How do you create a shared company vision?
A company’s vision must be unreasonable. This might sound counter intuitive. But if it’s reasonable, you could get there today and you wouldn’t stretch your teams to set bold strategic priorities and learn and grow on the journey. Your vision must be clear, inspiring, underpinned by financial goals for your stakeholders and shared with everyone across your business.
An unreasonable dream
It’s been fifty years since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. President John F. Kennedy committed the U.S. to achieving that incredible mission in 1961. Remember his words: “We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”
This vision, this unreasonable dream, was at the time impossible. It forced NASA to think differently. NASA figured out it wasn’t possible to achieve this vision by working harder or longer. They needed to move from comfort to “stretch,” and try new ways of doing things. On July 29, 1969, Apollo 11 did the impossible and touched down on the lunar surface, with 25 seconds of fuel left!
“We do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”
President John F. Kennedy
Create a compelling vision
A vision is one of your company’s decision filters (along with purpose/mission, values and strategy). Without a compelling vision, how do you know how to set your strategic priorities for the following year? In other words, without a clear destination, all roads will take you there.
In a start-up business, the vision is likely to be in the mind of the founder and probably not written down. However, when a company grows and hires more employees, that vision needs to be communicated so employees will engage in it.
The CEO and top-leadership team need to craft the message and come up with a plan to achieve it, so they can bring it to life for employees. As Patrick Lencioni said, it’s about clarity and alignment.
To get there, try running this exercise with your leadership team:
- It’s ten years from now. You are celebrating the achievement of your vision with the whole company.
- You are going to deliver a speech to everyone, saying how you achieved the vision and what the company did to get there (business growth, clients, partnerships, your people, marketing, the values and behaviors we lived, etc.).
- Write this speech based on your understanding of what your team needs to achieve over the coming years. Then read it out loud at our next management meeting.With all the different speeches from your leadership team, you’ll be able to craft your vision and you’ll have created clarity, alignment and collaboration in doing so!
With all the different speeches from your leadership team, you’ll be able to craft your vision and you’ll have created clarity, alignment and collaboration in doing so! It will allow you as a CEO to pull together a vision that you can all buy in to.
Your vision cannot be just a financial target. A financial growth target by a given date is fine for the owners and the leadership team, but is unlikely to engage your workforce. So you need both: an emotional, stretching, clear vision for everyone, underpinned by a financial vision for your shareholders and leadership team.