Turning the calendar to a new year is usually exciting, but the transition from 2020 to 2021 is proving to be underwhelming (at best). Four days in, and we’re fighting another surge in COVID cases, community businesses are still closing, and most of us remain mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted.
Despite this harsh reality, many authors are encouraging us to explore our organizational vision for 2021 and beyond. “Turn the Uncertainty of 2020 into a Vision for 2021” and “Do You Have a Clear Vision for the Post-Crisis Future?” are just two of the many titles we’ve seen in recent articles and blog posts.
By itself, the encouragement to explore vision feels appropriate. After all, leaders are called to inspire and motivate their teams, and there’s no doubt everyone could use a little glimpse of a future that holds hope and promise. But when you read the “how-to” portions of vision crafting, you find lines like these (emphasis added):
- What do you want?
- Is what’s in your head clear?
- Is your vision inspiring to you and others?
- Can you sell your vision to your team?
Do you see the trend? Many write as if it’s solely a leader’s responsibility to see the vision, write the vision, and sell the vision. That’s a tall order in the best of times and nearly impossible when leaders are bruised, battered, and burned out from crisis.
Rather than straining to see a compelling organizational vision amid the pandemic fog, why not listen for it instead?
For the next two weeks, take a few minutes each day to chat with your senior leaders. Ask them to share:
- The core values that are clearly on display right now.
- The ways you are achieving your current mission and vision (i.e., new programs and services, unique delivery methods, staff morale boosters, more community outreach).
- What’s working well in the current climate (e.g., workflows, work schedules, decision-making processes, communication patterns).
- The individuals and teams that are standing out (in a positive way).
- What you should continue to do (and do more of) in the future based on current responses and results.
Because we have been in crisis mode for the last ten months, the conversation may slide to the negative – what’s not working, who hasn’t stepped up, and organizational shortcomings. Gently course-correct and get back to the positive. Compelling visions aren’t crafted by analyzing failures and gaps. Instead, they arise from the energy and enthusiasm generated from success. And, make no mistake about it, if your organization is still riding out this storm, it’s been doing something right!
After you engage with your team, ask them to do the same with their teams, and so on, until every employee has an opportunity to share their thoughts. Then, set aside time as a leadership team to soak in the results and find common themes about what your organization has and can continue to do well. Those are the glimpses of clarity that will keep your organization moving in the right direction amid the fog, and that may be all the vision you need (or reasonably can muster) at this moment.
Preview of Next Week: For those who want to put vision into action, we’ll talk about how to take the seeds of vision identified in this week’s exercise and cultivate them through strategic thinking.