For more than 20 years, I have been facilitating the visionary process with leaders from diverse organizations all over the world. I have pushed and pulled, led and followed, gathered and summarized the work of countless teams as they went about the important task of identifying what matters most in their organization. At times, when the economy felt less stable or something dramatically changed in the business, I advocated for the kind of leadership that expanded what was possible versus a compressed outlook which is the tendency when faced with uncertain times. Last month something happened that made me take a closer look at when to expand versus compress not just in leadership but in life.
My dear friend and mentor, Jack Fecker, passed away leaving behind spheres of people in all communities he touched, better for having known him. As often happens when those close to us are gone, wisdom he shared over the years of our friendship, came flooding back. It dawned on me, as I was preparing for an upcoming leadership off-site around visioning, he was the first person to say to me, “When you are creating your own vision, always see it big and keep it simple.” His words kept repeating in my mind until the message became clear … I have been facilitating this work for leaders and their teams for decades but I have never fully engaged in the process personally. It was time. Using the visionary framework of Collins and Porras, I blocked out time on my calendar and got down to business.
The Framework – The Yin and the Yang
Core Ideology is the side of the visionary framework that represents what already exists and will continue to exist regardless of external factors. Core Values are essential to how we operate every day whether we have articulated them or not. Core Purpose is a statement about contribution and answers the question; What makes my work individually or collectively meaningful? This ideological foundation is critical but lacks meaning without the other side of the visionary framework representing movement toward the future.
Envisioned Future is the side of the visionary framework that represents the Big Hairy Audacious Goals and a future state of success, or Vivid Description, which lacks meaning without the solid ideological foundation that grounds progress and decision making as we move toward our goal.
As I moved through each piece of the framework with my husband, I gained incredible insight into the process I had facilitated so many times. It was daunting to come to consensus, agree on word selection, negotiate meanings of phrases and collaborate while paying attention to our individual styles. When we moved into too much detail we had to raise ourselves up a level and stay the course. It was revealing in ways I didn’t anticipate and there were so many “aha” moments around what drives each of us and where we may encounter roadblocks given what we value.
My husband and I have a visionary framework we are proud of and that represents who we are and where we are going. We have a road map for decision making that keeps us on track when distractions rear up in our path. We have agreement about what matters most and we have alignment.
What became clear to me in engaging in this process on a personal level is that it works! Alignment is instrumental in life. The risk is that once we have articulated who we are and what we value, we won’t fit in all places with all people. Some places and people will no longer feel aligned with where we want to go and some companies won’t be a good cultural fit. While it feels risky to have that knowledge, it always comes into play in the end so the clarity around vision, at any level, saves time and energy in the long run. However overwhelming the process was personally, it was ten times as invigorating as it was laborious.
Lessons From a Visionary Legend
Jack was truly a visionary and penned the following words, “And whether a leader inspires others to implement a path of destruction, or of new beginning, the potency comes back to this one thing: they had the ability to convey the life of that vision to millions of people in such a way that its spark caught fire and created results. Imagine what we could create in the world, in the marketplace, in our homes, our families, our communities, if we could pass this one truth onto every young person: That it all begins with an idea, a thought, a vision, and that individuals do have the power to create their reality.”
The last thing I added to my visionary framework were the letters FWP. Instead of timelines or missed deadlines, Jack always advocated for dreams to become reality in the Fastest Way Possible. While it took me many years to put my vision on paper, I truly believe it was the FWP for me and all in perfect time.
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