Unleash the Power of a Compelling Vision

Vision

One of the most popular buzzwords in business.  It has been discussed in management literature, offices, and boardrooms around the world. Yet I think it remains one of the most misinterpreted and underused concepts in business.

Here’s an example of the word “vision” that has become so common: At a recent meeting with Stan, the VP of sales in a large software company, I asked, “What’s the vision for your company?

He gave me a blank look, reached into his drawer, and pulled out a 3×5 card. He started reciting the words printed on that card. His voice was dry and monotone, as if he was reading a legal document.  His face revealed no enthusiasm whatsoever. I couldn’t blame him…the words he read were downright boring.

I thought, “This executive doesn’t get it. He’s reading a vision without seeing one.”

Stan was lost in the fog.

Fog Can Be Very Dangerous

I invite you on a road trip, starting in the San Francisco Bay area. Let’s imagine it’s a beautiful summer day. We rent a convertible sports car at the San Francisco International Airport and set off south towards the coast. The sun is shining bright as we head south toward Monterey, and the curvy road traces a tricky path between the vast blue ocean on our right and the sheer, rocky cliffs on the left.

With the top down and the music up, we speed along, delighted with the spectacular view of the ocean on one side and the picturesque mountains on the others, while our conversations are flowing. We are having fun as the time flies and the miles disappear behind us.

Then, as often happens in this area, a cloud of fog creeps in off the ocean. The temperature drops, chilling our skin, and the view disappears before our eyes. Feeling more cautious, we instinctively slow down.

Eventually we stop the car, put up the roof, turn down the music and continue on our way. Now we’re moving at a much slower pace, feeling a little uncertain on the curvy road. We think about the sheer drop off to the right, and instead of lighthearted banter, we speak in serious tones. We have lost the fun in our trip.

Forty minutes later the fog grows thin then fades away entirely. As the visibility improves, so does our mood. Our smiles return, we pick up speed, and we find ourselves appreciating the journey much more.

Now, for the moral of the story

Many organizations – and even more individuals – are trying to direct and maneuver themselves through the fog. Because they can only see what is immediately in front of them, they feel cautious, afraid of making quick, bold decisions, and they avoid risk. Instead of feeling energized, they feel hesitant.

Companies and professionals in a fog are usually so focused on the immediate road ahead – the problems, quotas, quarterly profits, stock prices, and other key performance indicators – that they lose direction for the long term and of the big picture.

Without a strong vision, sense of direction, and a large enough perspective to see down the road, people and companies become nearsighted, overly cautious, and uninspired. Over time, this dramatically compromises their speed and progress. This is the danger of being lost in a fog.

With a clear, sharp, compelling vision of the future, people get excited. They become surprisingly innovative and committed. They plan ahead, set ambitious targets, and take inspired action. That’s the power of vision unleashed.

What is your “fog”? What is the vision you like to create? How can I help?

Questions Every Professional Should Answer for Clarity

In the field of effectiveness, Peter Drucker coined the term “knowledge worker.” The toughest job of a knowledge worker is to define his or her “work.” Knowledge work can be described as one whose main asset is knowledge.

For example, what is the “work” of a manager, financial analyst, quality control specialist, software engineer, or executive coach? Answering that in a clear, concise sentence is hard.

Clarity is needed.

To gain clarity, we have to go to a higher place. It’s just like mountain climbing – the higher we go, the further we can see. We want to put things in a different context, generate unrealized ideas, or change perspective how we see things.

Good, relevant questions can do that. It’s less important to come up with the “right” or “perfect” question, and more valuable to go through the thinking process, reflecting on your intention. Just like Eisenhower said, “A plan is worthless, planning is everything.”

I invite you to take some time to plan. Here are 10 questions to get you started to gain clarity in your life and business.

  1. What are your five most important accomplishments you have achieved in your life that you are most proud of?
  2. What are your top 3 professional strengths and assets?
  3. What five goals do you want to accomplish in the next 12 months?
  4. What five goals do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?
  5. What five goals do you want to accomplish in your lifetime?
  6. What are three factors that support your motivation and performance?
  7. What are the issues that limit you? What are you putting up with that is holding you back? (i.e. recurring problems, unproductive habits, disorganization, etc.)
  8. If you could change one thing in your life what would that be?
  9. What are some opportunities you currently see in your life/business?
  10. When you are at your best?

 

 

What is Your Plan for 2015?

I am amazed at how many professionals start the New Year without established personal or career goals. Many people have New Year’s resolutions, yet they avoid setting clear intentions for their personal/career life and when they do they avoid writing them out.

Seven years ago, I started a personal planning exercise for my life and career. At the beginning of every year, I sit down for a couple of hours and write down what I want to accomplish in the next 12 months. Throughout the year I track my progress towards my goals and make adjustments.

Over the years, I have not only made progress in my personal goal achievements, I have also developed better, more realistic goal setting and effective execution skills. In particular, I have benefited in three ways:

  • • I have gained more clarity about what is really important to me and what is not important. This helps me tremendously to integrate all aspects of my life to ensure more balance and less stress.
  • • I am more honest and realistic about what I can achieve. I tended to be too optimistic in the beginning of planning when considering what is achievable.
  • • I have developed a habit to hold myself accountable to meet my own goals and commitments, which is humbling.

As we start a new year, I have two questions for you:

  • 1. Have you set your goals for 2015?
  • 2. Have you written them down?

If you answered both questions with YES, congratulations.
If your answers is NO, I invite you to go through this very simple and powerful exercise.

Annual Personal Planning Exercise

I have conducted this exercise annually for the last seven years. It is simple, powerful and has helped me to create clarity and stay focused on what matters most. It will do the same for you:

Step 1: Take a blank sheet of paper. On top of it, I write down:

“2015 has been very successful because …” Then I finish the sentence.

Write down all the things you want to have accomplished by the end of 2015. Imagine that we sit down on December 31, 2015 and review the year. I ask you about 2015 and you say, “well, 2015 has been very successful” – then you tell me all the things that made your year successful. Those things are your goals that you write down on this page.

I recommend you divide your “life” into relevant categories. My categories include the following areas:

  • 1. Health and well being (including rest, vacation, hobbies, and travel)
  • 2. Relationships and Family (love ones, friends)
  • 3. Personal Finances (income, savings, net assets)
  • 4. Business and Career (including learning, networking, new skills)

Step 2: For each of the goals, ask the following question:

“How do I know?”

The answer to this question is either a yes/no or a number. If we don’t establish clear measurable standards, we will not know if we are going to accomplish our goal or not? Remember the concept “what gets measured, gets done; what gets measured gets improved”.

For example, in my health category, my goal is to be healthy, fit and energetic.
How do I know? I have four measures for this:

  • • Get an annual physical check up (yes/no)
  • • Weight (195 pounds)
  • • Get quality sleep (seven plus hours daily)
  • • Work out five times per week, e.g. run, bike, soccer, gym, yoga

Step 3: At the end of each month, review your goals and see if you are on track. If not, make the necessary adjustments either in your goals or your behaviors.

Breakthroughs, Behaviors, and Beliefs

To ensure you stay on track with your plan, reflect on the following questions:

  • 1. In what areas of your life will you have opportunities for breakthroughs and new levels of performance? What are one or two major challenges that you might face?
  • 2. What do you want to change in your behaviors, habits or skills to achieve your personal goals?
  • 3. How do you want to (and have to) show up to attract success in 2015? What new beliefs will you nurture and develop?

I send you my best wishes as well as determination, discipline and persistence in pursuing your goals and making 2015 a successful year.