Picture this: A lone elephant lumbers across the open savanna.
As you read that sentence, your imagination began painting a mental picture. You likely saw in your mind’s eye an elephant walking across wide, grassy terrain.
Stop and analyze what you just did. It’s really rather remarkable.
Chances are, as you read this, you aren’t on safari in Africa. There are no actual elephants in your immediate vicinity. But you’re still able to envision an elephant in widescreen detail simply by reading words on a page.
And that happened, automatically and without any effort on your part, because we humans are both visual and imaginative beings. Not only are we born with eyes that allow us to view the world around us, but our brains have the extraordinary power to record and recreate that reality within the limitless universe of our imagination.
And even more amazing, those imaginary constructs are often linked to our very real emotions. If you’re passionate about elephants, maybe collect elephant memorabilia, or proudly own an I Heart Pachyderms t-shirt, the simple act of hearing or reading the word “elephant” triggers a positive emotional response within you.
(And if a loved one was trampled by a rampaging herd of elephants, I sincerely apologize for this unfortunate example.)
To recap: Words (either read or heard) trigger mental images which are tied directly to our emotional state. (Stick a pin in that. We’ll be circling back to it.)
“That’s all well and good,” I imagine you saying. “But what does all that have to do with running my business?”
Good question. Let me just shoo this elephant off-stage—go on, git!—and we’ll figure it out together.
Here’s How to Create One in 3 Easy Steps
What do you picture when you hear - or read - the word “vision?” It’s rather nebulous, isn’t it? An elephant is an elephant, but a vision? That seems almost dream-like, fleeting, intangible. It certainly isn’t something solid you can base a thriving business upon.
Except, of course, you can.
Step 1 – Realize Its Importance and Commit to Doing It
The most successful companies are all built upon the firm foundation of a clearly understood and communicated vision.
Each company’s vision is specific to itself, and the process of identifying and communicating that unique and panoramic vision in such a way that it can be shared and embraced by the entire company is called Painting a Vision. But what exactly is a “vision?”
Let’s see if we can paint ourselves a definition. For our purposes, a vision can be described as the written or verbal expression of an inspirational end goal under which all strategies, tasks, leadership, and teamwork are oriented towards achieving. It’s the long-term realization of a company’s combined efforts in pursuit of a commonly shared purpose and plan.
But before you can paint a vision to energize and mobilize others, you first have to be able to communicate it to yourself. So, roll up your sleeves and let loose your imagination. We’ve got work to do.
Step 2 – Ask Yourself these Questions and Think in Long-Term Answers
When you first got into business, odds are it was simply to make a living doing something you enjoyed, or at least had a knack for. Maybe you hired a couple employees to help out with the workload, which meant renting more office space. After a rocky start, things finally started coming together. You’re turning a nice profit, and that small staff is slowly but surely expanding.
Now it’s time to start thinking long-term. What does the future look like for you and your business? Not just next year, but in five, ten, twenty years? Ask yourself the question, if my company could one day realize its full potential, what would that look like? And, who might benefit – directly or indirectly - from its continued existence? Answer that, and your vision will start coming into focus.
Step 3 – Write It Down
The next step is committing that vision to paper (or a digital document, if you prefer.) The important thing is to actually write it all out, because as you do so, your vision will start taking on a life of its own. That written document, by the way, is referred to as a Vision Statement.
Remember how simply reading the word “elephant” conjured up the image of an elephant? Well, transcribing your vision from a free-floating idea to tangible words accomplishes the same amazing feat. That Vision Statement you compose will help to solidify in your mind’s eye the vivid future you are just now beginning to paint.
The three steps sketched out above are the broad strokes; the actual process of painting a vision is a little more involved. But the good news is, you don’t have to go it alone. You can (and should) incorporate the input of others on your team to help shape and craft this Vision Statement. For a more detailed description of this creative - and collaborative - endeavor, you can find some great tips and suggestions in this article by Business News Daily on How to Create a Vision Statement.
3 Keys to Communicating Your Vision
Okay, so you’ve identified a motivating purpose and plan for yourself and your company, and then consolidated those ideas into written form.
The next step is unveiling to your team that Vision Statement, because it will help inform and guide them as they execute their individual parts of the overall strategy.
Evoke Emotion with Vibrant Words
As you consider how best to communicate your vision, I would encourage you to select words that are vibrant and that evoke positive emotions within yourself. The ultimate goal is to share this vision with others, but you are your first audience. And if those words don’t excite and energize you, how can you expect them to ignite the imagination of those around you?
The Power of Metaphor
One useful tool you might employ is metaphor. If you can draw parallels between the vision in your head to something that already exists, it will help you not only better understand the wider applications of that vision, but will give you and your team a shared conceptual model to refer to when discussing and executing that vision.
Example: Just as an elephant is slow, strong, and steady, so too must be our strategy. We won’t in all likelihood achieve our vision overnight, but we’ll continue to advance toward it by adhering to our highest values and working as a unified team to realize our shared goal.
Elephants are exceptionally smart; they have the largest brain of any land animal on Earth, and three times as many neurons as humans. So it would behoove us to model the brain and behavior of the enduring and intelligent elephant in our quest to make our vision real.
To better understand metaphors and how they can best be used to communicate your vision, I highly recommend this article by Communication Coach Chris Carey in which he explains that To Communicate Vision, Paint the Big Picture of Success.
Whether you communicate that vision in a public address or circulated document, choose carefully considered words and metaphors that resonate on both an emotional and aspirational level.
Communicate It Consistently
Once you’ve painted a vision for your business’ future, you can’t set down your brush quite yet. You need to regularly refresh and reinforce – whether through public addresses, team updates, or even one-on-one conversations - that vision in each team member’s imagination, and emphasize how the positive actions they perform today will incrementally but inevitably help bring that vision to life tomorrow. A tomorrow in which they will be an integral part.
Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will. ~George Bernard Shaw
Painting a vision for the future may seem daunting at first, but I hope this step-by-step strategy has made it a little less so.
It can be easy to get so lost in the minutiae of daily duties and intermittent crises that we don’t take a much-needed moment to step back and really consider the ultimate trajectory of where all that effort is heading.
Hard work and ambition are critical to success in business, but so too are imagination and communication. Learning how to exercise your imagination and then paint with words what you’ve envisioned will help steer your business towards that ever more real and attainable future.
So what’re you waiting for? Let’s get painting!
Written by Kinn Melby
Image by Jadson Thomas
If you liked this, you may also enjoy Unforgettable Strategies for Leaving a Lasting Impression. Also, we’d love to hear what you think, so we invite you to leave a comment. Know someone else you may like this info, please share it with them. We love helping or entertaining.