Leadership : The Motivating Power of Vision

The Motivating Power of Vision

Author, speaker and facilitator, Waterloo-based John Pellowe John Pellowe, MBA,  specializes in assisting business leaders develop their leadership teams to achieve stretching organizational goals.  His business is focused on mid-sized companies and business units. Previous to 1994 he worked for two large banks in corporate financing. For a free catalogue of resources,  email John.


Engage your team members – heart and soul

Some people swear by vision and mission statements and others hate them. Many companies have done quite well without formalizing them. Vision statements can be effective or ineffective. Effective ones will help people get the ‘big picture’, create understanding and build commitment. Ineffective vision statements are simply platitudes or statements of the obvious.

Often overlooked in a vision statement is its power to motivate your employees. I see far too many employees who are just doing their job. They may be performing well, but it is still just a job. The spark is missing. That spark makes the difference between a company that merely does well and one that is truly great.

Most people share a yearning to be part of something bigger than themselves. Something they can be excited about, feel good about, that will challenge them to do something important and give performance that is “above and beyond.” Vision fulfills that yearning.

Many vision statements are very dry. They talk about how well the company is going to do. My own vision statement was once like that: “Canada’s pre-eminent organizational development company”. Does that do anything for you? Aside from ego gratification, I’ve realized it does nothing for me. It doesn’t touch my heart. It’s not the reason I’m in this business. I left another career years ago because I wanted to have a high impact on people’s lives. I wanted to be an encourager. I wanted to give people hope and a way to achieve their dreams.

My new vision statement is:

v       Every person – purposeful and fulfilled

v       Every job – meaningful and significant

v       Every company – prosperous and growing

Can you feel the difference? That grabs my emotions. It is significant. It is noble. It is motivational. It may not do anything for you if it isn’t close to what drives you, but it is very close to what drives the people I want working with me. Those who will share my passion for people. How about you? As a leader, your vision can be a powerful and inspirational statement that will attract people who share your passion for the business. It transforms a mere job into something much more meaningful.

John F. Kennedy said, “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth.” As author Karl Albrecht wrote, “Note that he didn’t say We are going to conquer space, or We are going to beat the Russians in the space race, or We are going to lead the world in space technology.” It said just enough to fire the imagination. It was positive. It didn’t knock the competition. It was, in fact, a goal, but a long term goal far enough out that it was a vision.

The power of Kennedy’s vision was such that Charles Garfield wrote of the NASA engineers and scientists, “I have never seen a group of people work with such absolute focus and fervor as these people, who saw it as their own personal mission to send astronauts to the moon. They worked incredibly long hours, under intense pressure, and they loved it. They had something that added meaning and value to their own lives, and they gave 200 percent to make it come true.”

A vision can be short: “The World’s Favourite Airline” – British Airways. It can be a picture of the organization in the future that is very attractive: “America’s Army. Trained and Ready to Fight. Serving the Nation at Home and Abroad. A Strategic Force, Capable of Decisive Victory – into the 21st Century” – The United States Army. It can be noble: “I will build a motor car for the great multitude. It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one. The horse will disappear from the highways, the automobile will be taken for granted.” Henry Ford. 

Visions are idealistic. Imagine that all of your employees are shareholders and you’ve just sold out for enough money that each and every one of them will never have to work again. Why would they “volunteer” to continue working? What vision would be strong enough to keep them working? Many employees at Microsoft are millionaires and yet they continue to work. Why? People volunteer to help an organization fulfill a vision that is deeply meaningful to them. Can you find something similar for your organization?

If you want to energize and motivate your employees to use more of their creativity and initiative; if you want to build team spirit and commitment, then write a vision based on the outcomes of your business success.

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© John Pellowe 2000

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