Imagine a group of people hiking in the wilderness. The person guiding the group points and says, “that mountain top is our destination!” Everyone looks, but because it’s so foggy they can’t see the mountain or its top. Without the guide, the group might make it to a mountain top, but how could they be sure it’s the right one. Take that same situation on a clear day. The guide comes to clearing and points to to the visible mountain. The team could see the mountain, the mountain top, and they could also see the terrain that comes before the mountain. They could see the river that they have to cross, the forrest that they have to go through. They could now mentally prepare for the journey ahead. And if the guide were to leave for some reason, the group could continue in the direction of the mountain with little supervision.
As a leader, the vision that you set before your team will either help you or hinder you. Setting a clear vision of what you expect is the first thing you should do before taking on any task, role, project, anything. Even if you are at the bottom of your organization, setting clear expectations will help you, and those working with you, understand what you are doing. Even when it comes to goal setting for yourself. You need to have a clear vision for your year, or your life, depending on how far you are planning out. Without that picture you are basically just doing busy work, moving around aimlessly. With a clear vision, your steps will have purpose.
How do you know if you have a clear vision?
1) Is there a clear destination or is the outcome visible? Reaching the mountain top is visible. Getting 10 new customers is visible. Doing a better job is not visible. The outcome needs to be specific enough for everyone to know when you have hit the mark. People want to see you hit the bullseye, so show them the target and fire. They will cheer you on.
2) Are people asking a ton of questions? If your team is asking alot of questions, it’s because they are trying to paint the picture themselves. They can’t see it with the description that you gave, so they are asking for clarity. Too much fog. Help them by painting a clear picture, it will save you the trouble of having to clarify things after time and resources have been spent.
3) Could you leave someone in charge to make decisions for the group? When someone could take the reins and drive for a bit because they know where you are headed. When someone could step in while you are out (sick, vacation, other) and still keep your ship headed in the right direction. This is a true mark of having a clear vision.
Setting the vision for yourself or your team is like painting a mental picture. You have to be able to see it and describe it in a way that the next person could do the same.
Look over your goals for 2013. Are they clear and specific? Try describing each one outloud and if you can’t picture it in your minds-eye, don’t worry about it, it will come to you… just keep painting.
We all have lofty ideas of “the next best thing”. I want to be the next Facebook. I want to direct like Spielberg. My idea is better than Groupon. We are all still looking for that get rich quick scheme that is going to take us to the top. And although the idea that we have might have some merit, sometimes keeping your eyes focused on something so big is detrimental to us actually getting there. Sometimes in order to reach these huge goals, we don’t need a big break, but a small step.
A chef doesn’t start off wanting to own restaurants all over the world, he wants to make one dish the best dish he’s ever made. A teacher doesn’t think about the number of students that he will educate in his lifetime, but focuses on giving the best education to the students in his class today. A doctor doesn’t start off focusing on the cure for cancer, she is focused on one cell and getting that one cell to react to her treatment.
Actor Will Smith talked about a project that his dad gave to him and his brother when they were little; to build a wall. The boys said it would take forever, but they started anyway. He said, “… But you aren’t focused on the wall everyday, you are focused on laying one brick perfectly, one day at a time. And eventually, you’ll have a wall.”
It’s ok to think big and have huge goals, I actually encourage that. But when you are starting out on a new goal, to ensure that you maintain all the way through to your destination, it helps to start small. A single step.
“If you want to be a Rockstar, the first step is learn how to rock.”