How Leaders Create A Compelling Vision to Engage & Inspire

company vision

Lead With Vision

Leaders create a vision and engage a community to achieve it.

What does it mean to lead with vision?

It’s a question that authors Bonnie Hagemann, Simon Vetter, and John Maketa researched extensively, surveying over 400 companies in search of the answer.

I recently spoke with the authors about their new book, LEADING WITH VISION: The Leader’s Blueprint for Creating a Compelling Vision and Engaging the Workforce.

 

Would you share the story about “going up the stairs two steps at a time” and how it impacted your view of leadership and culture?

Yes, of course.  Back in 2006 I had a meeting with Jim Bolt, the founder of Executive Development Associates (EDA), to discuss how I would run the company. Jim had been developing senior leaders since the early 1980s and was a renowned expert in the field. I knew I had much to learn from Jim and hoped we could work together. I didn’t know at the time that the very first piece of advice he would give me would shape and inform every leadership decision I have made since. Before I left that meeting, Jim handed me a book from his shelf called Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard, founder and CEO of Patagonia, a sports clothing company.

The book is the story of Patagonia with an emphasis, almost a plea, for sustainability.  Jim wanted me to start thinking about how we could help with this effort, I read the book but it was something else within that captured my attention. The CEO of Patagonia wanted to build an organization where employees were compelled to come to work. Yvon Chouinard wanted a company where employees were a part of their environmental mission.  He wanted employees to be wholly engaged and committed.  He said, “Work had to be enjoyable on a daily basis. We all had to come to work on the balls of our feet and go up the stairs two steps at a time” (Chouinard 2005, 45).

That statement struck me as extremely important.  Imagine the creativity and courage and productivity that would come from a workforce like that.  The power of it is immeasurable.  That is what visionary leadership can do.  It can unleash the power of the workforce.

 

Visionary leaders create a clear picture of a positive future state.

 

The 4 C’s of a Visionary Leader

What’s your definition of a visionary leader?

A visionary leader is a person who steps out and creates a clear picture of a positive future state.  It takes a lot of courage because creating a vision for the future is basically imagining what could be and what should be.  That feels very risky for leaders.  It is stepping out of the norm.  There are certain things they will need to do.  In the book we explain further by putting it into 4 Cs.  They must:

  1. Embody courage,
  2. Forge clarity,
  3. Build connectedness, and
  4. Shape the culture.

 

What advice do you have for a leader struggling with creating a compelling vision? 

How to Live Eyes Wide Open in a World That Can’t See Clearly

sunglasses on a wood table. live eyes wide open

Live Eyes Wide Open

 

“Worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” -Helen Keller

 

If you want to read an inspirational story of triumph over adversity, of overcoming challenges, this is it.

Isaac Lidsky played “Weasel” on Saved by the Bell: The New Class. He graduated – at nineteen – from Harvard with degrees in math and computer science. He then went on to Harvard Law School and then served as a law clerk at the Supreme Court for Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O’Connor. His legal career had him winning all of his dozen plus appeals in federal court before he went on the start a tech company. Enough? No. He then went into construction and succeeded again. He also has founded a non-profit called Hope for Vision.

Wow. That’s an amazing track record of success in multiple fields.

All that success and he makes it seem so easy.

Then you learn that he was born with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare degenerative disease that caused gradual loss of sight and now blindness.

Isaac has learned to live with his “Eyes Wide Open.” His new book is called Eyes Wide Open: Overcoming Obstacles and Recognizing Opportunities in a World That Can’t See Clearly. I found it a powerfully motivating read and followed up with the actor turned entrepreneur to learn more about his uniquely positive attitude in the midst of what would stop many of us in our tracks.

 

“Living with your eyes open and living eyes wide open are two very different things.” -Isaac Lidsky

 

Stay Positive Despite the Circumstances

You’ve been through trial after trial and continue to see success. How do you stay positive despite the circumstances?

