Something magical happens when we define a goal. When we set out an improved future state. A vision.
It’s strange but by the simple act of thinking through where we might want to be, what that looks like and why it will be worth the struggle to get there our brains are wired to log this and then seek opportunities to help us get there.
We spot others who might be potential companions on our quest. We see opportunities which others do not. We connect dots which might otherwise have remained unconnected. We push towards our vision and we back-off from things which distract. We focus.
Goals are especially powerful when we can articulate, to the people that matter, why they should join us on the question to make them a reality. When we share our vision and dream. When we do so in such a way that others can see it too. They can visual it and agree it would be a positive outcome and a worthwhile enterprise. Once they accept the vision as theirs, their brains, in turn, look for opporuntities to help get us there.
This is why, at the start of this year, writing goals, crafting a vision and setting out why it matters is crucial for business leadership today.
There is an ancient proverb in the Bible, penned by the wise king Soloman:
"Where there is no vision, the people perish" Proverbs 29:18
No vision from a leader means danger. For why do we follow if we do not know where the destination is? And can we have confidence in a leader who cannot tell us where they are taking us?
Image source: Unsplash Credit: Salvatore Ventura
If you want your people to be passionate, proactive and driven towards a common future then it’s down to you, their leader, to give them a vision of the future. And you need to help them see why this future is better than where they are today. Why is it better for them? For wider society? NOTE: Not why is it better for you. Because frankly nobody cares about you. And if your vision is all about you then you will fail.
The same goes for customers. They have a problem to solve. A job to be done. An identity to build. And the question is how are you going to help them? How are you going to improve their lives? What is your vision for them? What are your goals going to do for them? The more vividly your brand can paint the picture, the more aligned your team, and the more the true brand experience reflects this, the more likely your brand will be successful.
I’m currently advising my clients to think through 2023. What’s their vision for the year? Where are we now? What's the goal (or what are the goals) we want to achieve this year? And more than this. Who will be impacted if we reach those goals? Who do we need to see that future like we do? Why will the effort be worthwhile for them? What are we going to do to paint the picture of the future with them and how are we going to rally and inspire them.
More than this, 2023 is surely just one stepping stone towards an even bigger vision of the future. What is the brand the meaning you want people to attach to your offer, company or service? What’s its role in the future and why will the universe be improved? So don’t just think about 2023. Think about 2043. And work backwards from there.
But be careful. It's always wise to add a pinch of reality. We are in a recession. Social unrest is never far away. The economic down-turn could get worse. So be sure, in your vision for the year, you envisage worst case scenarios and have a plan to ride the storms. Hopefully you'll not need those plans. But your people will appreciate your forward thinking.
Good leadership requires vision. Great leadership requires vision and compelling articulation of that vision to the people who will help the leader make it happen. So work on communication. Communication. Communication.
So - as we start 2023 I want to encourage you to get down to your vision, your goals, your dream. Define it. Craft it. Envision it. And then work on articulating it.
It might just make your year.