Giving Your People a Purpose: From Vision to Reality

A guest post by Jennifer Warawa, @JenniferWarawa

I recently read an incredibly insightful article from Bain and Company titled “The What, Who and How of Delivering Results” which did a brilliant job of emphasizing the important role a compelling vision has in delivering results. The article states “When planning a vacation, people get excited by imagining themselves on the beach or ski slope, not by reading the travel itinerary. Yet when embarking on a major program, executives often take more care in developing and communicating the details (risking “death by PowerPoint”) than the compelling vision.”

In addition, we’ve all read countless articles about how people want to work for a greater purpose, a bolder cause and to make an impact. Yet even when our own businesses have bolder, bigger ambitions we often keep them locked in the boardroom rather than ensuring the entire organization knows what they are working for.

How do you go about creating a clear vision, ensuring your entire organization understands where you’re going and recognizes how their day-to-day work and contributions ladder up to the greater plan? Here are six steps for consideration:

1. Build a vision with input from everyone in the business. Every single functional area should have an opportunity to contribute to the vision of your business. When people weigh in, they buy in. Provide multiple forums for people to share their thoughts on what the future vision could look like. Some ideas for gathering feedback include roundtables, forums, gated online communities, fireside chats, surveys, etc. You will find there are people in your business with brilliant ideas for what a bright future looks like and they are just waiting for someone to ask for their input.

2. Align the leaders. Now that everyone across the organization has had the opportunity to provide input, all that input needs to be consolidated and reviewed by the leadership team to build the final vision. The leadership team needs to work together to create a single vision to define the desired future of your business. Sometimes during this process it helps to have a consultant come in and moderate the discussion, ensure all voices are heard and help you arrive at your final destination.

3. Make it clear. Once you’ve finalized your vision, you need to put it on paper. As you cascade and share your vision throughout your organization, you will want everyone to share your businesses’ vision in a similar way and the best way to do that is by getting it on paper and making it clear.

4. Create the story. Storytelling is an art and is one of the best ways to help bring a vision or strategy to life. Help every leader create a supporting story that is personal and authentic. If you aren’t sure where to begin, check out this article from Harvard Business Review titled “Storytelling That Moves People”. After reading it, you’ll see why storytelling is such an important part of leadership.

5. Build the plan. Quite often people are good at building the vision and are also good at getting things done, but what gets done is disconnected from the vision, which is a fatal flaw in making that vision a reality. Every vision needs a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound) plan to ensure it doesn’t fade away. In addition, you want to make sure that every single person in the business has goals that are part of the plan and they can see how they will personally contribute to making that vision a reality.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. You’ve created the vision, you’ve shared it and you’ve even created a plan around it. Now you need to communicate frequently and relentlessly. People can’t hear too often what the vision is and how you’re going to get there. It’s okay if you sound like a broken record – that repetitive communication will ensure everyone stays aligned and keeps the course. To stay the course, reinforce!

Don’t forget that people get excited about the vision (imagining themselves on the beach or the ski slope, not by reading the travel itinerary). Are you leading with pictures of the beach or by handing out itineraries?

Written by

Global VP of Product Marketing - Accountants and Sage Live @SageGroupPlc ~ Foster Parent ~ Passionate about supporting people to achieve their full potential

7 Responses to "Giving Your People a Purpose: From Vision to Reality"

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Jennifer.

    This is so true I couldn’t agree with you more. This was very valuable to me as I am in the process of restructuring my company so it was perfect timing and I love it can’t wait to use this information.

    • Jennifer Warawa says:

      Thanks for your feedback, Debrah! I always love your passion for driving innovation in your firm!

  2. Tom Hood says:

    Jennifer, Love this! Your passion for the accounting profession and making a difference is contagious. Your opening comments at the CPA Practice Advisor around this Vision, Purpose to Reality inspired me. Keep up the great work and we love being able to work with you and the Sage team!

    • Jennifer Warawa says:

      Thank you Tom – I sincerely appreciate your kind words and I love working with you and your team.

  3. Dan Forbes says:

    Thanks for the insight, Jennifer. Two points stood out for me. First, involve everyone in building the Vision. I do believe this can be done from the smallest of companies to the largest. It would help engage the disengaged. The second, is the importance of communicating the vision repeatedly. So true.

  4. Jennifer Warawa says:

    Thanks for your feedback Dan and for the opportunity to guest host the tweet chat this Monday. I’m really looking forward to it.

  5. […] Dan Forbes at Lead with Giants shared a guest post by Jennifer Warawa about the benefits and importance of “Giving Your People a Purpose: From Vision to Reality.” […]

  6. Most people want to know that their work has meaning that it helps someone else or makes the world a better place. When people understand the deeper purpose behind their work, they are likely to be more satisfied and more productive.