In every moment, we choose how we want to live our lives and who we want to be, no matter what circumstances we face. There are always people who did far more with far less and were far happier doing it. So, it’s not our circumstances that govern the lives we experience. How those circumstances manifest themselves in our realities is within our control.

 

“In the face of great challenges, you can choose to live reactively as a victim, or choose to proactively take control, with awareness and accountability.” -Isaac Lidsky

Practice Intelligent Restraint to Drive Your Growth

Pacing for Growth

Chances are that you’re driven. You have goals, and you’re actively working on them. When you get to work, you’re off and running.

I know this because most people reading this blog are here for success tips to become better leaders and more successful. If you were lazy and drifting without goals, you probably wouldn’t be visiting.

As you push through obstacles, you likely don’t think much about the word “restraint.” In fact, if you do, you may think that the only thing that matters is removing all restraints so you can get to your destination. Fast.

 

“Never let others define what success means for you.” -Alison Eyring

 

That’s why I was drawn to the work of Dr. Alison Eyring. Her book, Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success, is about the balance between speed and restraint. I asked her to share some of these principles with us so we could learn from her research into what she calls “intelligent restraint.” Alison Eyring is the founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions, and she has advised some of the world’s most innovative companies on leadership and growth.

 

Solve Your Growth Challenge

How has competing in long-distance runs and triathlons impacted your approach to business?

Like all business leaders, I struggle to drive my business to perform today, as I also lead transformation for the future – all without damaging the business or my team. It’s so much easier to focus on just one of those things, but we have to do all three for long-term success.  My experience training for endurance races led me to discover a growth philosophy I call “Intelligent Restraint” that helps solve this growth challenge.

 

Can you tell us more about “Intelligent Restraint”?

Intelligent Restraint is a growth mindset that helps you build the right capabilities for growth at the right pace. Sometimes it means going slower, and other times it means going faster.

When you are training for an endurance race, you have to push yourself to go as far and as fast as you can but then no further so that you don’t get hurt or burned out.  In my book, I describe practical ways leaders can apply this growth mindset. For example, you can define and measure “maximum capacity” of the business and then create a plan to bridge the gap between current levels of performance and “maximum capacity.”

Another way leaders can put this way of thinking to work is by practicing what I call “Rules of Intelligent Restraint.” Like rules of restraint in endurance training, these rules help leaders drive growth in a way that conserves energy and can be sustained. My favorite rule is “routines beat strengths.”

 

“Routines beat strengths.” -Alison Eyring

 

Alison's 8 Insights from Endurance Training

  1. Always train for the right race.
  2. Don’t let any mountain defeat you.
  3. Be good enough when good is enough.
  4. Find many ways to maintain your own energy.
  5. Don’t spend your life doing only what you do well.
  6. Never let others define what success means for you.
  7. Be courageous and be humble; persevere and be willing to stop.
  8. Never be intimidated by anyone who looks stronger and faster than you.

 

Train for the Right Race

How do leaders find the right balance between the sprint and the marathon?

You can’t sprint and run long distance unless you’ve trained properly. A midfielder in soccer, for example, will sprint the entire game AND also run several miles. They’ve trained for this. On the other hand, if you ask a world class sprinter to run a marathon tomorrow, they might possibly complete a half marathon but they’ll be in tremendous pain.

As leaders, we need to train our business and our people for the right race. We all want to succeed over the long-term as a business, but there is seldom a long-term unless we can deliver in the short-term and have enough energy to keep going. Leaders who can practice the rules of Intelligent Restraint and manage energy strategically can achieve this.

 

“Focus overrules vision.” -Alison Eyring

 

Focus Overrules Vision

How the Secret To Success Lies in Just ONE WORD

The One Word Secret

My friend Evan Carmichael is passionate about helping you reach your full potential. His YouTube channel has millions and millions of views.

You never know where he’ll turn up around the globe as he speaks about empowering entrepreneurs. I interviewed him in Madrid, Spain where he shared with me 6 Entrepreneurial Lessons that all of us can use.

