How most leaders forget what their vision was and how they can find it again

Where are you going? 

I bet when you started your  role you had a vision of what might be. You may have painted this picture in your interview, or shared it with your leadership team. You could see the future you could create in a year from now, maybe five years. You inspired your team and they backed you. 

Do you remember what that vision was? 

If you don't have total clarity on where your going, and where you are now, it will be impossible to create the right strategy and plan to get you from here to there. So the first part of the diagnosis stage is to articulate the future state.

A vision is a dream, a future state that is not real. It is no different in that respect to every forecast, target or key performance indicator that you set. Except the latter are the tools of management to track you are heading in the right direction. The vision is the direction. 

Too few leaders spend time visioning. The practice of exploring what is possible and what can be done. In the next section - myself, you will learn the skills and approach to crafting your vision. At this stage though, I want you to simply remember what you set out to do. Why did you take the role of leader? What was your aim and intention? What was the vision you saw for the company when you were first appointed? 

Take a moment to write them down now. Don't be shy. You may not have shared this dream with anyone else before, but share it with yourself. Ask yourself, if you could start all over again how would you like it to be a year from now, 5 years from now?

A core question that many leaders fail to remember is what is the business you are in. Innocent smoothies aren't in the business of making smoothies. They are in the business of distribution and manufacture. They don't sell their products to the end customer, but they create great products that their customers want and then find the best distribution methods to get them to their customers.

Facebook is a software company, but they are in the business of connecting people. 3WH, the company I founded, is a leadership and team development consultancy, but we are in the business of transformation. We are in the business of helping everyone develop themselves to reach their full potential, to live meaningful and fulfilled lives. We do this through leadership development. 

You maybe the CEO of a large organisation, or the leader of a small team within a wider business, it doesn't matter. Connecting firstly to what business you are in is essential. This helps you diagnose whether you are actually set up structurally and behaviourally to achieve it. The next next step is to create a vision for what the future state looks like.

Robert was in the educational leisure industry. It was a difficult time when he joined as the company was undergoing a merger and acquisition. The company had suspended all investment and change programmes, essentially maximising current outputs without an additional support or investment. The business was in the business of creating unique experiential learning environments for children. When I met with the team members, they told me they were in the business of making money for the shareholders. No single person was connected to the real business, and as a result they felt like slaves, minions or a simple payroll number. 

Robert had child development at his very core. He never forgot why he joined the business as Head of HR. He had a vision for his team and function too and never forgot it. He wanted to create an environment where every person within the company had the opportunity to develop themselves, aligning to the company purpose of development. In Roberts vision, he would create structures and programmes so that staff at all levels could up-skill and gain experience and qualifications in a way that tapped into their own capability and stretching them. He knew that the effect would be to multiply performance. 

What he set out to do he achieved, starting at the top with the leadership team, and then creating opportunities for apprentices and educators. He knew what he wanted to achieve, he aligned his people and executed his plan. 

So before you move into diagnosing the current state, answer those questions.

What is the business you are in?
What is the company vision?
What is your vision?

Now you know where you are going, you can start looking at where you are now and how big the gap is.