Innovation

INNOVATION INC: THE POWER OF SHARED VISION (AND HOW TO USE IT)

I spend a great deal of time in creative climates. Voltage Leadership has a sweet spot for successfully equipping people to scale their businesses quickly.

Day in and day out I get to see what success looks like. What I notice, most brightly, as I work with these dynamic, creative teams, is the openness they have. They are open when their thinking and assumptions are challenged. They are willing to admit mistakes (and then they move on). These teams are resilient, strong, collegial and candid.

Two team members I am working with recently had to renegotiate their working relationship. The way they were interacting was leading one team member to feel his skills and competence were being doubted by the other. He didn’t wait for months for the problem to fester and spread. He sat down and the two of them had a conversation about what they could do differently to work together toward a better result. Course corrections were discussed and changes began immediately. The collegial relationship remains strong.

Where did all this capacity for candor begin? I trace it back to the founding element of this organization: its vision is shared. Yes, the skill building classes along the way gave them some additional tools. It is true that the one-on-one coaching helps them to explore new ideas and provides the environment to test new behaviors. But the root of the candor in this organization is that its vision is shared collectively by the people who work there.

This group of people has a vision about what they want to accomplish, and that vision is the source of the creativity and passion for their work. It keeps them open and willing to try new things. It is a truly shared vision.

Successful organizations have a Shared Vision.

A shared vision is one that is not told to people, it is one that is sold to people.

What does a vision sold-not-told accomplish?

Sold visions are shared, co-owned. Told visions are imposed.

When the vision is shared, people become co-owners of the vision. They are stakeholders in the effort they are undertaking. The vision is theirs. They believe in it, and want to see it come to pass.

The challenge is this: sharing. Yes, it is just as hard for working adults leading business operations to share as it was for us as kids. But, like we learned all those years ago, the payoff is worth it!

Sharing a vision means that the vision is co-created. Yes, this means some of the leader’s control over the vision is lost, because the vision is influenced, shaped and transformed by the people who are working together to pursue it. This does not mean the vision changes on a dime, but it does mean that the vision is not pronounced on high by a mighty Leader. A shared vision is cast, and then engaged and re-formed by the people around the leader, until it becomes something everyone owns.

In climates where a shared vision prevails, people work with another level of performance. Some gear beyond 5th gear is engaged. Overdrive: the passion gear.

You have to engage this gear thoughtfully, because it is hard on the engine, but, with regular pit stops, repairs and careful maintenance, these teams experience a lot of victories together, and weather breakdowns successfully. Teams with Shared Vision are intense, resilient and, most of all, fun. They laugh and cut up together, and they also get down to work and focus very quickly. They want to perform well, and so they stick their neck out to talk about problems and they ask for help. They do all this because they trust each other and because they share a common motivation: the vision.

The Shared Vision. 

Recently I worked with a CEO who is casting a new vision for his business. He knows what he wants to accomplish next, and can see the re-imagined company sitting there, brightly, in the future. We sat down to talk through the vision he wanted to cast, and to discuss the approach he plans to take to engage his team.

What lies between him and the realization of this emerging vision is a series of conversations and experiences he will craft for his people that will teach him the other side of the equation: what they want, what they imagine is possible, what they hope for. These ideas and aspirations of his team, engaged thoughtfully and intentionally will do something critical: his vision will be refined and revisited in ways that will deliver the team to a Shared Vision. One that all of them love and pursue together, not one he has to kill himself trying to fulfill and implement alone.

This is the brilliance of Shared Vision. Shared Vision moves an organization from running on one cylinder, to running on all 4, or 6 or 8 cylinders. Sharing the vision gathers the collective horsepower of an organization under the hood and puts it to great use.

What approach did we come up with to begin to cast (and then release) his vision into a Shared Vision process? We designed a series of questions to guide a collective conversation about the future promise of the business.

These questions are intended to unleash the creativity of the team, to untether people from their assumptions about the future, and to guide them to gather together the force of their collective imagination to bring about a vision they can share, own and pursue, together.

I can’t wait to see what happens next for them. I know great things are on the horizon. A vision is about to move from Me to We.

If you have a vision that you are having trouble getting off the ground ask yourself:

·       Have I been curious about what others imagine?

·       Have I asked thoughtful questions?

