“Great leaders must have two things: a vision of the world that does not yet exist and the ability to communicate that vision clearly.” – Simon Sinek
Everyone needs a vision. Whether you’re a nonprofit, a business, a solopreneur, or a group of people fighting for a common cause, you need to know what you’re working towards and why.
Your vision is made up of these elements:
- Your purpose. This is your reason for being, your why, the very thing that gives you cause to get out of bed in the morning and do what you do. As an example, coffee giant Starbucks’ purpose statement is: “To establish Starbucks as the premier purveyor of the finest coffee in the world while maintaining our uncompromising principles while we grow.”
- Your mission. This is a description of the work you do in order to complete your purpose. It is a description of the work your organization does in the here and now. Starbucks’ mission statement: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”
- Your values. Whether you’re an individual or an organization, your values are the core principles that make you, well…you. This shortlist of descriptors makes up the very essence of who you are. Starbucks’ values are:
– Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome.
– Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.
– Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.
– Delivering our very best in all we do, holding ourselves accountable for results.
You can check out the values of some of your favorite brands here.
A clear vision that everyone understands is vital to your success. This is for three main reasons:
- It attracts the right people to the bus. You’ve likely heard about the importance of getting the right people on the bus, and in the right seats. Articulating your vision will help you attract not only the top talent, but the top talent that shares your passions. It is working for a cause we’re passionate about that motivates drive and work performance more than anything else – even more than salary.
- It gets everyone rowing in the same direction. Your vision communicates to your internal team where you’re headed and how success is defined. It identifies the common goal you are all rowing towards – and gives you an idea of what direction it lies in.
- It helps you find your voice and tell your story – which helps you find your customers. A clear vision communicates to the outside world who you are and what you stand for, making it easier for your like-minded target audience to jump aboard and join you.
- It serves as a guiding light for important decisions. Whether things are going right or you’re facing impending disaster, your vision is your north star to help you figure out how to respond to the highs and the lows of doing business.
A clear vision can help you achieve the unimaginable. Take Arizona’s recent Red4Ed campaign for example.
The movement was born out of a deep frustration with slashes to Arizona’s education funding in recent years – and we weren’t exactly in a great position to begin with. Inspired and sparked by movements in other states, Arizona’s teachers started organizing.
Their vision was crystal clear: more funding for public education, including restoring funding to pre-Recession levels, raising teacher pay, and stopping tax cuts until per-pupil funding reaches the national average.
Whether you were a teacher joining the week-long walk out, a parent of a child in a closed school, or a voter watching from a distance, you knew what they were fighting for and why. This clear vision enabled the strikes to spread like butter you’ve left in your car for too long – really easily. On the march to the Arizona Capitol on April 26th, an estimated 50,000 people donned their bright red shirts and joined in.
A vision is clear when it is written down clearly and referred to regularly. A respected government leader once told me that members of a team have to be reminded of important information every four weeks, and I have found that to be resoundingly true. When it comes to information important to your organization’s work, it can’t be written down once and then filed away in Google Drive somewhere. It must be talked about, referred to.
But before you can refer to it, you need to develop it.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing blogs on how to develop the three pillars of your vision – Purpose, Mission, and Values.
For now, think of an organization you’re involved with that you’re most passionate about, whether it’s your employer, faith community, neighborhood association, volunteer organization, your family or something else. Ask the members: How would you describe our vision? If they pause for longer than ten seconds before answering, or if everyone gives a different answer, you have a huge opportunity. Once everyone can clearly articulate your vision, the sky is not even the limit. It’s merely the starting point.