Like Soccer, Vision Is A Team Sport

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A lot has been written about the importance of vision, and those of us who are building our business using EOS® know that the vision must be “shared by all.”  But failure to understand who we mean by “all” and who is responsible for vision can cause an organization to fail.

First, what is a vision?

Vision is simply a picture of what success will look like at particular times in the future.  It serves to inspire and motivate the company’s workforce by providing a picture of where the organization is heading – more profit, more revenue, expanded market, etc.  The reason we invest large amounts of resources in human capital, infrastructure, and marketing is to make the vision happen.

Who is responsible for the vision?

In EOS®, we teach the same thing I learned in the Air Force some 40 years ago: only one person can be accountable for a given task, but many can be responsible. The founder or CEO is typically accountable for the vision.  So who is responsible?

Vision is not like a game of golf where one person moves the ball down the course. But that’s what you have if the only time your employees hear about the vision is when the CEO makes compelling, inspirational talks at the quarterly all-hands meetings.  These speeches only have a short-term effect.

Rather, vision is like soccer; the entire team is actively involved in moving the ball down the field, one player passing the ball on to another.  Furthermore, players better not take 1-minute breaks when they are on the field and the clock is running.  Carrying the vision is a full-time effort.

Who is the “all” in “shared by all”?

In a perfect world, everyone on our team is responsible for embracing the vision and passing it on to others.  Some may even recognize that outsourced or contract people need to embrace and advance the vision.  In Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast episode, “Vision Is A Team Sport”, Stanley and his guest, Jeff Henderson, refer to this as “vision casting.”

But wait! Could “all” mean even more?

We invest heavily in marketing our products and services, but the most effective form of marketing is free – it’s word of mouth.  Doesn’t it follow, then, that while our customers are not responsible for the vision, they can be involved in casting it?  If everyone – right down to the front line employees – is living the vision, our best customers will become “raving fans” who are casting our vision and helping us achieve it.  Now there is some bottom-line impact!

Why some organizations fail to make vision a driving force

In addition to treating vision like a game of golf, Andy notes three things that can cause you to fail to achieve your vision:

  1. You don’t have a cast-able vision.  Stanley borrows a pastor’s illustration here:  “If it’s misty in the pulpit, it will be foggy in the pew.”  If the vision isn’t crystal clear in the leader’s eyes, it will be even cloudier to the people — and people won’t share what they don’t understand.
  2. You have leaders who feel threatened if a subordinate does a better job communicating the vision than they do.  A true leader is thrilled when someone casts the vision more effectively than he/she does!  It’s a sure sign that the vision is on its way to being realized.
  3. You don’t have a documented process, particularly important for front line employees, for how to cast the vision to others.

For more help to make this happen in your organization, I encourage you to read Traction® by Gino Wickman.  You’ll discover that one of the reasons EOS® is so powerful in transforming good companies into great ones is because building this kind of visionary culture is baked right into the process.

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