How Leaders Can Sharpen Their Vision

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Written by DATIS Guest

July 20, 2018

This DATIS blog article, “How Leaders Can Sharpen Their Vision“, was originally posted by Kevin Eikenberry on Leadership & Learning on May 23rd, 2016 and was reposted with permission.

If you are leading others, where are you leading them to? (Tweet That)

If that question gives you a queasy feeling, if you have to search for an answer, or your answer seems vague or inadequate, I hope I’ve gotten your attention.

Because as leaders, we must have a goal, an objective, an outcome, a vision that we are headed towards. If not, who knows where we will arrive (if anywhere), and people are far less likely to follow anyway.

And if you are a mid-level or lower leader, don’t think this is reserved for senior leaders either. Even when you are leading inside of a larger organization, and even if you didn’t set the big picture vision, you must clearly know what it is, and how the big picture translates for you and your team.

And vague isn’t enough. In fact, a vague vision is no vision at all.

When Disney World opened, Walt had already died. At the time of the opening, Walt’s brother Roy was interviewed and asked this question: “If Walt were here and could see this, what would he think?”

He responded: “You don’t understand, Walt already saw it, that is why it is here.”

Roy’s answer was powerful, and applies to each of us today. If we want to achieve at a high level and make a difference for our teams and organization, we must have a crystal clear, 3D vision for where we are headed.

Here are five ways to clarify and sharpen your vision.

Start in your “minds-eye.” The Disney World story describes this perfectly. The word vision implies seeing something, and we must be able to see our destination in full color, three dimensional reality. This mental image is your vision. Until it is clear to you, how can you possibly make it clear to others, move towards it confidently, or even know when you have arrived? If your vision isn’t this clear yet, spend time alone, without phones and other distractions to really think about your destination, and what it will look like when you arrive.

Talk it out. As powerful as that mental image is, words bring further clarity and further sharpen the vision. Talk with someone you trust deeply, who will listen, not judge and will believe in and support your vision. Putting words to it, once, twice or more often, further helps to hone your mental image, and most importantly as a leader, will prepare you to share that vision with others. [Note: if you don’t know who to talk it out with, just tell your dog, your cat, or verbalize it while you are driving. The key is to say it over and over to crystallize it in your mind and heart.]

Get feedback. Once the vision is clear and the message practiced, share it with those on your team or in your organization. At this point, you are sharing it to get their feedback – you want to see if they see it, understand their concerns, and perhaps modify it based on their ideas. The vision you are honing is one you need others to embrace and see too – their feedback, at a stage before completion, improves their ownership, and starts to plant positive seeds too. But . . .

Don’t “over listen.” You want the understanding and buy-in of others, but do you think everyone would have been on board with Walt’s vision when all they could see was swamp? You may be thinking bigger. You may be thinking bolder. You may see things others don’t yet see. All of that is OK – in fact – that is why you are leading! Remember that the big vision can become powerful. Hear what your team says when they give you feedback; listen to their points and incorporate them as appropriate, but don’t feel your vision must crumble or you must start over because of the feedback.

Share it frequently. Now the vision is honed to a sharp point. Now you can see it in your minds-eye and communicate it clearly. Since this is a vision you are leading others toward, you must keep it in your thoughts, tie it to your daily work (and the work of the team), and communicate and talk about it regularly. Doing this communicates the vision, yes, but it also keeps it sharp and in focus in your own mind too.

To lead as you are capable and create the results you deserve, sharpen your vision. These steps, when taken, will help you do that.