The Latest from the ABM Experts
April 20, 2020
What It Takes to Become a Vision-Driven Leader
Written by Sangram Vajre
At what point in life did you realize you really needed to start writing things down?
We all eventually need to keep track of things, otherwise, they slip through the cracks. Writing the little things down helps. What we schedule happens.
So why don’t we do that with the big things, too? Our dreams, our goals — our vision.
His book covers all the ways we can shape ourselves into vision-driven leaders.
And the first step to accomplishing that vision?
Writing it down. In the present tense.
If you want vision to become reality, write it down!
Michael: I was trying to turn a division of Thomas Nelson during my first general management assignment.
We had 14 book-publishing divisions and I was given the worst-performing division. It was dead last in terms of revenue growth and it was dead last in terms of profit margin.
Our CEO asked me “How long is it gonna take you to turn it around?”
I didn’t have a clue, but I guessed: “I think it’s going to take three years.” That sounded reasonable.
The CEO said, “That sounds reasonable to me. You got it.”
So, I went off and I wrote down what I wanted to see happen in three years. I didn’t know how powerful this was going to be.
It didn’t take 3 years; we were able to turn that division around in a year and a half.
So, what I encourage people to do is not write a vision statement. This scares the bejesus out of everybody because they think they have to come up with this super clever, brief slogan.
I’m talking about a vision script.
This is going to be a three to five-page document, written down and cover four different categories for the future:
- Your team
- If your vision doesn’t require a team, then it’s not big enough
- Your product
- What is it and, more importantly, what’s the transformation you’re trying to create?
- Your marketing
- How do you get the product to the market?
- The impact
- What is the kind of dent you are trying to make in the universe and how do you measure it?
Achieve more by doing less
Michael: In that first vision script, I said we should publish 48 books a year. At the time we were publishing 126 books a year.
Now, this is a little bit counterintuitive because I said we are going to grow sales and our profitability, not by increasing the number of books we publish, but by cutting them.
Up until that point, we didn’t have any bestsellers. After, we were publishing five bestsellers a year.
Here’s the reason why that works with the vision. If you don’t have a vision, you have no way to differentiate between opportunities and distractions.
Distractions often show up masquerading as opportunities. If you have clarity about the vision, you have the ability to say no to the stuff that doesn’t matter. Not all tasks are created equal.
Only a few are going to contribute to the vision.
But if you don’t know what the vision is, you can’t tell the difference. You’re just throwing as much mud as you can against the wall and hoping some of it sticks.
So, that’s the power of vision. Once you get clear on your vision, everything else gets so much easier.
Vision comes before strategy
Michael: Vision always comes first, followed by strategy.
Now, if you go onto Amazon right now and look for books on strategy, you’ll find thousands. Everybody likes to write about strategy. Business strategy is taught in business school. It’s talked about at business conferences, but vision isn’t.
But here’s the thing: Vision is the destination. Strategy is the path that’s going to take you there.
You can switch strategies when needed, but your vision is sacred.
The difference between a leader and a manager
Michael: There is a sense in which everybody’s a leader — or has the potential to be a leader — because being a leader is about influencing other people, right?
But here’s how I differentiate it: First of all, leading and managing are two different functions, often two different roles, but they’re both important. You really need both in a business.
Sometimes one person wears both hats. Sometimes that’s divided between a CEO and a COO.
Leaders inspire and motivate; managers maintain and administer. Leaders take risks; managers, control risks.
Leaders stay focused on the horizon while managers have their eye on short-term goals and objectives.
I really do believe anybody can be a visionary. And that’s the reason I wrote this book.