Do you ever lie in bed, in the minutes before your day officially begins and a sense that your company’s vision may have lost clarity? Your mind is racing with 10 vague tasks that should have been done yesterday but you can no longer pinpoint why you created your business, why you do what you do and what success looks like now and in the future.
If you've lost sight of those all important ‘WHY’ questions and feel that your vision is no longer compelling to you, it’s probably even less compelling to your team and organisation.
Since the 1980s, we’ve operated on the premise that money is not the sole motivator for work but it is recognized as the primary one. However, this may be changing. Work is becoming deeply personal and no longer about security but is a means of self-expression with motivation being drawn from work itself. This is certainly the case for Millennials (18 to 36-year-olds) with 76% hoping their hobbies will turn into a full-time job. Being able to communicate a clear vision as a leader is the key to inspiring your team and preventing a wandering organisation.
At a deeper level, we all want to feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that the work we do each day is one piece of the bigger puzzle.
Indeed, in Gallup’s Q12 employee engagement survey, a direct correlation was found between how strongly employees identified with the statement ‘The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important’ and employee retention, customer metrics, productivity, and profitability. And as the saying goes- happy (and inspired) workers leads to happy customers. Hiring employees that share your vision at least on some basic level, is equally important to ensure alignment throughout your organisation.
A vision not understood is as good as no vision at all.
Zappos, the billion dollars online shoe and clothing retailer, known for its devotion to amazing customers with great service, wants this alignment to happen early. Ominously termed ‘The Offer’, it gives new recruits the opportunity to quit after just one week into an intense four-week training program where recruits are plunged into the Zappos culture and vision. Those that take up ‘The Offer’ get one week pay and a $2000 bonus. Enticing new employees to quit sounds nonsensical but doing this allows Zappos to sift out the 2-3% of new hires that take up this offer who feel some mismatch between Zappos and their personal motivations. Much more importantly, it empowers and inspires the remaining 97% with the choice, filling up Zappos with new employees who are just as committed as they are.
Refreshing your vision
Whether you just need a visual refresh or a major resurrection, below is a practical checklist you need when re-invigorating your vision and purpose.
1. Back to Basics
Going back to basics involves stripping away the layers of performance plans, financial statements and marketing reports that your vision may be buried under. Don’t stop at asking yourself where you are going and where you want to be as a business. Go one step further and ask, what are you trying to change? What problem are you trying to solve?
Having a simple one line vision makes it easy for customers to understand the driving motivation behind the business and customers who are emotionally engaged form stronger relationships with businesses. One of the most powerful visions come from Amazon -’To be Earth's most customer-centric company where people can find and discover anything they want to buy online’. It may sound ambitious but is it easy to communicate and understand? Absolutely.
The next step is to test your vision out on your network and anyone that your business interacts with. This could be your advisors, mentors, employees and even customers.
If you need several takes at explaining and re-explaining before they understand, it’s a good indication you need to return to the whiteboard and redraft.
3. (Try to) forget about it for a week
Have you ever come up with the solution to your problem while doing the most mundane of tasks- showering, doing the dishes, getting ready for work. Research has shown that our brain is most active when it’s allowed to wander. In fact, a study conducted by the NeuroLeadership Group found that in a sample of 6,000 individuals, only 10% said they did their best thinking at work.
Once you have drafted and tested your vision and thought about how it will impact your business, try to forget about it. It sounds counter intuitive, but by giving your mind a rest, you will almost certainly come back with minor tweaks or major revisions by weeks end.
4. Stake in the ground
You will only see the fruits of your vision if you commit to it and make sure to show this commitment outwardly to your employees. Leading by example is the most powerful tool you have in making sure your vision cascades throughout your business.
While a vision and strategy provide your business with direction by giving you the where and how- this is useless if it does not lead to action. By getting your employees on board, it will help bridge the execution gap that comes anytime a new vision or strategy is ‘implemented’ by upper management.
So tomorrow, instead of jumping into those tasks, stop and refresh the reason why you and your team wake up in the first place.