The Power of Vision, Part 5

Visions-of-Color_Joe-Dyndale

Photo Credit: Visions of Color, by Joe Dyndale, Flickr

I’m in a mini-series focused on the power of vision. Here’s a snapshot of where we’ve been in the series:

  • In Part 1, I began by providing the following definition of vision: vision is a picture of a preferred future. Further, I described the major work of leaders as communicating this picture of a preferred future in a manner that is compelling and unifying.
  • In Part 2, I engaged the capacity of vision to provide passion, motivation, direction, and purpose for life and leadership.
  • In Part 3, I engaged how leaders can help to make vision stick by casting the vision well, celebrating the vision well, and living the vision well.
  • In Part 4, I engaged how leaders can identify their burning passion and compelling vision.

This week, I’d like to provide a final encouragement as you consider the vision you are meant to pursue in the year ahead.

Looking to Your Future

As I write this post, New Year’s Day is just around the corner. In many ways, the start of a new year provides an opportunity for us to do what we should be regularly doing throughout the year—looking to the future and planning in light of it.

As you look out the future, what is the picture of a preferred future both for you and your organization?

First, what does this preferred future look like both personally and professionally?

  • Personally: What is your personal vision … for you, your family, and your community in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead?
  • Professionally: What is your professional or organizational vision … for you and the community you serve in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead?

Second, what does this future look like at different points along the way on the journey toward your preferred future?

  • What does it look like weeks in the future?
  • What does it look like months in the future?
  • What does it look like years in the future?

Developing a Strategy for Visionary Planning

Weekly Carve out 15 minutes at the beginning of each week in order to prioritize your schedule and insure you are working toward your preferred future.
Monthly Carve out 2 hours to evaluate the previous month and then plan for the coming month in light of your visionary priorities.
Quarterly Carve out a day (workday length) in order to evaluate progress in light of your personal and professional vision. Use this evaluation to make adjustments for the coming 2-3 months.
Annually Carve out a 1-2 day retreat (getting away to a hotel, cabin, or retreat center) where you can have focused time not only evaluating the past year, but also reevaluating your overall visionary priorities. This is an annual time to insure that the direction of your life and leadership is moving toward a preferred future in light of the things that matter most in life.
Seasonally (each 5-7 years) Carve out a week or more every 5-7 years for a season of deep rest, refreshment, and renewal. This is not about simply taking a vacation—something that likely happens every year—but rather taking a genuine sabbatical from the normal routines of life. Some professions may allow for this seasonal time to be multiple months of rest, refreshment, and renewal. For other professions and work contexts, this seasonal time may be limited to a typical vacation week. In either case, find a path for intentional reflection on the trajectory of your life and leadership.

Have you seen tangible progress toward major visionary dreams you had 5 to 7 years earlier (degrees you wanted to complete, job changes you wanted to pursue, organizational goals you wanted to accomplish, etc.)?

As you look out into the next 5 to 7 years of your life and leadership, what are your major visionary priorities for the years ahead? What course corrections need to be made now to help navigate toward this preferred future? How can you adjust your schedule, budget, and general pace of life to make space for prioritizing movement toward this preferred future?

Engaging major life questions like this takes time and space for rest, renewal, and reflection. Take time not only for vacation and recreation, but also for sabbatical in order to tackle such visionary reflection and dreaming in your life.

 Vision: the Tool for Leading from the Front

Whether thinking of vision personally, professionally, or organizationally, vision is a powerful tool for your life and leadership.

Engaging the power of vision in leadership, Burt Nanus shares these thoughtful insights:

Vision is the main tool leaders use to lead from the front.
Effective leaders don’t push or production their followers. They don’t boss them around or manipulate them. They are out front showing the way. The vision allows leaders to inspire, attract, align, and energize their followers—to empower them by encouraging them to become part of a common enterprise dedicated to achieving the vision.

Rather than simply using push and production techniques, as leaders we need to learn to lead from the front. Vision provides the essential tool for moving from extrinsic motivation to intrinsic motivation. Vision provides the path for painting a picture of a hopeful future that motives us personally and others organizationally. As Nanus notes, “Vision is the main tool leaders use to lead from the front.”

