In a lot of ways the term “vision” is highly overused. When company leaders talk about the grand company vision the common response from employees is an eye-role. When sales people talk about the company vision with customers those customers nod politely and then simply tune out. The reason is simple, nobody believes in it.
Look back 30 years ago and you will find countless examples of companies crafting long winded jargon filled epistles called vision documents. These vision documents had very little relevance or truth about who they are as a group and less to do with where they are going as a company.
About a 20 years ago the vision statement became a popular alternative to the vision document. It was in most accounts just a shorter version of the vision document. Filled with meaningless buzzwords like; enterprise class, thought leader and best of breed. A quick google search will find hundreds of vision statement creators that would fill in random buzzwords into a generic template that would end up reading and sounding just like the real thing.
Now comes the post-dot-com era of the last 10 years and the elevator pitch replaces the vision statement. The point of the elevator pitch is to sell who you are as a company in 2 minutes or less. The time it takes to travel up a few floors. The brevity of the elevator pitch is really quite smart but the problem with an elevator pitch is people try to stuff their entire company history into 2 minutes or less. To much information is crammed into the pitch, leaving their audience lost and confused. The result is people fail to take them seriously.
Today it’s vogue to have a brand story. The goal is to take a vision statement that is told in an elevator pitch format and add in an “emotional twist”. However many brand stories come across as cheesy and weak. And people looses interest and fail to take them seriously.
Now here is the kicker, I actually believe that a brand story is a incredibly useful tool. A elevator pitch is the right amount of time and the right format to tell a company’s market position. A vision statement is a great way to say where a company is heading. And truthfully a vision document can be the best business plan crafted.
The eye-roles, polite nods from customers and disinterested employees are all reactions from people who don’t believe it. They don’t believe in the vision or in you, it’s because YOU don’t believe in your vision. Your lack of conviction is replaced with extraneous content, buzzwords and filler sentences.
But when you believe in your vision, truly have conviction and faith in a different and yes better future something incredible happens — people will follow, they will share your vision, and they will believe in you.
Look back further in history and you find visions told clearly and briefly that have changed the world; President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Dr. King’s “I have a Dream” speech, and yes even the constitution is a vision that millions have and still believe in.
The reason that these visions resinate with us is because the authors and speakers behind them believe deeply in them.
Most of us will never have a seat at the statesman table, but we do have a seat at our company or teams table. And there it’s not just okay to have a grand vision for the team but it is welcomed. It’s a true exercise of faith in the talents and skills of those who you work with.
When you believe deeply in your own vision and most importantly you believe in your people — that vision can be told briefly, clearly and confidently. And people will follow.