April 3, 2019
Vision is incredibly important in every aspect of our lives. That includes our business lives. Indeed, icons in any industry are often referred to as “visionaries.” For me that word conjures to mind Elon Musk and his space projects or Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone. Those tech entrepreneurs and business titans had visions for themselves, their companies, their products and, in some cases, a changed world.
Every entrepreneur has a vision of some sort, even if it may be humbler than putting people on Mars. Whether it be a thriving store or restaurant, a busy contracting company or a job shop with a few machines running two shifts, without this vision the entrepreneur has no road map, no goals to work toward.
As human beings, we are provided these wonderful brains, and those brains ensure that all our faculties are functioning using all the sensory information we take in. Our hands move, conscious of what our eyes see. Imagine if you had the capacity to see the world around you, but for some reason, your hands and feet wouldn’t or couldn’t access or respond to that information. You wouldn’t be able to function very well or interact with that world, would you?
For business leaders, our teams of employees are the hands and feet of our organizations — and if we wouldn’t expect our physical hands and feet to function if they were disconnected from our physical vision, why would we expect our teams to function without being connected to the company vision? So how can we ensure that they are?
Setting short- and medium-term goals for your team is beneficial on many levels and a good place to start. These kinds of goals, be they sales, production or safety, give a tangible benchmark on which the team can focus. Taking it a step farther, framing those goals in the context of your overall or long-term vision can be a great way to periodically check up on your team’s commitment to and understanding of that vision. Set weekly, monthly or quarterly goals for your team in the areas you want to focus on, make them public and measurable, and when you present them and evaluate them share their place in your overall vision.
The day-to-day life of a business leader is full of situations that require them to give directives. These situations are also opportunities to share your vision. “This really needs to get done this week, so that we can hit our goal of X. Of course, all the work that went into goal X will be well worth it when two years from now we are doing Y… .”
As the business leader, you do everything with this vision in mind. Occasionally dropping pieces of it along with your instructions can help create a culture in which that vision is shared by all your employees and constantly reinforced.
Sometimes things just need to be brought back into focus. While keeping team members on task at the jobs they do best is often the best way to ensure productivity, occasionally taking time to refocus your group can do worlds of good to boost overall efficiency and direction.
Many may have heard the term “visioncast,” which is a newer way of referring to a brainstorming session or ideas meeting. Have one of these kinds of meetings with your whole team at least annually. The main purpose of the meeting may be simply for you to communicate your vision but, in the process, you may get some good ideas and perspectives. What you will certainly do is make your team feel engaged in your vision.
Seizing Opportunity — and Averting Disaster
Many business heads work with professional consultants to gain an objective evaluation of how their company is doing, where the company is excelling and where things can be improved. One of the exercises these consultants nearly always employ is to randomly interview employees across all levels of the organization. Those employees are asked many questions about their jobs and daily interactions, but they are also always asked about the company’s big picture. What are the company’s goals? What are its values? Where is the company going? What is the five-year or 10-year plan management is working toward? During this interviewing process, answers to these questions will be given by those employees, because whether the business owner has communicated them, answers have been and are being inferred and assumed every day by those staff members.
Those assumptions can cause opportunities to be missed and disasters to occur. Imagine an old sailing ship, long at sea, with the mate up in the crow’s nest yelling “Land ho!” The excitement can be felt throughout the ship, and everyone does their job to get the ship to land as fast as possible. In the same vein, imagine that same mate warning of an iceberg ahead, which enables the crew to do what’s necessary to avoid it. Now imagine if neither message is ever passed along. The ship will drift at sea forever and possibly meet with disaster.
Good leaders understand that it is their responsibility to make sure those answers are the right ones. If your people understand the mission of the company and the vision behind it, they can actively ensure their efforts are in service of that mission. Without it, they may be working against the tide.
Practical Application Exercises
To apply the lessons in this article, here are some questions to ask yourself.
Immediately after reading:
- What do I consider to be the vision or long-term goals for my company?
- If I were to ask my team members at all levels of the organization what the company goals are, what kind of answers would they give? Would those answers be different depending on the seniority of the person asked?
- What types of things can I do to articulate my vision in a detailed way?
- What can I do to improve how that vision is communicated?
Three months after reading:
- What kinds of answers do my employees give to the vision question today?
- In what ways does it align with the actual vision? Is that alignment better or worse than three months ago?
About the Author
Josh Fiorini is the former CEO of PTR Industries, Inc. He spent the first decade of his career in finance, holding positions as an equity analyst and portfolio manager before starting his own hedge fund. This experience, along with a deep background in manufacturing, banking and private equity, has made him a sought-after contributor on numerous boards and discussion groups on political and economic issues for media outlets, corporations and community organizations. Fiorini currently invests his time and resources with non-profit initiatives and acts as a contributor and management consultant to various firms in the firearms industry as the founding and Managing Partner in the firm Narrow Gate Management.