Building a Strong Team Vision
A strong team vision gets your team aligned around where you’re headed and why it matters. The conversation itself goes a long way to build your team and have candid conversations about what it will take to be extraordinary. Here’s a step-by-step guide to facilitating a team visioning exercise.
What’s Your Team Vision?
Whenever I work with a new team, one of the first questions I ask is, “What is your team vision?” Which is usually met with a few shrugs and some staring at the floor as they (sometimes) tell me about the organization’s vision and values.
That’s a great start. But not necessarily enough. What’s frequently missing is a clear team vision of what matters most and how they’re going to get there.
Sure there are goals, but they may or may not be inspiring. To build results that last, people want a connection to something bigger. The more localized you can make the vision, the more engaged your team will be in accomplishing it.
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.”
How to Build a Strong Team Vision
1. Start one-on-one.
Talk to each team member individually about the possibilities for the team at their very best. Define the future. Imagine possibilities.
- What would it look like if we were to do our very best?
- What would we be known for?
- Which accomplishments would we be most proud of?
- How would the team be working together?
- What will it take for us to get there?
- As the team leader, what’s the most important way I can contribute to this future?
2. Set the stage.
Schedule some time for the team to work uninterrupted. Bring some easel paper, markers, and sticky notes.
One fun way to get started is to have each person on your team draw two pictures. The first picture is of the team as they see it today. And a second picture of the team as they would like it to be. Encourage them to think in metaphors. More here on Building a Great Team Culture.
For example, “Today, I see us as a raft going through whitewater rapids. Some of us are just barely holding on, and we lost a few overboard here recently.” And, “My vision for tomorrow is that we’re in this sailboat, the wind is at our back, and we’re moving clearly in the right direction.”
When we’ve done that exercise, we’ve seen a lot of “houses on fire,” and I’m still scratching my head about the slime mold one scientist drew.
The advantage of starting with the pictures is that it gets everyone laughing about their “bad drawings” and candid insights. It’s always amazing how consistent the pictures are amongst the team.
As each person explains their picture, you can capture the themes. As you build the team vision, you can then call back to the list of themes. “Will this put out the fires?” “What specifically must we do every day to get everybody back in the boat and not so seasick?”
3. Begin with the company’s vision and values.
Ensure everyone understands the big picture – what does success look like for the company? The team vision must directly support the company’s overall vision and strategy.
4. Imagine it is 5 years from now. The team is being recognized for making a game-changing contribution:
- What is the most important work we are doing?
- How do our customers perceive us?
- How do people feel about working on this team?
- What is senior management saying about us?
5. Turn the ideas into a bold statement of the desired future.
For example, “We will be known for the best customer service in the nation.”
6. Determine how you will measure success.
Define specific metrics that will accurately measure your success.
7. Identify specific behaviors.
Identify behaviors needed from you (the leader) and each team member to make the vision a reality. Write them down. Create a matrix of what each key role must be doing to accomplish the vision.
Share your vision and key behaviors with your boss and other key players. Refine as needed to ensure your breakthrough vision is aligned with evolving strategy.
9. Get to work.
How will you link everything you do and say back to the vision?
Recognize early success. What has gone well? How and when can you acknowledge these early victories, tell the stories, and encourage momentum?
Be impatient. Support your stragglers. Teach your team to share their good work.
How to Hold a Remarkably Effective Team Huddle (to keep operationalizing the vision every day)