Vision is a responsibility of the organization's leader. Vision is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as a competence in perception.
This perception has to do with how the organization or team can best meet the internal or external customer's needs in the future. With the speed of change in the business environment successful visioning by the leader has become even more tricky. Clear leadership vision is critical for identifying new behaviors which may be the focus of new employee development programs. This vision is also a prerequisite for accurate goal setting for team members. Many activities in organizations hinge upon clear and effective vision.
Every leader at every level of the organization should have a vision for his/her followers. The key is for the visions to fit together from the top down like a jig saw puzzle. Actually, all leaders talk about their vision every time they reinforce positive behaviors or correct undesirable ones. Sometimes when I talk to followers who express confusion about the leader's vision, I ask them to write down what the leader talks about and the behaviors he/she supports or proposes.
Every leader has an idea about what should happen with his/her organization or team. A problem often arises because the leader doesn't clearly describe that vision for followers. The reason for that lapse is that the leader thinks of his/her vision in pieces. One helpful suggestion is to spend time writing down the vision as comprehensively as possible. Think about where the organization or team will be and what they will be doing if they are successful in five years. The writing of the vision helps solidify it and enables one to more clearly and concisely describe it.
Visions are moving targets of sorts. They have to be updated constantly. When I was a miner in the early '70s, I believed that the top managers of the mine knew the best way to run the mine for its future success. However, what I saw and what they told me didn't seem to be a complete picture. I thought that they were just feeding me what they thought I needed to know. Later, when I was promoted to section supervisor, I had more opportunity to talk with the top managers, and I became more aware of exactly what they wanted to see happen. The whys behind their vision were clearer. I was surprised that they didn't have all the answers and even involved me in the planning. Later, when I was hired as a plant training manager, I was deeply involved in developing the vision and the action steps to implement it. My input was specifically solicited during development meetings, and I was one of the critical players who communicated and discussed the vision with all employees through various training and planning sessions.
Finally, I assumed the role of corporate training director. The daily decisions that reflected the company's vision were more fluid than I had ever expected. I realized that there was no perfect template for the organization. Top managers were assessing the best data available and constantly redesigning the vision to meet business needs.
It is important for leaders to have the pulse of the marketplace and the customer's needs. A good leader should spend more time thinking about where the organization needs to go than where it is.
R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray's new book, "Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons," visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.