All business leaders know that they need to create an inspiring business vision to lead their company over the next few years.
Yet, many entrepreneurs have a vision that’s trapped inside their head (mostly shared with other executives) or written somewhere, but they can’t quite remember where they put it.
On the other hand, there are lots of CEOs who have created a vision with their executives, but delude themselves into believing it’s inspiring. Instead, it’s often a small step change that does little to create a shared sense of purpose throughout the company (read more at: Are you Limiting your Company Vision?).
Why have an Inspiring Vision?
The world’s most successful companies all have a vision that improves society rather than generically improving the business owner’s or shareholder’s financial situation.
What truly pulls people forward is the exciting possibility of making a profound difference to the world. We all want to part of something bigger than ourselves. Having a mission-driven vision that is for the good of the world is how you motivate, inspire and encourage others to join your mission. It provides focus to human energy and generates commitment.
If you want to provide impact and engagement, where people are inspired by the work that they do and get things done at a rapid pace, then you need to have an exciting and big dream for the future.
Take Hubspot, an online marketing software platform with stellar financial performance since its inception in 2006. Focused on an inspiring vision to “make the world more inbound” they discovered that they didn’t need a to-do list every quarter with staff. The vision was so compelling, and powerful, that people knew the big picture and where they were going. In fact, as mentioned by the former CMO, Mike Volpe, the product team would refer to the vision and say “Oh crap!” We’ve only got 3 years to make this happen.”
7 Signs your Vision doesn’t Inspire
While an awe-inspiring vision is a great method for leaders to motivate their employees to do great work, there are seven red flags that warn that your vision isn’t aligning your workforce towards the future. They are:
1. Needless drama – When stagnation and politics creep in, it’s usually a lack of an inspiring vision that’s the culprit. Humans need goals and direction, in order to feel good about themselves. When motivation and a sense of purpose drops, people have a tendency to distract themselves with mundane issues. Examples include employees arguing or whispering, invoices being sent out incorrectly, people working longer hours, spinning their wheels, but nothing gets done.
2. Success has made you complacent – Creating a scalable business through standardised processes and KPIs can help companies grow quickly. Yet, it can quickly engineer the meaning out of work, resulting in employees who feel disconnected emotionally to the company. Everyone is so focused on financial scorecards, that they forget why their work matters and how to have fun. Initially, the company can thrive financially, but it’s only a matter of time before things goes off the rails, as people no longer have their heart in the business. Making money becomes more important than contributing to society in a meaningful way.
3. Resistance to change – A new strategy is launched and management and employees say they’re on board. Yet, nothing changes. Lip service is the rule of the day, while an underlining cynicism percolates below the surface. Any effort to change is slowly strangled, resulting in wasted time and effort by management. Conversely, some employees might outrightly question “Why is change needed now?” feeling more comfortable with sticking with the familiarity of the status quo.
4. Poor execution – A compelling vision needs to be communicated on a regular basis and effort needs to be made throughout the organisation to track progress. Launching a vision at a town hall meeting and then writing an email about it once a month isn’t enough to keep the momentum going. Regular communication and methods to track progress need to be integrated throughout the organisation. Managers need skills on how to translate the vision, so their team understands why things have changed and how they need to redirect their efforts.
5. Your company changes – The business landscape has changed drastically over the last couple of years. You can no longer have a “set and forget” strategy. It needs to be regularly revisited and tweaked to improve results. For companies that are growing quickly, the initial reason for the vision may have also changed and it’s no longer applicable. Organisations that have doubled their employee numbers or have followed market demand can quickly lose sight of their vision, as business becomes more complex.
6. “Us and them” mentality – It’s fairly common for CEOs and their executives/board to be aligned with the vision. Working in close proximity to one another, they talk about it regularly and feel inspired by it. The problem is they don’t communicate regularly with those below about it, resulting in employees who don’t understand how the vision is connected to their daily work. Over time, it creates a rift between management and employees, where staff feel disconnected to the company and are less likely to embrace any new initiatives. They will refer to management as “them” creating an imaginary wall that is hard to breakthrough. More importantly, it generates silos, meaning that employees aren’t working as teams and work quality deteriorates.
7. Turning up for a pay cheque – When employees don’t feel any connection to why their job or the company matters, it can negatively affect engagement, productivity and attrition. Money and status keep people in their jobs, but people will quickly jump ship if given a new job offer. According to research by Imperative, purpose-oriented employees are 54 percent more likely to stay at a company for 5-plus years and 30 percent more likely to be high performers.
Turn up the Heat
Creating a challenging vision that excites your workforce takes leadership and conviction. Yet, a vision that gets people out of their comfort zone and pushes them to create something that they never thought possible can profoundly affect not only how they see themselves, but how your organisation changes the world.
A leader’s legacy is the long term development of people and the company, in order to create an enduring firm that survives over time. Successful leaders find a way to have an impact on people and to help their employees be the best versions of themselves.
As a leader you need to ask yourself: how will our company vision make lives better? Not just with your customers, but to your employees as well. Only then will you be on your way to creating a new and exciting destination that has everyone on board.