How Setting a Team Vision Can Help Your Team Thrive
I want you to close your eyes and imagine the ideal state of your organization or team. Imagine what your colleagues are doing and how they are feeling, imagine what the public says about your organization, imagine what success you have accomplished.
The power of positive thinking is a well-documented phenomenon. However, it’s likely that this isn’t the easiest exercise in the world for some of you, as many of us are conditioned to focus on problems rather than solutions, failures rather than successes. A lack of positive or assets based thinking can inhibit even the strongest teams and organizations, blinding them to their own strengths and opportunities.
One of the most important skills of a successful organizational leader is the ability to articulate a clear and comprehensive vision for the future. Describing what ‘can be’ allows you to attract the right allies who self-identify with your vision, and motivate them to help you in achieving it. Ultimately, if you can’t define what success looks like you can never achieve it.
It’s no coincidence that some of the most successful businesses also have some of the most forward-looking and innovative visions. From Apple to Amazon, clear team visions help communicate both internally and externally what the company stands for and is trying to achieve.
The importance of creating a personal vision is well documented in that it can help you first identify and then achieve your goals. On an organizational level, the team vision-setting process can achieve similar results by providing you and your team with clarity and sense of purpose, along with a range of additional benefits.
The Benefits of a Strong Team Vision
Benefits from a strong team vision can be grouped into two main categories- individual level and group level.
On a group level, the vision can help increase your team’s collaboration and alignment, ensuring that the team’s collective efforts are working in the same direction. A clear vision can also improve how your team communicates with external stakeholders; when your team is strongly aligned they will also be more likely to stay on message.
On an individual level, having a clear team vision can empower your team members by showing them how and where they fit into the larger picture. This sense of purpose will help motivate, inspire and engage team members, allowing them to achieve their fullest potential within your organization.
The Vision Setting Process
Perhaps one of the most effective team building strategies you can do as a team is embarking on the vision-setting process together. Co-creating a shared understanding of what you are ultimately set out to achieve can increase alignment and motivation, and create a sense of personal ownership.
Before getting into the vision itself, it’s important to begin from a clear understanding of who you are as an organization. What are the values that make you unique? What is your mission statement? Why does your organization in particular need to exist?
These are the types of questions that will allow you to identify your organization’s unique place in whatever industry you are in. Start off by brainstorming these initial questions, and then increase your specificity with the following questions:
- What does success look like in our context?
- How do we operate most effectively as a team?
- What impact do we want to have 5 years out, 10 years, 20 years?
Once you complete this process it’s time to analyze what emerges. It could be quite possible that your team has differing views on some of these issues, and that’s OK. Try to identify where your team already has alignment, and what are the areas that you’ll need to spend more time discussing.
If your team is already strongly aligned, this phase may go relatively quickly. However, if there is still a large amount of misalignment then you may need to invest in exploring specific topics before proceeding. Trust that this will be time well spent in the long run.
At the end of the day, a strong team vision is the beginning of a larger collaboration process within your team. Unfortunately, many teams get this process backwards, focusing first on technical solutions, like finding the best collaboration tools, and hoping that technology will do the work for them. Tools and technology will certainly have an important place within your team, but you must first ground them in a clear understanding of your ultimate goals and purpose.
Elements of a Strong Vision
Every vision is, and should be, unique, but the most effective team visions share certain basic elements. In order to make sure that your team’s vision is the most impactful you should consider the following characteristics.
At its most basic level, a team vision should make abundantly clear your team’s direction and purpose. The vision should clearly answer the questions around what direction your team is heading, and why at the end of the day, this all matters.
The vision should also be aspirational, in that it is aiming to accomplish something beyond what is expected of your organization. If your organization’s vision aims too low, it runs the risk of failing to inspire your team members. This doesn’t mean that the vision should seem unrealistic, however, which can also lead to demotivation.
In order to best visualize what success looks like, the vision should describe a current situation as if you are there already. In other words, it should be written in the present tense as opposed to the future tense. This will create a feeling that the vision is something your team will certainly achieve.
Finally, while your vision should be comprehensive, taking into account the many nuances of your team’s work, you should also be able to summarize it into a short statement. In this way team members will be able to easily remind themselves of what you’re ultimately aiming for.
In the end, it’s both the process and the final product that are important. So keep revisiting your team or organization’s vision at periodic intervals in order to reflect on the progress you’ve made, and adjust course as necessary based on emerging realities.
Setting aside time for periodic reflection points will help make sure that your team vision remains up to date and relevant. In this way, your team will continue to reap the benefits of the vision setting process in the long run. This process is ultimately the key to your team’s success.