Leadership Barometer 60 Creating a Brilliant Vision

July 31, 2020

Without a well-defined vision, the organization has no true direction. It is like a ship without a rudder, sailing around at the mercy of the wind, hoping to find a safe port with little chance of reaching one. Creating vision is absolutely essential for any group because it gives a common direction and provides a focus for energy.

Not all vision statements are helpful. Some are relegated to plaques on the wall and ignored. This is a tragedy because an uninspiring vision breeds apathy and is worse than no vision at all. If people point to the vision statement on the wall and say, “that is where we are supposed to be going but they don’t act that way,” you are in trouble.

Joel Barker made video and wrote a book titled “The Power of Vision.” I recommend it to all leaders who wish to generate a great vision. He presents four conditions necessary to create a powerful vision. According to Barker:

Good visions are:

1. Initiated by leaders – vision starts at the top.
2. Shared and supported by all – vision is supported by the “vision community.”
3. Comprehensive and detailed – vision includes how, when, why, and what, so that everyone can see their part.
4. Positive and inspiring – vision has “reach” and is worth the effort.

If you close your eyes and envision the ideal future state for yourself and your area, what does it look like? This is a first glimpse at your vision for the organization.

If you are not in a leadership position, your vision will be just for yourself. It is a powerful statement of your goals boiled down into a simple focused phrase. It should be inspiring enough to elicit your best, sustained efforts.

If you are in a leadership position, spend some quality time with your team, identifying possible vision statements and weeding out all but one. Work on it with your key leaders.

Get input from all stakeholders. It is critical for each person in the organization to make a connection with the vision: to own it. They must see themselves as partners in order to make it a sustainable reality.

This is not a 15-minute exercise. Some groups spend months working on developing a good vision statement. The process can get convoluted and burdensome if not handled correctly.

If you are adept at facilitating group discussions, you may conduct this yourself. If not, a professional facilitator would be worth the investment.

As the leader, even if you feel qualified to lead the discussion, you still may want to hire an outside person so you can become one of the people developing this material. The danger if you lead the discussion is that you could influence it too heavily.

In general, if a leader brings in a consultant to facilitate a discussion or to assist with a particular instrument or skill set, there is usually a high value.

If the consultant is brought in to get into the trenches and do the dirty work of leadership, it is often a disaster because the consultant can undermine the leader.

The leader calls in a consultant and says, “Things are a mess around here and I’m under a lot of pressure. Performance is horrible recently and morale is way down.

I haven’t got time to fix the problem because I am overloaded just trying to run the business, and I have to attend all these management meetings. I need you to assess what is wrong and recommend a program to get back on track. If my team buys into your recommendations, we will let you handle the program.”

This leader probably has lost the ability to lead the organization effectively. As the consultant mucks around trying to understand problems, significant negative energy is unearthed but the consultant doesn’t have the authority to fix these issues.

Meanwhile, the leader is “busy running the business,” and being micro-managed by superiors. Morale and performance go down even further until, finally, the leader is simply forced out.

This is why it is important for the leader to be the driving force in creating a vision for the organization. It cannot be delegated to a consultant or even a high-ranking lieutenant. The leader is responsible for making sure the vision statement is clear, compelling, memorable, actionable, and real.

Key ideas for developing a good vision statement:

Most importantly, make sure your vision tells everyone where the organization is going. A nice sounding phrase that doesn’t have pull makes a poor vision. For a football team “We will be number one in the league within 3 years” is a better vision than “We will improve our position in the rankings every year until we become the top team in the league.”

Avoid grandiose sweeping statements that are too broad. “We will become the best in the world at computer technology” would be too general and vast for a good vision statement. A better example might be “Our superior microchips will gain 90% market share with computer manufacturers in 5 years.”

Make sure people can connect their everyday activities to the vision. “Every interface is a chance to bestow great customer service” would allow everyone to view daily activities with customer service getting top billing.

Keep it short and powerful. Avoid long lists of items that sound good but don’t create a picture. For example, being “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent” may be a good motto for the Boy Scouts, but it would make a terrible vision statement.