Taking Your Next Visionary Steps

As you look to your future, the key is to pay attention and make changes based on this visionary reflection. In the week ahead, I encourage you to take some time to pay attention to your preferred future (your vision), and begin to take steps toward this preferred future in practical, tangible, and meaningful ways.

God’s best to each of you as you make strides toward the things that matter most in your life.


Here are all of the post links for this series:

Rethinking Resolutions — Prioritizing for the New Year

New Year's Resolutions, One Way Stock (http://www.onewaystock.com/zzz_page_NewYearsResolutions.php)

Photo Credit: New Year’s Resolutions, One Way Stock

New Year’s Resolutions

What are your typical New Year’s resolutions?

I’m actually not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I am a fan of using the beginning of a new year as an opportunity to reflect. As I look back on one year and then consider the next year ahead, it is an opportunity to step back and pay attention to the big picture—to pay attention to the things that matter most.

As you consider this past year what have been your significant challenges and what has gone well? What are the key lessons you are taking from this past year? How is this look to the past influencing your goals and desires for the future?

What Are the Big Rocks?

The reality is we cannot do everything. We have to make choices. We have to prioritize. As I look to the year ahead, one of the most helpful metaphors for me continues to be the image of Putting the Big Rocks in First suggested by Steven Covey.

Familiar to many, in First Things First Covey shares the following story about prioritizing:

I attended a seminar once where the instructor was lecturing on time. At one point, he said, “Okay, it’s time for a quiz.” He reached under the table and pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar. He set it on the table next to a platter with some fist-si zed rocks on it. “How many of these rocks do you think we can get in the jar?” he asked.

After we make our guess, he said, “Okay, let’s find out.” He set one rock in the jar…then another…then another. I don’t remember how many he got in, but he got the jar full. Then he asked, “Is the jar full?”

Everybody looked at the rocks and said, “Yes.”

The he said, “Ahh.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar and the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. Then he grinned and said once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time we were on to him. “Probably not,” we said.

“Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and gravel. Once more he looked at us and said, “Is the jar full?”

“No!” we all roared.

He said, “Good!” and he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in. He got something like a quart of water in that jar. Then he said, “Well, what’s the point?”

Somebody said, “Well, there are gaps and if you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life.”

“No,” he said, “that’s not the point. The point is this: if you hadn’t put these big rocks in first, you would never have gotten any of them in?”

(Source: Covey, Stephen R., A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill. First things first. Simon and Schuster, 1995.)

Prioritizing What Matters Most

So here is the major take away from Covey’s story: As we consider the hundreds and thousands of things that can be done in the year ahead, what are the specific things that matter most? What are the areas in our lives and the goals that we have that must be prioritized? Generally speaking, if we don’t carve out space and time for the things that matter most, our priorities often get pushed aside by the daily demands of life. So what are the things in your life that are just too important to be pushed aside?

Ongoing Priorities and New Priorities

As I consider my own big rocks, some big rocks are priorities I desire for each new year—quality time with my family, treasuring Christ and His love shown to us in the gospel, and faithfully serving others through my work. Other big rocks for a specific year and require focused energy for a specific time in my life. One such example for me is working to complete a majority of my remaining MBA classes in the year ahead.

In the coming year my life will be full of both planned and unplanned events. This means that I need to hold my plans loosely. But as I plan for the year ahead, I want to keep the “Big Rock” priorities in mind so that the things that matter most are not needlessly pushed aside by daily busyness. Some of my plans will likely need to change as I respond to new circumstances, opportunities, and invitations that emerge. But in the midst of the busyness, if I put the big rocks first I will be able to keep central the things that matter most and then allow the other necessities of life to fill in between the spaces left between the metaphorical big rocks.

Identifying Your Big Rocks

So what are your “Big Rocks” for the year ahead?

Rather than making New Year’s resolutions, I’d encourage you to reflect upon and identify your priorities for the year ahead. This is not about making resolutions or promises to yourself that will fade away by mid-January; this is about a deep process of thinking through your core values and core goals, and then prioritizing what matters most as you move into the year ahead. Enjoy this opportunity to look ahead to the new year and then make your priorities explicit as you launch into the next twelve months.