Leaders in today’s health and human services industry need vision to position their organizations to succeed. Having a vision is having the wisdom to see the greater outcome that is possible.
What Vision Requires
Vision in business requires that you clearly see or imagine where you want to be in the future, formulate the necessary steps to get your organization there, and put your plan into action. This visioning is no less important in the health and human services world. In my career, working along with visionaries, I realized that visions become reality as a result of several primary ingredients: a crystal clear grasp of the direction informed by market knowledge, determination, and execution of a plan. From my experience, staff will only follow a vision that is extremely clear in their minds. This clarity of vision happens first with the chief executive officer. The leader must see the big picture, develop the high level plan on how to get there, and then communicate this to the leadership team. Communication involves outlining the reasons behind the vision, the general steps that need to be taken to reach the vision, and the resulting success that arriving at the vision will bring to the clients served and the organization’s sustainability.
Balancing Vision & Action
While leaders need to consistently communicate the vision they seek and keep this vision a major topic of leadership conversation, this vision needs to be balanced with a constant focus on the steps taken on the path to get there. A balance is created when the strategic plan and the tactics to reach the vision are crystal clear. Action should be focused on what exactly has to be done and by which staff, the timelines for completion, consistent evaluations of progress, and modifications of the plan when necessary. A visionary leader turns vision into reality by assuring that leadership staff know what the final outcome looks like, such as the creation of a new group of programs, or the market share envisioned and acquired in a new geographic area.
The Importance Of Having The Right Leadership Team
Whenever a vision is followed by strategic action, the vision can be turned into reality. One important requirement to reach a vision is having a great leadership team. A visionary leader recognizes talent and recruits individuals with skills that complement each other and contribute to the vision being achieved. Leaders will quickly learn that articulating the vision and plan may not provide sufficient stimulation for a leadership team to be motivated to take action, so they must have an excellent grasp of their team and an understanding of what each team member needs to hear to acquire the motivation to seek and reach the vision. A visionary leader also recognizes the talent on his/her team and the gaps in talent that must be recruited to acquire the skill sets that are needed to contribute to the vision and help it become a reality.
Characteristics Of A Visionary Leader
Here is a brief list of some of the more important characteristics that visionary leaders need to possess:
- Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written
- Ability to create enthusiasm, empower their people, instill confidence, and be inspiring to the people around them
- The capacity to create, execute, monitor, and modify an action plan directed toward the selected vision
- Willingness to take risks informed by data, experience, market conditions, intuition, and logic
- An optimistic personality that sees barriers to the vision as challenges to overcome
- Tenacity and focus: always keeping the ultimate outcome in mind
5 Important Steps To Improve Your Visionary Skills
- Practice Visioning: Some leaders are just naturals at visioning, but most of us need to develop the skill to vision. This can be done through making the time to think about the various different things your organization might consider doing. Find a quiet place and bring to mind the various changes that are occurring in the larger marketplace and what is happening in the geographic area that you serve. Recall the market intelligence that you have been given through articles and information you have received during the last 12 to 18 months. Brainstorm what possible new or modified programs could meet the new market demand. See in your mind’s eye the end result of what “could be” if you took action to create or modify programming.
- Ask Yourself What Your Successor Would Do If You Were No Longer The Leader: This is a great exercise that is geared for you to step back and look at your organization from a new leader’s perspective. Ask yourself if they would keep the same historical programs that you developed and what they would do to meet new market demands without years of attachment to the ways things were done in the past.
- Seek Wisdom Of Others: Bring the conversation of future vision to the leadership meeting you conduct with key employees. Brainstorm the potential future that your organization might work toward with this group. Use this input to add to your ideas about the path that must be taken for a successful future. Consider hiring a national consultant that can help you to see what other leaders are visioning and putting into action to meet market demands and changes.
- Face Your Fear & Emotions: Fear is often what keeps leaders from visioning a new future for their organization. Change creates fear and brings forth our insecurities and doubts that we might not succeed if we plan a new future path for our organization. Recognize that change must be embraced and is the “new normal” in our industry. Fear will diminish as action is initiated. Keep in mind that our ability to vision fogs up when emotions are involved.
- Separate Ideas of The Future From Action Steps: Often when we plan the future, we get bogged down with an analysis of the action it will take to get there and all the hurdles we will need to jump over. It is important to separate this analysis from selecting what you want for the future. Once you describe to yourself what exactly you want to happen, only then do you begin to look at the actions that it will take to get there.
Final Thoughts On Visioning
I have learned that leaders have a tendency to box themselves into a specific place regarding what they are capable of doing. This common pitfall results in our settling for the lowest level of our capabilities and potential. We must rise above this and allow ourselves to create the vision of what we believe is the best future for our organization, devoid of our attachments, doubts, and apprehensions. We must remember that in order to reach a destination we must first “intend” to get there. Intentions are the seeds that are planted and when watered with “action” brings us to our goal. Along the way we must pluck out the weeds (obstacles) and continually move toward our vision. Setbacks must be understood and new actions employed. We must use our wisdom, stay focused, and push through our doubts.
“No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities – always see them, for they’re always there.”— Norman Vincent Peale