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Executive Coaching: The Power of Shared Vision

written byMagda Voigton 23/08/2018

I spoke with someone recently. A leader. Or rather someone with a big “complaint” about having their team engaged.

“They don't follow my vision,” he blurted. Well, why should they? How did they impact its creation? What's compelling, energising, meaningful for them in that vision? How can they feel that they are a part of something bigger, purposeful, impactful? A lot of important questions. Questions that beg an answer to "How can a powerful shared vision be created?"

In coaching, it's important for clients to consider the following two layers that underly the issue:

  • First, define your vision of the future. Be perfectly clear about it, so you can better explain it to others.
  • Secondly, you need to bring others along and work with them - understand their aspirations for the future and how engaging in your ideas can help them achieve those aspirations.

Shared vision takes into account people's feelings, hopes, aspirations, dreams. Only when these people can see themselves as an integral part of this vision, a group of individuals can transform into a real team, an organization, a community. A shared vision converts “the company” into “our company”. It can't be achieved when the vision is created by a few individuals and never becomes a real shared vision of the entire organization.

That's why the question “why they don't follow my vision” has almost an immediate answer built in - because it is “your vision” only. Yes, your role as a leader is to ask “What’s next?, “What’s better?”, “What's my vision of the ideal future?”. But then without bringing others to this process, your vision will never positively impact the organization. People might just not support such an approach, feel ignored, and not valued. The result is predictable: they typically don't follow the vision in the way you would like them to, as they don't relate to it. People want a vision that also reflects their aspirations, professionally or personally. They want to know how their goals will realize and how their hopes will be fulfilled in the process. That's the power of a true shared vision.

Easier said than done, one might argue. This all sounds wonderful but will never happen. But it actually does happen, and as a coach, I witness it in the process of working with leaders and business owners.

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So what's the first step to creating such a collaborative, thriving environment? Paradoxically, to create a strong vision of the future you need to focus on here and now. To strongly lead people into the future you need to deeply connect with them in the present. And most importantly – you need to listen rather than talk. When you listen closely to others, to their feelings, hopes, aspirations, their dreams – you are able to bring them with you into the future.

As at its simplest level, a shared vision is the answer to the question, "What do WE want to create and why this is important to us?" A shared vision is a picture that everyone carries in their heads and hearts.

If people feel that they are a part of a vision and that they can help make it happen, they are far more likely to focus their energy and enthusiasm towards the outcome. If people can’t see themselves in that final picture, it will be hard (or even impossible) to move them towards it. With a shared vision, everyone has a common destination and a common picture. People then work together, supporting and encouraging each other. A shared vision is one of the most powerful drivers of sustained desired change.

"The greatest leaders mobilize others by coalescing people around a shared vision." – Ken Blanchard

So next time you are coaching a leader and they complain about teams not following their vision, ask them to what extent others are involved in creating this vision and help them find the ways to engage with the team by listening and engaging them on a deeper level.