How to Build a Vision for Today and Tomorrow

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by Peter Barron Stark

What’s more important: a short-term or a long-term vision?

The answer is… both.

A vision is a clear mental picture of a future desired state, preferably written. A great analogy for a vision is a jigsaw puzzle. Before you even begin to organize and assemble the small puzzle pieces that are inside of the box, you will see, very clearly, the final outcome displayed on the puzzle’s box top. That’s your vision; the outcome that you’re striving to create.

Thankfully, life isn’t laid out for us like a puzzle. We get to create our own vision. Your vision may have nothing, whatsoever, to do with the reality of today and everything to do with the outcome you want to create for your organization or team. Good visions address the following types of questions:

1. What picture do we want to create for the future of the organization?
2. How do we want to be seen in 3-5 years by our employees? Customers? Community?
3. What’s the higher, larger cause for which we fight?

Here’s something every leader should keep in mind: it’s absolutely critical that you have a long-term vision of the future that you hope to create for your organization or team. This vision should be big and strong enough to guide your team or organization for the next 3, 5, or 10 years. Your vision should be:

– A force that encourages and energizes an individual
– A picture of what the organization hopes to achieve
– Idealistic vs. realistic: don’t limit yourself to what you think can happen
– Not time bound: In 5 to 10 years, you may still have not achieved your vision
– A strong positive statement that’s exciting and compelling

Once you have a compelling, positive vision to guide the long-term direction of your team or organization, the next step is to set short- and long-term goals that, when completed, will turn your vision into a reality.

For example, if your vision is to create a culture where employees love coming to work, some of your short-term goals might include conducting an employee engagement survey and taking action on the areas the employees feel have the greatest opportunities. A second goal may be to support leaders by providing leadership development training or executive coaching.

Setting and completing these short-term goals will help you achieve your long-term vision. Some of the keys to setting great goals include:

– Ensure your goals are written and specific, with a plan for accomplishment
– Make the goal measurable and time bound
– Assign a person who will be accountable for the accomplishment of the goal
– Celebrate success

Strong leaders recognize the value of a clear vision, and understand the importance of communicating that vision. According to our employee engagement research, employees from companies in the Best of the Best benchmark responded 15 percentage points more favorably in response to the statement, “Employees at my company are clear on the company’s goals and future direction.” Our clients Best of the Best Benchmark tell us that visions work because they:

– Concentrate everyone’s focus and energy toward a common goal
– Build teamwork by creating excitement about the future
– Transcend pettiness
– Build momentum to overcome problems that develop

Great visions, combined with the short- and long-term goals to turn the vision into a reality are a key to being a great leader. With a powerful positive vision, most team members will find it easier to feel excitement and pride. Joel Barker said it best, “Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”

Peter Barron Stark Companies is a nationally recognized management consulting company that specializes in employee engagement surveys, executive coaching, and leadership and employee training. For more information, please visit http://www.peterstark

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