Recently, I was working with a practice and facilitated a discussion with the team. I asked them several questions. Do you know where the practice wants to be in a few years? Can you tell me what success looks like for this practice in the future? Can you describe the vision of the practice? It was evident they had no idea what this practice wanted to be when it grew up. Therefore, the team didn’t know how they could help get it there.
When I met with the practice owner, I shared what I learned. The people in this practice didn’t know what the future should look like. Therefore, they couldn’t be accountable for it or help the practice achieve it. The response from the leader was, “but I already told them.” This leader went on to describe several meetings where they told the team what the vision was for the practice. They continued to show me how the vision was to reach X number of dollars in revenue within 5 years.
This leader was missing one key concept. A vision only becomes a vision when the people in the practice understand it and are compelled by it. Until then, it’s just a leadership statement that puts a check in the “vision box.” There’s been a lot of talk lately in professional circles about creating mission and vision statements. Many practices have created a statement they use to make themselves feel good about having a vision. However, for most practices, their investment in creating a vision statement is like me spending money on a top of the line set of golf clubs - it wouldn’t change my game much.
Vision isn’t about the statement. Rather, it’s about everyone in the practice understanding how his or her role connects to the future. It’s about everyone knowing at the end of the day, week, month, quarter, or year, if they moved any closer to what the vision represents. It’s about everyone in the practice being able to describe the vision in their own words, and being compelled by it and feeling like it’s something worth achieving.
Communicating a vision can’t just be, “I told them what it is.” Each department and each individual has to collaborate in the process. People don’t buy into the vision of others until it becomes their own vision as well. We keep forgetting this as leaders. We often feel like after the statement is read to the team that our job is done. But, this is just the beginning of our job. First, we need to listen. We need to listen to how they feel about it, how they can contribute to it, and what they think needs to be added, changed, or deleted.
We have two choices as a practice leader. Either, we can create our own vision and watch it die. Or, we can help our team build their vision and see it thrive.
That doesn’t mean that we must give our vision up for something that is less successful. It’s not about removing ours and replacing it with theirs. It’s about letting our team shape the initial vision to make it more compelling, real, and tangible for them. If we don’t let our team collaborate on a vision, we will have to be content with framing our vision, admiring it, and hanging it on the wall somewhere because we will never actually get to achieve it.
If you already have a vision, congratulations, you’ve taken the first step to moving your practice towards it’s potential. But now you must allow your team to make it their own. Otherwise, the first step really doesn’t matter, no matter how great it looks on the wall or the website.