His first book is out: Your One Word: The Powerful Secret to Creating A Business and Life that Matter . The book is designed to help you find your personal motto and to narrow it down to a single word that represents your unique purpose.

I asked Evan about his new book and how One Word is transforming people’s lives and focus.

 

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word.” –Winston Churchill

 

Find Your Word

How do you find your One Word? What if you think of a few? How do you narrow it down?

That’s a loaded first question J The process starts by understanding that you—and everyone else—has a deep, core value that represents who you are, and the more you live your life in alignment with it, the more happiness, success, and impact you’ll have. Understand that Your One Word has always been a part of you and always will. It’s not a New Year’s resolution. It’s a lifelong resolution. People can often be prisoners of their current situation, which prevents real self-analysis. When thinking of your One Word, put it in the perspective of, “This is a forever commitment and who you always have been – knowingly or unknowingly.” To continue the process of finding your One Word, think about all the things, people, habits, and activities that have made you come alive in the past. Who was your favorite teacher? What is your favorite song? What did you love about your parents? Fill a page with happiness. Then next to each item, write down what specifically you loved about it. Mrs. Jenkins, your 9th grade science teacher, is your favorite teacher of all time for a reason. And it wasn’t just because of the material she taught in class. When you make the list of all the things that have made you happy and the reasons why, you’ll start to find a consistent theme among them. That consistent theme is your One Word. And once you find it, I’d challenge you to start designing your life around it so you can, with purpose, bring more of those happy moments in as opposed to randomly waiting for them to happen.

 

“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.” -Anita Roddick

 

Your Personality Changes, Your One Word Doesn’t

Recent studies show that personality changes dramatically from when we are young to when we are old. Does your One Word change over the course of your lifetime?

Your personality can change with time. You might get more conscientious as you get older or more agreeable once you’re raising a family. Some of what you value might also change. Early in life, you might be more concerned with promotions and career advancement. Later on, it could shift to health and relationships. But your core value, your One Word, doesn’t change. Your One Word is the lens through which you see the world. The way you approach and execute may change over time, but the foundation remains the same. For instance, one of the examples in my book is Mark Drager, a 30-something-year-old father, husband, and entrepreneur. His One Word is #Extraordinary. He’s currently focused on being an #Extraordinary father, husband, and entrepreneur. What he values most is being #Extraordinary. He doesn’t want to be ordinary. He wants to be more than that, in whatever he does. If he grows tired of business and puts a higher priority on travel or restoring old cars, or any number of things, his core value of #Extraordinary comes with him. It’s forever. It’s who he is at the deepest level. That’s why it’s so important to figure out and potentially the most important exercise you can do in your life. If you’re going through the process of finding your One Word and you fast forward your life to age 90 and you see yourself not believing in the same thing anymore, then you haven’t found your One Word.

 

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” -Tony Robbins

 

Believe

10 Reasons Drawing Improves Your Leadership

Draw to Win

Want to make your idea clearer to others?

Looking for a way to have your message stand out?

 

“Open your eyes and look within.” -Bob Marley

 

Dan Roam just wrote a new book, Draw to Win: A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual Mind, and it challenged me to communicate in new ways. I’ve always been visually oriented, but drawing is not always on my top “go to” list of tools.

I’ve learned that it should be.

Drawing is not something only for kids. It’s a powerful communication tool if used properly. I recently asked Dan about his life’s work.

 

“Business without pictures is boring.” -Dan Roam

 

Don’t Resist the Visual

In business, some would reject images and drawings as childish. You say that it’s the most natural thing in the world and dismiss this. Why do some people feel that way and resist the visual?

If you’ve ever witnessed a board meeting, suffered through a bullet-point presentation, or tried to read a business-school article, you know first-hand that “serious” businesspeople hate pictures. Pictures are childish, simplistic, and patronizing.

But if you consider that most meetings are torture, that most people sleep through PowerPoints, and secretly admit you’d rather watch Game of Thrones than read “The Harvard Business Review,” you also know this hatred of pictures is insane. The sad fact is that business without pictures is boring – and boring doesn’t get the job done.

