How To Build a Strong Team Vision

Whenever I take over a channel or team, one of the first questions I ask is “what is the vision?” Most of the time, this is tough to answer. There is usually strong alignment and attachment to the greater organization’s vision and values, which is vital.

However, what I find frequently missing is a sense of team vision. What is this team really about?

Sure there are goals. There may even be big important goals (see How to Pick the Right Big Goal). To build results that last, people want a connection to something bigger. The more localized you can make the vision, the more likely that it will stick.

In her post, “A Big Goal is Not the Same as a Vision, “Jesse Lynn Stoner shares:

“One way to distinguish between a vision and a goal is to ask, “What’s next?” A vision provides clear ongoing direction—it is clear what you should do next. As you take each step, the next one becomes clear. A vision continues to act as a beacon, guiding you in setting new goals once current ones have been achieved.”

To Build a Vision: Start With Questions

Creating a great team vision starts by asking questions:

  • What is the company vision? How does our team make a difference toward that end?
  • What will we be known for?
  • What feels impossible?
  • What do our customers most need from us?
  • ??? your turn what would you add?

This exercise works well too.

Imagine it is 5 years from now. Our team is being recognized for making a game changing contribution.

  • What is the most important work we are doing?
  • What are our customers saying about us?
  • What does it feel like to work on this team?
  • What is senior management saying about us?
  • ??? your turn what would you add?

The answers to these questions, help to surface what your team could be about. From there, it’s a narrowing process. The dialogue and debate are an important part of the process. Don’t rush it.

Dan McCarthy provides a fantastic step by step guide to building a vision in his post, How to Create a Shared Vision Statement. I have used similar methodologies over the years.

Of course, the danger with such exercises that is that they remain just that. I can’t tell you how many conference rooms, offices and cubes I have walked into and seen a beautifully laminated vision statement, that no one can articulate. Even worse, when I ask about it, it is doing absolutely nothing to inspire planning, behaviors or decision-making.

Vision statements that sit on shelves do more harm than good, and can can diminish your credibility as a leader. If you chose to tackle this exercise, be sure you are fully committed.

I will talk more about how to link behaviors to vision in tomorrow’s post.