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Vision Block: 7 Factors that Keep Leaders from Casting Vision

1) Lack of CLARITY: “What exactly are we doing?”

It is hard to communicate a compelling vision when there is no clarity about the mission. I met with a leader last week and I asked, “Where is your team headed in the next 90 days?” His face did all the talking. You would have thought I asked, “How many Lilliputians attacked Gulliver on the beach?”

Without a clear direction there is no need or possibility to communicate a vision of what life or work will look like when you get there. It is a fact that in today’s fear-filled climate, the future is less predictable. But that does not mean there cannot be clarity. What you are feeling is uncertainty. But that should not cloud your vision. Set a clear course for the first quarter of 2012 and then communicate what getting there could be like as we work together.

2) Feelings of INSECURITY “I am not a good vision caster – it is just not my style!”

Some leaders are great at leading the team but get jittery when it comes to communicating vision. They mistakenly believe that vision casting means rah-rah cheerleading and backslapping. You do not have to be Knute Rockne to communicate vision.

Vision comes from the heart, and can be seen in the eyes, long before it comes out of the mouth. What do you really believe? Where do you want to be that will make all the difference to your team, the customer, the ministry, the client? Get that in your gut.

Before you can BE the change you have to SEE the change. Can you see the difference it will make to get there? If so, just talk about it. Write about it. Share it over coffee and in the hallway and in the boardroom. Vision can be embedded one conversation at a time.

3) EGO “I want to craft my own vision because I like people depending on me.”

For some leaders, collaboration is the enemy. It is just plain easier to do it yourself. After all, you are the leader, you have the responsibility, you are the one the whole organization depends on! Without you products sit on the shelf, market share declines, people die and the world comes crashing to an end. Welcome to Egoville, at the intersection of Narcissism Avenue and Control Street. We’ve all been there. It feels good for a while. But soon you are the only one standing at the corner shouting, “I have the vision” — but all you get is a hollow echo in reply.

When vision emerges from a wider range of leaders and contributors, the ownership rises, there is more clarity (not less), and the leadership burden is shared.

4) INADEQUACY “Why would anyone listen to a vision from me?”

While some leaders are tempted to think they are the center of the universe, others feel like they never live up to the expectations associated with their role. Many believe that they are average leaders at best. Such leaders compare themselves to the “super-leaders” whose books, speeches and blogs dominate the internet.

The truth is we need more “average” leaders. Equally true is we are all inadequate at some level. Some have simply learned to fake their adequacy more than others. So what if you are not super leader? Big deal. You have more influence than you give yourself credit for, at work, home, and in the community. And you have a life people can really see – one that can embody the vision, not just talk about it.

I have been around some famous super leaders: you’d be surprised at how many give an exciting “leadership talk” or “vision cast,” but do little to practice what they preach. We need real leaders – and they are all inadequate for the job.

5) Fear of FAILURE “What if people do not buy-in and I screw up?”

Failure is the test of every leader. So what do we do when the bottom drops out? Will we mask our mistakes, ignore them, blame others, hide behind another leader, deny the failure, or minimize the impact of our oversight? Don’t choose any of those options.

First of all, people absolutely will NOT buy in. That’s why they need a determined leader with a vision! Second, failure is the crucible for growth, learning and humility. Every leader needs a good dose of it. And third, remember it takes a dozen vision explanations before someone “gets it” and even then we must give frequent reminders of the cause for which we are fighting.

So go ahead, leverage the failure – learn from it and recast the vision.

6) SHORT-SIGHTEDNESS “I am not sure these people will ever get the vision.”

Maybe you trust your ability to communicate the vision, but lack confidence in the ability of others to see it. But whatever it was that stirred the vision in you will likely ignite the fire in others—if you can see the process through to the end. Give people some time and some credit. You have been mulling this over in your head for months or years; they are just hearing it for the first time.

Cast vision using a variety of methods: props, stories, experiences, video, print and art. Every person sees this a little differently. Each has a unique learning style and filters what they hear or see through a variety of personal experiences, education and assumptions.

7) UNWILLINGNESS “I don’t have the time and energy for vision creation!”

Maybe you are overwhelmed or tired or just lazy, but you cannot muster the energy to make vision development and communication a priority. Here’s a tip: you do not realize how close you are to creating and communicating a life-changing vision!

Yes it is hard work; yes it takes some time. But it is nowhere near the amount of time and energy you will spend dragging your organization along like a ball and chain, trying to motivate the complacent and energize the confused. Work the vision and the vision will work for you.

After 4 hours of guidance of a group of young leaders we were stuck. Not even a hint at an emerging vision. So I asked them to stop thinking about the organization and focus on their wives or fiancés. “Write down why you fell in love with her. What about her makes you smile? Tell me what you love most about her.” After 10 minutes we continued.

“Now, I want you to think about your mission the same way – why are you doing this? What gets you excited? How will achieving this goal make a difference?” Then I added, “And what will it look like when it becomes a reality. Describe it to me.”  The conversation exploded with passion and energy.

The hard work paid off. We had come dangerously close to quitting; which means we were equally close to success. They did not understand that first we had to spend hours sifting through the chaos. Had we stopped early we might have settled for a “lesser” vision rather than the greater one.

Question: As you look at the 7 factors above, what stands in the way of framing your vision? What is causing Vision Block?