Select colorful words that inspire rather than describe. “Our greeting cards melt the heart and transform the soul” would be superior to “Our greeting cards are better because they make people feel great.”

Keep it short. The fewer words the better. “Absolutely, positively overnight” is better than “Our packages are guaranteed to arrive by the next day or your money back.”

Use special words to emphasize your most significant point. “We will never, ever, run out of stock” is better than “We promise to keep our customers’ needs met by always having stock on hand.”

Don’t try to be abstract or cute in order to grab attention. “We have the softest software in the nation” might be a slogan helpful on Madison Avenue, but it makes a lousy vision. Instead try “Software delivered on time, every time!”

The initial thoughts often contain the seeds of the eventual finished product. Craft these thoughts into words and images. Sometimes a picture or logo can be enough to communicate a vision, like the Rock of Gibraltar for Prudential Insurance.

Communicate the organization’s values and vision to everyone in it. Do this well and often, as it forms the basis of everything to come. Frequently demonstrate your alignment with the vision by naturally working it into conversations.
You might say, “Well, let’s call the customer and tell them about this situation. After all, our vision is to put the customer first.”

James Kouzes and Barry Posner state in “The Leadership Challenge”:

“In some ways, leaders live their lives backwards. They see pictures in their minds’ eyes of what the results will look like even before they have started their projects, much as an architect draws a blueprint or an engineer builds a model. Their clear image of the future pulls them forward.”

Some leaders are so busy they don’t want to spend time doing this kind of work. That is a huge mistake. This activity cannot be delegated, and it is actually the most important thing the leader should be doing while restarting an enterprise.

Being too preoccupied with the business to develop a clear vision shows the leader does not understand the power of vision.

As a leader, you need to make sure people understand your passion for the vision. Do this with both words and actions. Let people know you put your whole self behind the words.

Once when we were trying to instill a vision of significantly improved product quality, one of our parts failed to fit into our customer’s equipment. They complained and we “fixed” the problem. Everyone pledged it would never happen again, but a similar problem recurred a couple years later because everyone did not follow the “fix.” Somehow, people needed to get past the rhetoric about improving quality and realize a permanent improvement was required.

I wrote my resignation from the company without a date and put a copy in my desk drawer. I announced that the resignation would be pulled out, signed, dated and submitted the next time a part of ours failed to work in customer equipment. I told every group about the letter and even showed it to some people. Although not explicitly stated, most people extrapolated if the boss was to lose his job over poor quality, others would be similarly affected. We never had that kind of problem again. The vision sank in and registered.

Look at the policies and procedures of your organization and test them against the new vision. Often you will need to modify them to be consistent. Ignoring this step will result in confusion and lack of commitment to the vision.

Warren Bennis writes:

“The only way a leader is going to translate vision into reality – an ability that is the essence of leadership – is to anchor and implement and execute that vision through a variety of policies, practices, procedures, and systems that will bring in people and empower them to implement the vision.”


The preceding information was adapted from the book The TRUST Factor: Advanced Leadership for Professionals, by Robert Whipple. It is available on http://www.leadergrow.com.

Robert Whipple is also the author of Leading with Trust is like Sailing Downwind and, Understanding E-Body Language: Building Trust Online. Bob consults and speaks on these and other leadership topics. He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a company dedicated to growing leaders.


Talent Development 2 Leaders: Stop Trying to Motivate Your Employees

July 1, 2020

As a training and development professional, how many times a week do you hear leaders say, “We’ve got to motivate our people?” Believe it or not, that phrase often leads to lower rather than higher motivation.

Seeking to motivate people is the most common thought pattern leaders use every day, so what’s wrong with it?

Trying to motivate people shows a lack of understanding about what motivation is and how it is achieved.

Leaders who think this way put the cart before the horse and do not make the necessary mind shift to do the things that actually do improve motivation.

So, what is the cart and what is the horse? The cart is the culture of the organization that either enables or extinguishes motivation. The horse is how satisfied people feel at any particular moment.

. Why do leaders reverse the conventional order; try to motivate people by making them feel good?

