Finding meaning and purpose in the work you do and how it impacts your organization is incredibly important. There is a popular legend that when John F. Kennedy was touring NASA headquarters, he walked past a janitor and asked, “Why are you working so late?” The janitor responded, “Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” Many case studies have been written on the impact of having every employee understand the purpose of their job and how their role was a success factor in achieving the vision of putting a man on the moon.
Research shows that when we see our role as more than just a list of tasks, but rather understand its greater purpose to the vision, we are more productive, more committed, and more engaged to see it through to the end. Your team is no different and is craving to find purpose in what they do. The World Economic Forum found that a sense of purpose in work is the second most important criteria for millennials considering a job, after salary. If you’re thinking about creating a vision for your own team, here is where you should start, along with six best practices to apply.
What is a team vision?
A team vision is a clear articulation of the future state you’re trying to achieve. It describes what you intend to be and how you’re going to make that future a reality. At a macro level, your organization’s vision statement is what you’re trying to achieve as a company, whereas a team vision, embraces the company vision while taking it to a micro-level of how your team is going to contribute to the larger vision.
Your vision can be a longer, more descriptive narrative of where you are and where you’re going. On the other hand, a team vision statement is a condensed version, like a rallying cry. In a matter of a few sentences, your team vision statement summarizes the purpose of your team and answers the question of what you aspire to do.
Why is a team vision important?
A team vision provides clear direction for your team. It paints a picture of the future state you’re trying to achieve and the benefits of doing so. The team vision is so compelling and clear that it inspires team member’s contributions, not because it is their job, but because they believe in where they’re going.
The role of a leader in a team vision
The ability to visualize and clearly articulate a possible future state is a vital part of effective leadership. Your vision should be so clear that your team could carry on with it even if you were no longer their leader. Not only should the vision be clear, but it should be powerful enough that team members feel invested in seeing the vision to fruition no matter who's in charge.
No matter how bought in your team is to the vision, stating it once and moving on will not get you there. Your vision needs to be continually reinforced. You should remind your team what you’re trying to achieve and that future state you're working towards frequently. This requires ongoing communication across multiple channels. In your team meetings, through email, videos, collaboration platforms, and in your individual one-on-one meetings with each employee.
Best practices for creating a team vision
When it comes time to create a team vision there are a few recommended best practices to follow, which are as follows.
- Know where you want to go but involve those around you
It’s essential to first establish the vision for your team in your own mind and answer the question: what does the future state look like? It is important to involve those around you because creating and implementing a team vision on your own, without soliciting your team’s input, could be a recipe for disaster. If you go it alone, you may find yourself spending the majority of your time coercing, influencing, persuading, and possibly demanding others to follow, which is a less than ideal situation.
- Have your team help co-create a shared vision
Idea diversity and differing perspectives that are acquired from involving your team can take the vision you’ve developed from good to great. When you involve your team they’re more likely to buy-in to the team vision and feel more vested in the team outcome. The vision transforms from one told to them, to one they feel ownership over, as your team has been invited to debate, examine, clarify, and come to a consensus on the collective vision.
- Schedule time to collaborate
Present your rough vision to your team prior to scheduling a meeting to collaborate on perfecting it. By doing so, you give your team time to mull over your vision, formulate questions, develop alternative ideas, and prepare for the time together dedicated to developing a shared vision. Send any materials out prior to the meeting along with a memo that establishes the expectations for preparations and collaboration during the meeting.
- Consider using a facilitator
Prior to your team vision meeting, you may want to seek out a neutral person to facilitate the meeting. This could be a colleague who has run a similar exercise for their team or an external leadership coach who has experience in facilitating team discussions.
- Consolidate your vision into a team vision statement
The goal here is to keep it short. Consolidate the team vision into a brief statement of the purpose of the team that is inspiring, motivating, and memorable.
- Find ways to reinforce the team vision
Keeping the team vision top of mind is critical to seeing the vision turn into a reality. If the vision statement is a one-and-done activity, never to be mentioned again, there is little hope of ever achieving it. So, not only should you always ensure your own actions align with the vision, but you should continuously hold your team accountable to do the same. You can also intentionally repeat the shared vision in team meetings, share the team’s progress, implement visual reminders such as computer screen backgrounds, posters, and office supplies, and celebrate milestones related to the vision as they happen.
Conclusion: Creating a team vision can positively contribute to success
By taking the intentional time to develop a shared team vision, you are establishing a purpose for your team, the direction on what you’re working towards, and the inspiration on why it is worth achieving. To ensure the team vision sticks, continually remind your team of the vision, lead by example by using the vision to guide your own actions and decisions, and hold each other accountable to reaching your goals.
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