“Sure, I know where we’re going, follow me.” As you set off for the restaurant with friends in tow, you are filled with confidence. But after a couple of wrong turns things aren’t looking familiar and it occurs to you that you really don’t know where you are going. Embarrassing? Yes. But in the grand scheme of things you will likely only suffer some good-natured ribbing. But what if the stakes were higher? What if people’s lives depended on you having a clear vision of where you want to take them, either literally or metaphorically? Consider this scenario: you are sitting near the front of a crowded theater when you smell smoke followed closely by the fire alarm. You see an Exit sign and a door to the right of the screen and, sensing people beginning to panic, holler, “This way!” Make a mistake in this scenario and people suffer or die. You have to know where you are going. As managers and leaders, when we say “follow me”, do we always know where we are going? Why not? People are counting on us. Our organizations are counting on us. People’s livelihoods may be reliant on us getting it right. But in busy offices everywhere leaders all too often forget this important point. Do you know where you are going?
One of the first exercises we do with students developing their personal leadership philosophy is to have them develop a vision for their team. It’s too easy when we are busy just doing everyday “stuff” to forget this important leadership duty. Don’t get me wrong, we have to get the “stuff” done, but if that’s all you do, soon your folks will start to wonder “Is this all there is? What’s the point?” But give them a clear vision of the future and clear goals to strive for to achieve it and you can energize your team. It doesn’t have to be something grand like you see posted on the walls in the C-suite. It can be as simple as “we are going to be the highest performing sales team in the department” or “we are not only going to be a team that gets the job done, but we’ll be the team that has the most fun doing it!” What’s your vision? If nothing stood in your way, what would you like your team to accomplish or become?
So, you have a vision, now what? Are you using that vision to drive actions and decisions, or are you back to just doing stuff? When deciding which of two or more paths to take, are you and your folks consciously choosing the one more aligned with your vision? It’s easier to say “follow me” when you know where you are going! Start incorporating your vision into your goals and plans to accomplish them. A vision without a plan to accomplish it is just a dream. People don’t necessarily want to follow dreamers but they will follow a leader; especially one they believe knows where they are going.