In Part 1 of this series, we formally defined the term 'business vision". We also outlined how to write a successful mission statement and company history. After completing the steps in Part 1, it's time to actually start implementing your vision.
When people think of business visionaries, many picture Steve Jobs on a glossy stage, unveiling a revolutionary new product. Those Apple product launches were the pinnacle of a strong business vision. But they only happened after years of hard labor. What you didn't see was the nitty gritty grunt work, the actions Jobs took on a daily basis to make sure his vision came to life.
The awesome product launches are always on the horizon. When they come, you'll savor them all the more. But in the meantime, you have to make daily progress on your vision. Otherwise, the evolving dream inside your head will lose momentum or die off.
Here are the actions you can take on a daily basis to bring your business vision to life.
Basic Competence, Credibility, and Integrity
It may sound counter intuitive, but your business vision actually takes root with your most basic actions in the office. You may not have a problem showing up to work on time, dressing and grooming appropriately, being competent in your work, and displaying passion for your job. But these are certainly issues to keep in mind. Lapsing in your basic responsibilities can completely undermine your vision for the company.
If these lapses are continuous, your apathy will bleed into the rest of the company. That pep talk you give to tired staff before a major deadline will ring hollow. Your email about giving the latest project 'all we've got' will seem in poor taste. Little by little, your powers of persuasion will disappear. The grand, lofty vision inside your head will be uprooted by the small actions in your daily office life.
Your employees want to see that you're in the trenches like they are, fighting for every inch of ground. When you're slipping in late or leaving after lunch, it's hard to say that you're working as hard as your employees. But if you're the first one in and the last one out, nobody will ever question your competence, credibility, or integrity for the job, or the strength of your vision. Keep this mindset in your head so you give 100% and gain the trust of your employees.
Be an Active Thought Leader
Of all the competing literature on business vision, there is one thing the texts agrees upon. That is: realizing a vision is an act of strong leadership. A successful leader, by using his powers of persuasion, convinces those around him to share his dream. But a visionary doesn't just lead his employees. He leads the entire industry around him. His business vision leaps into the realm of ideas, and his ideas shape the way people view his industry.
There are simple things you can do on a daily basis to insert yourself into a thought leadership position.
Stay Ahead In Industry News
Stay abreast of the economy of ideas in your industry. Setup Google alerts for key phrases and competitors. Consider starting an email chain where you share interesting stories with colleagues. Make it a point to read at least two articles each day. By taking these actions, you will build a personal wellspring of knowledge about your industry. This will help you in multiple ways:
- Gives you the chance to form new, well-informed ideas.
- Strengthens your own vision by comparing it to the visions of other thought leaders.
- Helps you learn more about your craft and trade.
- Makes existing information in your head more accurate, bolstering your decision making process.
Build a Presence on Social Media
Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other relevant social platforms to get your vision in front of others. Post concise observations about the latest industry developments that add value to the conversation or present a unique perspective on the issue. This will add to your credibility and position yourself at the forefront of the community.
Don't try to sell your product or paint your commentaries with bias. Remember, this is you speaking - not the company. Thought leaders focus on the future of their industries - 5 years, 6 years, 10 years down the line. You should only bring up your products if you're discussing the ideas behind them.
Be a Great Communicator
A key part of any business leader's job is being able to communicate in a clear and personable manner. Business visions live or die by your communications skills. If you cannot accurately describe the evolving dream inside of your head, you're going to end up with either a failing or diluted version of your vision.
Communication skills can't be learned overnight. But there are a few day-to-day actions you can make to enhance your communications with other people.
Listen to Your Customers
In order to be a great communicator, you first need to learn how to listen. The best way to figure out how to help your customers is to talk to them directly. Once you understand what their needs are, you can come up with the best way to communicate your solution to them.
It can be easy to get caught up with the "bigger picture", but it's important to make time to get information directly from the source. One way to do this is to listen in on support or sales calls. Take note of how people describe their problems or needs. Or, spend a few minutes each day reviewing the best and worst feedback from your customers and see how it fits in with your overall vision.
Talk to Your Employees
Academics of human sociology believe that sociability is one of the most common traits associated with strong leadership¹. In prehistoric times, the leader who was inclusive and friendly to outsiders attracted more people into his tribe. As a larger group, his tribe was more likely to survive. This is why evolution has trained us to automatically look for personable leaders.
Make time for your employees. Walk across the office and have a chat with your team about something unrelated to work. Ask them how their families are doing, what their hobbies are, and how the latest sports game ended. Invite them out to happy hour. Form a human bond that exists outside of work. This will make you more personable and approachable.
Try to appeal to the positive emotions of people. Heap praise when it is due; deal with criticism in a constructive way. Remember to explain your vision to your employees in human terms.
Business Vision: One Day At a Time
The business visionaries who get up on stage and unveil revolutionary products are the product of hard work done one day at a time. These product launch type events are the most glamorous moments for a business visionary. But what many people don't see is the hard work business leaders put in on a daily basis to make sure their visions come to life.
A business visionary is a thought leader, a great communicator, and a person of competence on a daily basis. In this section, we've outlined small actions you can take every day to fulfill each of these roles. These actions shouldn't take much time out of your daily schedule. But if you continue to do them on a regular basis, you will lay down a solid foundation for achieving your business vision in the long run.
In our next chapter, we'll discuss the actions you can take on a weekly basis to bring your business vision to life.
¹ Northouse, P.G. (1997). Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.