There are many reasons this anti-picture mentality persists: In school drawing is considered just a stepping-stone to reading. Most of us had a parent or teacher who told us sometime that our drawings were terrible, and there are few resources for creating or critiquing business-oriented pictures, etc. But I think the most profound reason pictures are poo-pooed in business is historical.

Think about it like this: A century and a half ago, we inherited our educational system from the British – and most of it was developed during the industrial revolution. England (and America, who still looked across the Atlantic for guidance on most social issues) suddenly found itself needing to shift its workforce from fields into factories. Faced with millions of former farmers who had to learn overnight how to pull the right levers in the right order, our modern educational system was born, and the essence was this: If you could talk well, you went to university, banking, and law. If you couldn’t talk well, you went to the factory. The die was cast, and to this day the greatest definer of “intelligence” – despite increasing data and cognitive studies pointing out the power of pictures – remains your ability to talk. That’s great if you’re a natural Shakespeare, but miserable if you’re more Michelangelo.

 

“The best CEOs I know are teachers, and at the core of what they teach is strategy.” -Michael Porter

 

How to Start Drawing

In your work, many will tell you what I’m thinking right now, “But, Dan….I can’t draw!” What do you say to the many who resist?

It’s important to realize that drawing isn’t an artistic process; drawing is a thinking process. By virtue of being human, you are from birth an extraordinary visual-thinker. More of your brain is dedicated to processing vision that to any other thing that you do, with nearly half your neurons keeping you alive by seeing the world around you.

Kids love to draw. Drawing is the first way that all of us model and record our thoughts, and as kids we’re really good at it – until the “That’s a terrible dog; dogs don’t look like that!” judgement sets in, and drawing is beaten out of us.

Don’t get me wrong: I love words; words and spoken language are a miracle – but words work best when supported by pictures. Words and pictures amplify and complement each other – in exactly the same way our brains work when making sense of the world.

Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission

Once you realize that, drawing becomes easy to reintroduce: You start by drawing a few simple shapes – a circle, a square, and a line to connect them – and before long your visual mind wakes back up and you’re on a roll.

(In fact, when I do training at major organizations and corporations, it takes most people about three minutes to start drawing again.)

 

“Business has only two functions-marketing and innovation.” -Milan Kundera

 

Transform Your Leadership By Drawing

What are some of the benefits you’ve seen when someone learns to make drawing part of their regular practice? Any stories of how this transformed someone’s leadership you can share?

 

Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission

The first discovery of someone who starts drawing again is clarity. We think that the verbal voices in our head make beautiful sense – right up to the moment we try to describe our ideas to someone else and we find ourselves spinning and our audience drifting away. Pictures fix that, in a couple ways.

First, when you draw out your idea, you don’t have to remember anything: the full logic of your idea is there before you, all in one place, all immediately scannable, and none of it hidden. (And if you can’t draw out at least a few pieces of your idea, I think it’s important to ask yourself how well you really know it.)

Second, drawing exposes holes in your thinking that you typically don’t notice when just talking. It’s really easy to lie to yourself with words but a lot harder with a picture.

I’ve seen this sudden discovery of clarity hundreds of times in consulting and training sessions. My favorite example was when Ted, the Director of Strategy at one of the world’s largest professional services companies, had an epiphany during a visual-thinking class. I was taking the group through my “Six-by-six” visual storytelling exercise when Ted suddenly jumped up, and waving one of his pictures, ran out of the room.

He returned thirty minutes later, saying, “I just sold the job! I took a photo of my sketch and emailed it to my client, then called and walked them through it. I finally saw the way through – and they finally saw it, too.”

 

“In sales, it’s not what you say; it’s how they perceive what you say.” -Jeffrey Gitomer

 

As a student of innovation, I was fascinated by your five essential visual innovation prompts. Would you share one of those with us and how this has had an impact on organizational thinking?