In a recent documentary, Elon Musk spoke about his business in a way that truly demonstrates the importance of developing an inspiring corporate vision. He is not in the business of building cars or rockets. His vision is to colonize Mars and save the human species. Talk about an ambitious vision! The ability to effectively communicate a vision, even one as grand as colonizing Mars, can change a team’s effectiveness and a business’s trajectory forever. An inspiring, powerful business vision is one of the keys to leadership effectiveness.
Regardless of what you think of the man, you have to appreciate Elon Musk’s determination. His unwillingness to maintain the status quo and his insatiable drive to push the boundaries of what is currently possible is something that inspires imagination. More importantly, his motivation encourages other people to dream and provides the inertia that keeps things moving forward.
As a CPA firm’s national managing partner, my vision goes beyond managing operations and meeting predetermined growth targets. While it’s necessary to discuss performance metrics in business meetings, those discussions are usually not the catalyst for inspiring corporate vision. Our vision must do more than communicate the fundamentals of business growth. The vision has to become a widely felt essence…a palpable corporate-wide energy that can ignite the engines of creativity and innovation. If I could simplify and encapsulate our core principles into a single vision statement, it might sound something like this:
We help people navigate complexity and enjoy fulfilling lives.
That vision statement is powerful and ambitious while still clear and concise. It is also broad enough to encompass the strategic goals for our employees, our clients, and the community.
If our day-to-day actions are accomplishing our vision, then we are successful. Successfully implementing our vision enables the rest of our business and individual professional goals to fall into place. Similarly, if we fail to articulate our vision and diffuse it into our team members’ hearts, we limit our ability to achieve. We become stuck in the daily grind and never really accomplish the broader vision of our business philosophy. Consider the number of rocket boosters that the space program discarded before Elon Musk engineered a way to land and reuse them. That is the power of vision!
Vision is not about perfection; it is about progress. Setbacks and stumbles don’t have to be barriers to success. We pursue a grander vision in the face of difficulty, realizing that pushing against complex tasks makes us stronger and more capable! When we arm our team with an inspiring vision, we open the door to tremendous growth and potential.
If you are stuck merely handling the mechanics of your daily operations, the idea of developing a vision and inspiring your team may seem daunting or even counterproductive. Never forget that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Begin now by making your vision a point of regular conversation. Take every opportunity to promote your vision. Be excited about it. Let your team see, hear and feel the power of your enthusiasm. Your team’s ability to catch your vision is a direct function of your unwillingness to let it die. Here are some ways to bring your vision to the forefront of your operations and into the culture of your business.
If you haven’t established an inspiring vision for your company – one that encapsulates your reason for being in business in the first place – start now! Consider working with an experienced facilitator, someone who can help you move beyond operational goals such as building products or increasing revenues. Give serious thought to what you can accomplish more broadly in the lives of your team members and clients. Of course, your business provides a necessary service. Of course, your employees work to provide for their families. If you make the effort, you will identify a more inspiring reason for doing what you do. Remember, there are many books and articles available that can help develop your corporate vision.
Once you have determined a clear vision, one that your leadership team can support and promote, this vision should become an integral part of everything you do. Whenever you make a strategic decision, measure it against your vision. Does your decision align with your vision, or does it need further thought and discussion? What does your ‘gut’ tell you about how that decision will help or hinder your vision?
As a leader, you will need to consistently refer to your vision and ask these questions to keep everyone focused on arriving at your inspiring new destination.
During your all-staff meetings and in every other opportunity for communication, make sure that you frequently hold up your vision as the essence of your company’s existence. Communicating your vision becomes especially critical when teams are transitioning. Your organization’s leaders must be sufficiently converted to your vision so that they can recognize frustration or distraction and leverage those moments into an opportunity to redirect and inspire.
Your vision becomes a bulwark against a loss of momentum when change and disruption threaten to derail your efforts. It becomes a powerful tool for focusing effort and maintaining trajectory when the sheer volume of daily tasks obscures your more important aims. A well-trained team, one that has captured your vision, can effectively navigate disruptions and consistently reorient your team toward your ultimate goal.
It is critical that you build your vision into every part of the talent recruitment and development process. Anyone involved with identifying potential talent should ensure that your corporate vision informs every level of the candidate qualification process. Doing so will help ensure that candidates will catch the vision and become an effective part of maintaining momentum. Ensuring that your vision is a good match for the candidate and that the candidate is a good match for your vision is critical.
During onboarding and throughout the development, planning, and training processes, the vision should be held up as a fundamental part of each person’s pursuit of a career with your company. Encourage questions and ensure clarity regarding how your vision enhances each individual’s professional objectives. Your vision should benefit the individual just as much as it does the company. At the end of the day, your team members are essential to the realization of your vision.
In discussions with current and potential clients, clearly articulating your vision isn’t always easy. However, failing to communicate your vision to your clients will undoubtedly result in missed opportunities. Clients want to be a part of achieving higher goals. The sense of satisfaction from being a part of something important and meaningful is hard-wired into the human spirit. The ability to inspire this emotional connection to what your business is working to achieve will be fundamental to forming a resilient business relationship. Building a foundation on your vision will promote trust and ensure ongoing and effective cooperation.
Include your vision in marketing materials and every communication with your clients. Discuss it at your regular client check-ins. Develop questions and talking points for your sales team that help identify the clients that will help you work toward your goals. If your vision doesn’t align with the values of the people you serve, that relationship may become detrimental to your progress and goals more broadly.
As your team members and clients become increasingly converted to the inspiration of your vision, something incredible begins to happen. More than merely operating within a community, your business will become an integral member of the community. The reputation of your business priorities and an understanding of the ideals you promote will ingratiate you to the communities you serve. It is not difficult to identify companies that make an effort to walk the talk of improving society. Similarly, the wake of mistrust and division that follows companies that do not invest in a community is also impossible to miss.
You may have already noticed that, more and more, candidates are asking questions about how your company makes a difference in the community and how they can be involved. Clients are increasingly making a conscious decision to choose products and services based on shared ideals and visions.
Ultimately, your vision is more than a statement. It is a vital element of effective leadership and ongoing business success. I encourage you to revisit your firm’s vision. Make your vision one of your most important priorities, and never miss an opportunity to promote it at every level of your operation.
In an era when most people want to feel purposeful and empowered to create solutions in business and life, a clear and inspiring business vision is an excellent place to start.
To see Barry’s other leadership articles, view our blog and click on Leadership.