I recently did some research on an organization that I was soon to engage in a coaching relationship. You know how we have those 'aha' moments? This was one for me. It struck me how important having and sharing a vision can be. I speak on the importance of vision. I run exercises on developing vision. Leaders must have a vision they can communicate and rally others around. Vision Matters! Yet, I find there is often greater emphasis on near term goals and even confusion between vision and goal. Their distinction, definition and purpose. The two words are often used interchangeably and assumed to provide the same value and incentive.... They don’t.
I realized how important a vision can be in attracting investment and people. I recalled how a vision will underpin perseverance in the face of difficulty and loss. And I remembered how a true vision is sooo much more than a goal and very different in nature.
I thought about how my early career choices were the result of the vision/dream I had. In high school I dreamed of owning my own business which at the time I believed would be a TV repair shop. In preparation, I attended Texas A&M Extension Service to get a certificate in Electronic Technology. Because of my experience there, following graduation I went to work for an X-Ray company. Recognizing the importance of sales and marketing, I went back to school (UT Austin) to earn a bachelors in marketing. This led me to Hewlett-Packard where I graduated through sales into management. The desire of owning a business remained, so after 10 years, I left Hewlett Packard to purchase a small distressed distributor in Houston. The vision of owning my own business was realized. This part of my journey required that many goals be established and achieved along the way, but in pursuit of the original vision.
What differentiated this “vision” from a “goal”? A vision is something that you see in your mind. It can be a planned future, a dream, or just imagination. In this case, what I saw was independence, working alongside family and friends, building a successful business as I had seen my uncle build. It inspired my parents and wife to support the steps along the way. It provided the needed persistence to power through difficulty. Vision does not have any limit and can take years to be fulfilled, it is considered a long-term process. A goal on the other hand, can be defined as a short-term target that has to be achieved in pursuit of the vision.
This vision required sacrifice. It required risk. Persistence. The goals themselves were actionable, the vision was the end result. In my work it has become clear that vision and goals are often treated as one in the same with goals being the go-to in organizations. Unfortunately, the expectation is that the goals will, or should, act as the ultimate motivator of behavior. Literature will tell you they do, and in some cases they can, if the individual owns them. Yet, goals are transactional and transactions don’t cultivate allegiance, loyalty, or discretionary effort – visions do. People get behind visions, they emotionally attach to them and the goals become an avenue to achievement.
The aforementioned company has a vision to create a clean, recyclable, reusable energy storage solution. A long-term vision that is driving investment, research, growth and passion. There are no doubt numerous goals to ensure a progression toward the vision, but it’s the vision that has captured the imagination of its team and stakeholders. What’s your vision? How well does your organization understand or embrace this vision?