The #1 piece of information you should be focused on as a leader is sharing company vision. Here’s exactly how to do it.
“Company vision” might be the fluffiest business term I know.
Thrown around by every nearly business book and article, “vision” is often used vaguely, without nuance or thoughtfulness.
Yet despite it’s watered-down usage, “vision” is the most important information for us to communicate across a team. According to a survey we conducted with 355 people in the fall of 2018, vision was ranked as the #1 information people need to share in a team.
Given its significance, how to best share a company vision within a team?
Before we can answer that, we must start with what company vision exactly is and why it’s important. Then, we can dive into to how you can make sure it’s shared across the team.
First of all: What is company vision?
A vision is a picture of a better place. You see this picture in your head: It’s what you want the world to look like because your product or team exists. In many ways, your team’s vision is your opinion for how you think the world ought to be. A vision answers the question, “What world do you want to create?”
Vision is often misconstrued with other business-y terms, like “mission,” “purpose,” and “values.” But a vision is different from any of those things. For example, the company vision of Know Your Team is NOT “software that helps managers become better.” Nor is our vision to be “innovative” or “authentic.” Rather, our vision is “a world where managers and employees work well together, make progress, and communicate openly and honestly with one another.” It’s a place.
See the difference?
A vision is what you want to create (remember, it’s a place!). The mission of your team is why you want to get to that vision. Your team’s values are how you want to get to that vision.
Why does sharing a vision matter?
Sharing your company vision is important for four reasons: (1) it clarifies decisions (2) it decentralizes decisions (3) it makes decisions easier and (4) it can be the greatest source of motivation for your team. Let me explain.
In our online leadership community, The Watercooler, many members strongly emphasized the importance of sharing vision as the ultimate tool for decision making. One manager explained, “When the vision is clear, you give your team something explicitly to point to in decision making.” The vision is the compass that all decisions are oriented around.
When the vision is shared across the team, each team member can have greater autonomy. Your team now has a shared destination on the map, so your manager doesn’t need to be ordering a series of coordinates instructing everyone how to get there. No more micromanaging.
One member of The Watercooler, a CEO, discussed how he shares the vision with his team deliberately with this in mind:
“My goal with this is to transfer the ability to make decisions to every person. If we are clear about why we do what we do, our [vision] becomes a filters through which any employee can make decisions that align with who we are and what we’re about. But all of this is predicated on us as leaders regularly sharing this stuff.”
Makes decisions easier.
A shared vision also helps a team make decisions amidst disagreement. When people argue over how to grow the sales or whether to pursue a project, this shared vision is a uniting force that can override seemingly irreconcilable differences in opinion. It can also give your coworkers the courage to speak up and offer dissenting opinions, since they know what the ultimate vision of the team is that they’re trying to achieve.
Greatest motivator for your team.
When shared, a company vision is the most powerful way to motivate a group of people. It gives your team a common place to strive for. When each person clearly sees that same picture of a better place in their own minds’ eye, each person connects to it and feels that pull of motivation to want to create that place.
How can you share the company vision in your team?
Here are three recommendations you can put into practice:
#1: Over-communicate vision at all-team meetings
The most common way cited by our survey respondents to share company vision was to utilize team meetings (57% of people do this). All-team or all-company meetings are an ideal opportunity to have this discussion: Everyone is present (most of the time, at least!) and you’re carving out time to talk about broader team and company issues. Twenty-nine percent of people said that their teams hold these meetings once a month, while 28% of them do them once a quarter. Regardless of the frequency, the most important thing is that you hold some sort of regular all-staff meeting and that you make a discussion of vision a part of it.
Specifically, at these meetings, how should be talking about your team’s vision? In the Watercooler, managers offered these suggestions for what can be talked about, as related to vision:
- The “why” behind the actions in each department and how they relate to larger company goals
- Challenges each department is facing
- Top projects of each department
- Company-wide retrospective on what’s been working, what’s not
- Mission, vision, and values and give examples of how a specific value impacts an every-day decision (sometimes this is a discussion, sometimes it’s a presentation)
What’s most important is to not make these meetings a progress update. We found that employees often feel they know what’s their coworkers are working on, for the most part. we asked through Know Your Team, “Do you know what your teammates are working on and how their work is going?” 83% of people said “Yes” (asked to 183 people across 17 companies). So don’t use all-team meetings to be purely a status update. Make communicating the vision the focus.
#2: Leverage your one-on-one meetings.
Communicating the vision isn’t just about broadcasting the vision: “This is the vision and you must be on board…” Rather, sharing company vision should be a conversation. After all, a vision that is shared across a team is only built from the personal visions of each individual. That’s how the vision becomes shared in the first place.
To do this, you’ll want to discuss the team’s vision during your one-on-one meetings with your team members. We found in our survey one-on-one meetings were the second most popular means of sharing the vision within a team.
Ask questions about the person’s personal goals and aspirations, what they think about where the team is headed, and if they feel aligned with that direction. For example, you can ask:
- What goals, personally and for the team, can I better support you in?
- What about the direction of the team concerns or worries you?
- What’s a decision you feel like I made recently that you felt could have been different, or wasn’t 100% aligned with the team’s vision?
#3: Don’t just talk about vision – codify it.
Talking about company vision during your team meetings is great – but you should go beyond that as well. Watercooler members spoke from experience, saying that they often tried to have the vision be something that developed organically and was discussed when needed. But eventually, they found it useful to codify it. Especially when it came to hiring, having the vision documented in some way was key.
Documenting the vision was the third most popular method from survey respondents for how to share the company vision. In particular, most teams seem to use an internal wiki or Google Docs to document and share the company vision. Leaders in the Watercooler also shared how this often takes the form of a “culture book” or a few pages of their employee handbook.
As fluffy as the word “vision” can be, it can also be powerful when used effectively. Your team’s vision is essential to sharing well so your team performs well. Start with trying one of these best practices.
Claire is the CEO of Know Your Team – software that helps you avoid becoming a bad boss. Her company was spun-out of Basecamp back in 2014. If you were interested, you can read more of Claire’s writing on leadership on the Know Your Team blog.