When is the last time you gave a person directions? How was that experience? Did they clearly understand your instructions? What about a person not familiar with the area, the landscape, or the organization, for that matter?
Directions and instructions are common ways to share information, but they are often ineffective for the “receivers” because the “sender” possesses expert knowledge and the person seeking the directions (the receiver) is, by contrast, not an expert. Think about the last time you had to ask for directions in a new town-how was that experience? Where you lost or overwhelmed by the time the sender’s instructions to “take second right turn, just after the McDonalds, but not before the Burger King…the one being built not the one they are closing”…wait, what?
This same issue can be applied to the concept of vision for leaders or heads of organizations. However, unlike a simple direction request which typically involves two or three people, this now pertains to many…10, 20, 200, or 2000+ people. How effectively is vision communicated? Or, really, is there even a vision? The interesting thing is, we all have visions for stuff, whether that is a renovation, our future, or building the company. I’ve worked with small local companies as well as multi-national companies and regardless of their size, all groups wrestle with this. Here is a real predicament – a leader or a leadership group claiming to be having a vision (or a plan) but the people, especially the vested and committed people, not knowing, understanding or believing it. This may be one of the most common examples that I encounter that undercuts people’s commitment to the organization, the willingness to blindly follow leadership, and trust of leaders. Furthermore, without clarity people are left to set their own path, based on a combination of their interests, bias, and experiences.
If you wrestle with this, here are a few pointers for sharing information and casting a vision.
Context always matters. Context provides a framework for people to operate within. My favorite example of how context matters is a professional development conference – you spend a lot of money to attend an event or a workshop, but you fail to successfully bring the concepts/content back to your organization and replicate it.
Experience matters. Experience is the lens we use to make sense out of what we are encountering. It’s the same for your partners, followers, etc. They will all use their experience vault in their head to make sense out of what you present or fail to present. When not correctly aligned, this leads to inaccurate conclusions and often leads to disappointment and withdrawal.
Clear communication. Communication plans and dissemination, or the lack thereof, often leads to failing to launch a vision. How do you ensure your message is reaching all members, in a way that uniquely accounts for #2 – the receiver’s experience, which accurately resonates with #1 – the organization’s context?
Predictable. This is more about the individual than the company but I believe that truly effective leaders are predictable (which nurtures trust). This means that the followers can consistently and accurately anticipate the behavior of the leader; they know how the leader will act, react, communicate, etc.