·       Have I asked about the experiences and insights of others?

·       Would the people on my team say I am curious about and engaged in their own aspirations?

·       Would the people on my team say I am committed to their long-term success?

·       Would the people on my team indicate that I regularly solicit their thinking and ideas?

Casting Shared Vision is a two way street. To have people come along with you, it helps to show you are willing to go along with them. Enjoy the ride!

LINCOLN THINKIN’

Our 16th President was probably one of the most revered and the most hated figures by his contemporaries.  We sometimes think we have things so rough.  Abraham Lincoln was elected by what was then the lowest plurality in an American election to date, the country was disintegrating, military and cabinet members questioned his leadership, and there were numerous threats on his life.

He persisted right up until his assassination.  Lincoln had an amazing talent for Coaching and Oratory.  His methods for providing feedback to wayward subordinates would be the envy of any board room today in firms big or small.  Lincoln kept them engaged while delivering “challenging” news.  How did he do this?

He used his Lincoln Thinkin’ approach to people and to running the business of the nation at the most turbulent of times.  We would do well to learn from his experience the next time we are frustrated because our copier malfunctioned or a colleague has let us down.

Outline of Lincoln Thinkin’ (adapted from Lincoln on Leadership by Donald Phillips)

People

  1. Get Out of the Office and Circulate Among the Troops
  2. Build Strong Alliances
  3. Persuade Rather than Coerce

Character

  1. Honesty and Integrity Are the Best Policies
  2. Never Act Out of Vengeance or Spite
  3. Have the Courage to Handle Unjust Criticism
  4. Be a Master of Paradox

Endeavor (aka Running Your Business)

  1. Exercise a Strong Hand - Be Decisive
  2. Lead by Being Led (Asking the Right Questions)
  3. Set Goals and Be Results-Oriented
  4. Keep Searching Until You Find Your General Grant
  5. Encourage Innovation

Communication

  1. Master the Art of Public Speaking
  2. Influence People Through Conversation and Storytelling
  3. Preach a Vision and Continually Reaffirm it

Lincoln’s approach to managing people and circumstances fostered innovation and engagement.  If this is something that your organization could benefit from, I promise you it would be time well spent learning from the 16th President of the United States.

THE LEADERSHIP RESOLUTION FOR 2016

The New Year is upon us and, to make 2016 the best year yet, I have a Resolution I recommend to all our clients.  Make new mistakes.  Make new mistakes this year.  Plan for them.  Prepare for them.  Get excited about the possibilities and then go make some new mistakes.  

Why do I recommend that our clients make new mistakes?

Setting an expectation that new mistakes will be made creates the conditions for creativity to occur and innovation to emerge.  Creativity and innovation do not exist in the absence of error.  They only exist in environments where error is allowed.  For creativity and innovation to be constant organizational assets, the first mountain to be climbed is the mountain of mistakes.

So make mistakes.  Lots of them.

Just be sure they are new mistakes.

The difference between an old mistake and a new mistake is that an old mistake begins to set a pattern of bad habits.  We confirm our poor performance when we repeat old mistakes.  We reinforce our ruts.  We design an environment for predictable un-improvement. 

When we repeat old mistakes, the voice in our head says:

·       “Here I am in this mess again!”

·       “I can’t believe this is happening all over again.”

·       “I thought we were past this.”

·       “Didn’t I learn this lesson already?”

New mistakes are different.  New mistakes reveal new terrain being crossed; new ideas being covered; new interpretations being applied.

When we make a new mistake it feels different.  The voice in our head says:

·       “I didn’t expect THAT to happen!”

·       “What was THAT?”

·       “I never expected . . .”

·       “That did not turn out the way I imagined.”

·       “Well, what do I do now?”

We learn something when we make new mistakes.  We grow.  We cover new ground.

Begin 2016 with this resolution at the top of your list:   #1Make New Mistakes.

Make new mistakes this year.  Adopting this leadership perspective delivers you from the mediocrity of safe, same old outlook decision making.  It liberates your creativity and allows you to approach problems with permission to innovate and adapt.  New mistakes deliver you to an environment of excellence where teams thrive, people are at their most engaged, and progress is possible.

Cheers and enjoy your New Year of possibility and progress.  Make new mistakes!