you hit your target!
OK. Time for a reality check. Everything about this is backwards, right? But let’s set the bow down and pick up a few others things.
Pick up your work. When it comes to your team or department...What is your target? What are you leading them towards?
Here’s an even harder one. Pick up your family - your marriage, or kids, or dating relationship. What are you aiming for at home?
This one is the hardest - Pick up your own self. Who are you becoming? What do you want to be able to say about your life in the end?
If you are anything like most people, we look at the example of the bow and arrow, and laugh at how absurd and erroneous that sounds. Yet, if we’re honest, that is exactly what we are doing in real life.
So what would it look like to live and lead with vision?
In Ken Blanchard’s, The Secret, he talks about the value of vision in leadership - both in the workplace and in our personal lives. He describes vision as, “A leader’s ability to envision and communicate a compelling picture of a preferred future.”
We all want our work and relationships to have purpose - we want our lives to have mattered. Out of this comes a desire to lead those whom have been placed under our influence well. When dealing with what “the secret” is to effective leadership, Blanchard begins with the end - “What are you aiming for to begin with?”
It is no doubt a coincidence that in Covey’s Seven Habits for Highly Effective People, his first chapter out of the gate is that successful people, “Begin with the End in Mind.” Whether I am shooting a bow and arrow or leading a team or a family, if I don’t have clarity as to what exactly I am aiming for - I am just flinging arrows hoping they land somewhere good (and that no one gets hurt). Too often though: they don't (and someone does).
Here are some key questions to ask in regards to articulating a vision in leadership:
- What do I want our organization (team, group) to accomplish? What would that look like? How would we measure our success?
- What do I want to be true in the future that is not true today?
- Why should others care about this preferred future?
- How will we measure our progress?
Don’t let this opportunity pass by! Stop and take out a pen and paper and invest the next 10 minutes into answering these questions.
If you lead a team, pull them in as well and ask for their input. You may very well find that their is a lack of clarity currently around the “why” of what they are asked to do. Providing clarity and transparency by clearly articulating a vision for those you are leading sets them free to move forward, create and succeed because we are unified in where we are heading and what we are aiming for.
It is one thing to have a clearly articulated vision for a team, department, or company. How much more important is it to have clarity around a personal vision for you - for your life? It’s easier to talk about vision in terms of a job or team, but it starts getting awfully vulnerable when I start asking questions of my own life - “Who am I becoming?”
Here are some key questions to ask yourself when articulating a personal vision for your life:
- Who am I becoming?
- If God had His way with my life, what might it look like?
- Is there anything in my life today that is out of alignment with that picture?
In our Leadership Development training, I have an entire morning dedicated to helping our team members begin to articulate this very question. I ask them, “In the end, what do you want to be able to say…?” Because, as a result of someone working at Simmons, whether they are with us for one year or their career, we hope that they experience growth as a result - both professionally and personally. If you haven’t been to this training yet, I would highly encourage it. If you would like to sit down and visit on this subject one-on-one, I would be glad to connect with you.
I have also seen the impact that leading with vision can have on a family by watching my Mom and Dad lead our home. I remember being around 16 years old and my Dad pulling me aside and asking me what kind of man I was hoping to become. I'm pretty sure I blew him off, as any teenager would, but I never forgot. He was persistent though, and I finally came back to him after I had been in college for a few years (it's amazing how much smarter parents get over time), and I brought that conversation back up.
He said that he wished he had asked me a lot sooner, but he realized that his role as my Dad was to help me to grow into the man God had created me to be - but he had no idea what that looked like - so he thought he would just ask me. He said that he felt that his role as my Dad was to help me to discover who God was calling me to become, and that he wanted to leverage his time, resources and prayers to help me become that man.
Can you imagine having this conversation with your kids? “________, I love you and I am thankful that God strategically and intentionally placed me in this world as your parent. I strongly believe that God has a purpose for your life. I want to help you discover who it is that God has called you to become - not necessarily to do - but to be. What do you think he/she look like? If you will let me encourage you along the way, to talk with you openly, and hold you accountable to the man/woman you are trying to become - I believe that I will be better able to fulfill my calling as your parent.”
What if that conversation took place with your spouse? What if you began asking questions like:
- When you think of the man/woman that God desires you to become, what does that look like? How can I help and encourage you as your spouse?
- When you dream about what our relationship looks like in 10, 20, 50 years...what do you hope is true about your marriage?
- What experience do you hope to have had together?
- What do we want to be able to say about our marriage and our family?
You may be thinking…”Yeah, but I’m too far down the road.” While the best time to plant a tree may very well have been 20 years ago, the second best time is today. If you’re not sure where to start - start somewhere. Anywhere. We need all the practice we can get when it comes to vision. Once you are able to articulate a vision, that’s when the real work begins as you continually come back to it to assess and realign.
Whether you are shooting a bow and arrow, leading a team or a family, or simply living your own life, vision plays a crucial and vital role.