Recently, while hiking with a wonderful 6-year-old, she asked a question that highlighted the importance of creating a shared vision.
That morning, one of her parents had asked a group of us, “Who wants to go on a hike?” A small number decided that a hike sounded like fun, and so we each grabbed our hiking shoes, a bottle of water and a small snack.
When we were no more than 10 steps into our hike, this youngest member of our hiking party asked, “Where are we going?” to which the adults responded (in a mildly patronizing tone), “We are going on a hike.”
“I know that,” she said (with a justified trace of irritation in her voice), “but where are we hiking to? It’s more fun for me if I know where I’m going.”
In a single sentence, she had captured the essence of the importance of creating a shared vision. The ability to be in dialogue with your manager, senior executive, and even board of directors, in order to create a shared vision allows you to organize and align your efforts to the same end. Like our hikers who had a sense of what it would take to succeed on the hike—shoes, water and snacks—you may have a vague idea of the tools that you need but without a clear vision, you can’t be sure that you have the right tools for the destination, or that you are even the right person for the job.
Those of you who are familiar with our work, know that we are passionate about the fact that good leaders engage others in creating a shared vision. We have seen over and over that employees and staff members who don’t have a clear, shared vision of the future find it difficult to be effective because they lack information critical about the destination. (To use our hiking story, it would be like going for a hike at the beach wearing mountain climbing gear.) All too often, employees find their days and weeks verging on insufferable because the very people who are pushing them to perform haven’t articulated a clear enough vision for them to know whether are succeeding and, even if they are succeeding, how that success contributes to something larger.
At 6, our thoughtful friend, had the wherewithal to ask about the destination so that she could enjoy the hike that was ahead of her. Truth be told, her question highlighted the fact that the adults had left the campsite eager to hike but with no clear, shared vision of what that even meant. We put our heads together and in the span of less than 2 minutes came up with a clear vision for what the morning’s hike would be, and with that we hit the trails a well-managed group.
Take some time this week to pause and see if you can articulate the vision for your organization and how your role/department fits into that vision. Then, the next time you are meeting with your boss, ask him or her what they believe the vision is and make sure that your visions are in alignment.