Many companies and organisations have a vision or a vision statement. The problem is, the vast majority of employees are not engaged by the vision, however much you think they are, or even wish they were. The truth is that they are not inspired or motivated by it, even though it no doubt took a huge effort and lots of time to create. No amount of internal branding, communication workshops, town hall sessions or CEO briefings will change that, however much time and money is spent on them. Why don’t employees just get it?
The biggest and simple reason for this is that employees can’t always easily make a link between the grand and beautiful vision of achievement the company and the executive team have in their mind’s eye, and the employee’s own vision for themselves (however abstract that may be). The disconnect is too great, the leap too far. Even if the company did one day reach its nirvana, the employee potentially wouldn’t notice, or feel any different. Many employees just cannot see what is in it for them to work extra hard to achieve a dream they never had.
So what can be done?
This is where vision alignment comes in.
Vision alignment is a skill that great leaders utilise, many probably without ever having given it an actual name. In basic terms, it is the ability of the leader to link the vision of the individual to the vision of the organisation.
Importantly, it must be done that way round. Not linking the vision of the company to the vision of the individual – but linking the vision of the individual to that of the company or organisation.
I have observed (and managed!) some boss / employee relationships where it is clear that there has been no attempt to get to know the employee at all, and no attempt to share some of the leader, as a person, with the employee. Some people see nothing wrong in that, believing that work is work and personal life is just that – personal.
I am not advocating that bosses and employees share every little bit of detail about their personal lives, far from it. Unless though there is some degree of sharing and understanding, a leader can never successfully understand what motivates their employees, what gives them hope and willpower to carry on when the going is tough. That motivation and resilience usually comes from the desire to achieve their own, personal vision for their own future (again, this may only be an abstract concept, but it resides within all of us). Without that knowledge and without sharing some of their personal self, a leader cannot hope to engage that individual and their vision in the organisational vision, and show how a win-win situation can occur and both parties realise their dreams, their visions.
Put simply, an individual will be as engaged and invested in an organisational vision to the same degree that the organisation demonstrates its own engagement and investment in the vision of the individual. As the ‘organisation’ in this case is nothing more than each of its leaders, it falls to each of us as leaders to engage our people enough in themselves that we may successfully engage them in the organisation.
The organisational vision itself probably won’t motivate an employee – but by understanding each other, and then linking that understanding to the organisational vision, a leader can motivate right at the heart of the individual. Vision alignment makes leadership personal.
Do you feel you have got this sort of engagement from your employees, or have received it from your boss? I’d love to hear your experiences of how this was achieved.
Copyright Simon Murphy 2016
Image by Udo Geisler