By Michael Gunther
When was the last time you revisited the vision for your company? Our team recently held an offsite retreat for two days to revisit our 5-year vision and identify our goals for 2017. Being a consulting firm who does this for other people, we decided to bring in an outside facilitator to lead the day so that we could all participate.
As the owner and leader of the organization, I feel that I have a pretty good idea of where I wanted us to go. Over the last year, my team discussed feeling confused about our company’s direction and vision. This always perplexed me. I felt like we discussed our vision many times, have identified specific five-year goals that we wanted to strive for, and were working towards that direction.
However, as the offsite retreat progressed, we truly created a joint five-year vision of what we all wanted. For the first time, I appreciated that we had 5-year goals and strategies, but we didn’t have a coherent, clear vision of how to operate our business in the future. I felt like we, as team, aligned our ideas about where we want to go and the impact we want to have on leaders, their businesses and the communities we operate in.
Through this experience, I contemplated what was missing before: Where was the lack of clarity coming from? I realized that we previously had goals, but not a story of how we are going to achieve them. We can describe what the company will actually look like five years from now, including the type of clients we will work with, their successes, our culture and beyond. Through this story, we also identified the expected sacrifices and risks we may encounter along the way. We also know why this journey was worth pursuing and what it would mean for us individually and collectively.
I also recognized that I had a vision in my head but hadn’t clearly communicated it as a storyteller. Think of any great story – there are typically everyday people faced with a huge challenge or obstacle. These individuals encounter ups and downs on their path to achieve their goal. Through this process, they discover new things about themselves and become stronger as individuals and as a group. All along the way, they hold dearly to their core values as they are tested and reinforced with each new opportunity or problem. In the end, the group accomplishes something greater and gears up for the next great adventure.
Another interesting observation was that our team was relativity aligned. The quest, the challenges, the desires, the tools needed to complete the quest, etc. were very similar. But what was missing was a clear story to connect the dots for everyone. We needed all the various parts of the fabric woven together to actually create a synergistic image.
We grasped that two days wasn’t enough time to write this story. We created our vision and are taking our first steps in defining our goals for the upcoming year. Our team is motivated and focused ─ and yet, I sense a little tension as we embark on a journey that will create breakthrough performance for our clients and ourselves.
Do you truly have a vision for your company or just some goals you want to achieve? There is a distinct difference. If you find yourself or your team struggling with clarity about the future, maybe it is time to step back and create your story. It will be rewarding and, more importantly, align your team toward a common direction.