Your vision is the future you are making. It’s where you want your company to be in a given time frame. Defining your intentional vision is about looking beyond the constraints of the present and seeing what could be. In developing your vision statement, try to complete this sentence: “A year from now, we will be …”.
The CEO of a small accounting firm I worked with could not see a vision beyond one or two staff simply because that’s the way it had always been. Not surprisingly, he didn’t have a clear intention for what he wanted for his company. As it turned out, what he really wanted was to create a firm with fifty employees in five years. But, to discover that, we first had to focus on his true intention: Was it to create a certain size firm? Was it to service a certain type of customer? Was it to provide excellent advice to businesses so they made sound decisions and maximized their tax advantage? Once we had clarified why he was in business, he could get excited about what he was doing and the where, the vision, could begin to emerge from that.
As a next step, I had him close his eyes and literally visualize his business: his desk, his office, the windows, the lobby, all the employees’ desks, the customers. The first thing he needed to do was imaginatively move past the present reality in order to ask himself: “If it were possible, what would it look like?” Kids are experts at this kind of thinking, but as adults, we inhibit our creative thinking by putting “can’t happen filters” on possibility. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines vision as “[t]he ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.” Defining your vision, therefore, requires thinking outside of your current constraints. If money, time, and people were unlimited—if there were literally no resource constraints whatsoever—what would you create?
As soon as this CEO started thinking about what was possible, instead of what wasn’t possible, he started to develop a clear picture of where he wanted to go. A year later, he had increased his staff to ten and was still growing. True entrepreneurs are defined by their belief in possibilities—just try to talk them out of it!
Once you have the picture of what your intentional vision looks like, just as you did with your mission, test it out on a few people. Tell them about it and listen to what they say, but also watch their body language and facial expressions. Don’t get discouraged if they look at you like you’ve lost all common sense. Just sit back, listen, and ask questions. You need to be able to listen objectively so you can learn how to describe your vision in a way that creates enthusiasm and energy. This is also a good opportunity to make course corrections if necessary or to fine-tune how you deliver your message. A good friend and colleague of mine teaches leaders how to speak about themselves and their companies. Her favorite phrase for getting people to tap into their own enthusiasm about a topic is to ask what “spins your jets” about it. So, in thinking about how to communicate your intentional vision, figure out what spins your jets about it and why. When you test your vision statement on others, pay attention to what spins their jets. Is the thing that gets them excited what you want them to get excited about?
After you’ve clarified your intentional vision, and others have validated that you sound credible when describing it, it’s critical for everyone in your company to understand the vision and to decide whether or not they’re on board. You want your whole company to be excited about the vision and committed to it. Everyone in the company is, by default, in sales (no matter what role they play in the organizational scheme), and if they don’t believe in the intentional vision, they can’t sell it. Talk about your vision early and often, and make sure everyone has the words to talk about it. If they can talk about it in their own words that’s even better because then the vision means something to them personally. You want your business staffed by people who are excited about why your company exists and where it is going.
Excerpted from my book, “Putting Together the Entrepreneurial Puzzle: The Ten Pieces Every Business Needs to Succeed.” Available here on Amazon.