How to Develop a Vision for Change

The beginning of the year often means that your team is looking to you, their fearless leader, for direction. But do you know where you want to go?

Developing a vision can help galvanize your team so that everyone is working in the same direction and understands why their work matters. And as Oprah found out last week at the Golden Globes, communicating a compelling vision gets you pegged as a person to watch (even when your other qualifications are a bit iffy!). But if you think that developing a vision is just for CEOs or media magnates, think again. First-level and middle managers should be thinking ahead to develop their own vision for the next project, or for a year or two out. Setting and explaining your vision now will keep the team motivated and focused when problems and distractions arise.

If you’re ready to craft your own statement, don’t worry, you don’t have to go on a vision quest. One simple way is to answer the following six questions. Don’t get hung up on wordsmithing—you’re not crafting a statement for the ages. With these answers in your back pocket, you’ll be able to tailor your vision to any listener and communicate with total authenticity, anytime:

  1. Where are we now? Make sure that everyone is on the same page, and that they see some of the same issues that you’re seeing.

  2. Where do we want to be in the future? If you’re not sure where to start, think about this from your customers’ perspective—what part of their lives needs improvement, and how can your work help achieve that? You may need to hold a customer sensing meeting to discover the most pressing needs.

  3. How does that future connect with what your stakeholders want? People want what they want, not what you think they should want. Uncover the ambition of the group you’re trying to get on board, then explain how your vision satisfies it.

  4. How are we going to get there? Hit the highlights and avoid the weeds. What tough choices will need to be made? What are the key milestones that will signify that you’re getting close to your goal?

  5. How are we going to need to act differently to execute that strategy? Think about who the team will have to become. Help them understand if they’ll need to dig deep, put aside differences, get out of their comfort zone, or even white-knuckle through some scary moments. Here’s your chance to let them know you've considered the emotional terrain.

  6. What visible actions am I, as the leader, going to take to get this done? Exude confidence that this is doable, and show your commitment to personally doing everything you’re asking them to do.

In next week’s newsletter, we’ll help you figure out whether the people around you are resistant to change, or if the problem is that your vision is, well, not exactly visionary.


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