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Do You Have A Vision?

Here’s an interesting if a bit risky experiment for you. Walk into a room full of people that you have never met and yell out “follow me” and run out of the room. See how many people follow you.

Next, walk into a room full of people who know you well, don’t say anything to anyone other then yelling the same “follow me” and then run out of the room. See how many people follow you.

I’m betting the numbers will be almost the same. The people who don’t know you may have some disparaging comments about you, then again, so may the people who know you. But the group that knows you may just shrug and wonder what you’re up to now.

Both groups however will have this in common: they are unlikely to follow you without first knowing where you’re going. Even people who know you well, they might even trust you, but to follow you they need to know where you’re going.

So now let me ask you this. As a leader, do you have a vision? For yourself, your organization and for the people you lead?

I hope your answer is yes. Let’s assume that it is. Here’s a second question. Do your people know and buy into your vision?

If you’re answer to that question is yes as well, then congratulations are in order. You’re set!

You’re also in a very small minority. The sad and challenging reality is that too many, way too many, leaders have an “idea” of where they might be going but have nothing so formal and serious as a vision statement.

If you don’t know where you’re going, or can’t articulate it to your people then why in the world would you expect them to follow you?

The good news is that you, anyone as a matter of fact, can develop an effective vision statement that shows you and those who you would lead exactly what your (and their) destination looks like.

To write a vision statement, focus on the basics of your mission statement and extrapolate; where is your organization, you, or your people going to be five years from now? What will you, your organization or your people have accomplished?

It might sound something like this for your organization:

In five years XYZ Company will be the leading provider of healthy snacks for unhealthy people. We will do this through our committed employees showing care and concern for every single customer we touch. We’ll “Wow” our customers and competitors alike and we will be a joy to do business with. We’ll work in a supportive caring environment that makes “work” fun and allows no doubt about the fact that XYZ is a great place to work and a wonderful place to do business. We will be a business where every customer is served with a smile and positive attitude.

Something like that. Make it meaningful, make it realistic, make it attainable with effort.

Once you have a vision statement you must share it with everyone. Your people, your customers, anyone who will listen. You must share it often. If you share it once it will die a quick death. The only way to keep your vision alive is to share it often.

Expect your people and anyone else you share it with to hold you accountable to it. While that can be scary it is also a great thing. Accountability will be a huge asset in your efforts to achieve your vision.

Above all, YOU must believe and commit to your vision statement. If you don’t then others won’t either. Your vision statement won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

So, let me ask you again, do you have a vision?

If you do then tell the world. You might be amazed how many people will be willing to help you get there.

Why Leadership Really Matters

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Top performing, passionate people still need direction, focus and a purpose. The most common source for those three prerequisites for success is an effective leader. Without effective leadership even top performers lose the motivation the use their skills and abilities.

They can get simple direction from a manager, they can even be somewhat forced to focus but their purpose becomes clear only when there is a vision to work towards. Vision casting is a prime responsibility of an effective leader.

People will put forth effort for mere money… for a while. Money alone however has proven to be a poor motivator for top performers. People are most productive when they know that they are making a difference. Working towards a vision shows them where and how they can make a difference.

If the vision can’t be articulated by the leader then there might as well not be a vision. If the vision isn’t shared often then that too is nearly as bad as not having a vision at all.

Leaders are role models as well – good or bad. They should not expect to see more effort from their people than they are willing to offer themselves. They should not expect better decisions or more prudent risk-taking than they put forth as leaders.

If you’re in a leadership position then you absolutely MUST know that your people are watching you… always. They watch to see if your words match your actions. (They do what you do, not what you say) They watch to see if you’re committed enough to the vision and if they determine that you’re not then they will not commit to you.

If they cannot commit to you then they will not commit to the vision. People, especially top performing people, commit to a leader before they commit to the leader’s vision.

The energy that makes good people top performers turns on itself without direction, focus and purpose. When that happens top performers go sour, become ineffective and they eventually leave the leader…. or worse, they stay with the leader and simply stop performing.

Leadership matters, it always has and it always will. Without effective leadership even promising top performers will struggle to reach their potential.

If you’re in a leadership position then you not only have the opportunity to lead, you have an obligation to lead. If you can’t or won’t meet that obligation then you owe it to your would be followers, and even to yourself, to step aside and let a real leader take over.