1. Poor understanding of motivation

The notion that by adding perks or benefits we somehow make people more motivated is flawed. Over 50 years ago, Frederick Herzberg taught us that increasing the so-called “hygiene factors” is a good way to sweeten things (reduce dissatisfaction), but a poor way to increase motivation.

Why? – because goodies like parties, bonuses, hat days, games, , etc. often help people become happier at work, but they do little to impact the reasons they are motivated to do their best work.

2. Taking the easy way out

Many leaders believe that by heaping nice things on top of people it will feel like a better culture. The only way to improve the culture is to build trust.

By focusing on a better culture, managers enable people to motivate themselves.


3. Using the wrong approach –

It is difficult to motivate another person. You can scare a person into compliance, but that’s not motivation, it is fear.

You can bribe a person into feeling happy, but that’s not motivation it is temporary euphoria that is quickly replaced by a “what have you done for me lately” mentality.

4. Focusing on perks –

Individuals will gladly accept any kind of perk the boss is willing to hand out, but the reason they go the extra mile is a personal choice based on the level of motivational factors, not the size of the reward.

Putting the horse in front of the cart means working on the culture to build trust first.

Improving the motivating factors, such as authority, reinforcement, growth, and responsibility creates the right environment. Motivation within people will happen, and it will endure.

Why do I make this distinction? I believe motivation comes from within each of us. As a manager or leader, I do not believe you or anyone else can motivate other people.

What you can do is create a process or culture whereby employees will decide to become motivated to perform at peak levels. An example is when you set a vision and goals then allow people to use their initiative to get the job done as they see fit.

How can we tell when a leader has the wrong understanding about motivation? A clear signal is when the word “motivate” is used as a verb – for example, “Let’s see if we can motivate the team by having a picnic.”

If leaders seek to change other people’s attitude about work with perks, they are going to be disappointed frequently. To motivate is not something you “do to other people,” rather it is something that is always within people that only they choose to let come out.

Using the word “motivation” as a noun usually shows a better understanding – “Let’s increase the motivation in our workforce by giving the team more autonomy.

An organization where all people are pursuing a common vision in a healthy environment of trust has a sustainable competitive advantage due to high employee motivation. The way to create this is to build a culture of TRUST and affection within the organization.

You accomplish this through consistency and by letting people know it is safe to voice their opinion without fear of reprisal. You work to inspire people with a vision of a better existence for them and by really hearing their input. Doing this helps employees become motivated because:

• They feel a part of a winning team and do not want to let the team down. Being a winner is fun.
• They feel both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards when they are doing their best work, and that is what drives their behaviors.
• They appreciate their co-workers and seek ways to help them physically and emotionally.
• They understand the goals of the organization and are personally committed to help as much as they can in the pursuit of the goals.
• They truly enjoy the social interactions with peers. They feel that going to work is a little like going bowling, except they are distributing computers instead of rolling a ball at wooden pins.
• They deeply respect their leaders and want them to be successful.
• They feel like they are part owners of the company and want it to succeed. By doing so, they bring success to themselves and their friends at work.
• They feel recognized for their many contributions and feel wonderful about that. If there is a picnic or a cash bonus, that is just the icing on the cake: not the full meal.

For an organization, “culture” means how people interact, what they believe, and how they create. If you could peel off the roof of an organization, you would see the manifestations of the culture in the physical world.

The actual culture is more esoteric because it resides in the hearts and minds of the society. It is the impetus for observable behaviors.

Achieving a state where all people are fully engaged is a large undertaking. It requires tremendous focus and leadership to achieve. It cannot be something you do on Tuesday afternoons or when you have special meetings.

Describe it as a new way of life rather than a program. You should see evidence of this in every nook and cranny of the organization.

Do not put the cart in front of the horse by attempting to motivate people with special events or gifts. Instead, increase the motivating factors and build a culture of trust. The end result is that many people will choose to be highly motivated, and the organization will prosper.




Bob Whipple is known internationally as “The Trust Ambassador.”  He is CEO of Leadergrow Inc. a leadership Development organization.