THE BLOG
11/01/2014 09:25 pm ET Updated Jan 01, 2015

Every Inspirational Visionary Has a Crystal Ball... How Well Can You Read Yours?

It doesn't have to be Halloween for me to make a reference to crystal balls and fortune telling. Every leader should have their own crystal ball and consult it periodically in order to come up with a compelling vision for their company or for their particular industry as a whole -- or maybe a combination of the two. And oh by the way, they also need to be right about their vision. Wow, that's a lot of pressure! No wonder most leaders shy away from spending time on their vision. Imagine the embarrassment of predicting the future 5 years from now... and being wrong.

As a result of this kind of mentality, I see a lot of leaders try to nail the ultimate vision with such precision and self-imposed pressure that vision avoidance sets in -- not only with respect to setting the vision, but implementing goals to meet said vision once it's established. A clear, inspiring vision is a powerful tool for aligning business objectives, giving employees a sense of purpose, and ultimately creating a higher calling for the team and company.

So what's the formula for removing the pressure from setting and implementing a vision so that this becomes an exciting and compelling process? Let's do the analysis together.

Here are examples of two visions:
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, said: "I want to connect the world." As Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, observed: "Our ultimate dream is to develop the world's first economic graph."

What do they have in common? There are three key pieces:

1. Keep it simple - The most articulate and compelling visions are simple in their message. It's easy-to-understand language and isn't 2 paragraphs long! It's so simple that anyone in the company can remember it. Even my 7 year old can repeat it--yes, including the economic graph part! If your team can't easily repeat your vision, then it's not simple enough.
2. Make it big - You'll also notice that while the message is simple, the goal is big. It's connecting the world (Facebook) or it's creating the world's first economic graph (LinkedIn). Even if you aren't the CEO of a company but a senior leader or mid-level manager, your goals can still be big too. Are you changing your industry? If you are in Finance, can your team change the practices in reporting and forecasting within your company that, in turn, can alter and lead the way the industry does it?
3. Everyone has a different crystal ball - It doesn't matter if you are right about the future. It's whatever you want to see happen in the future. Who knows if the world will ever be connected in our lifetime or if we can even achieve the world's first economic graph in this decade. Furthermore, who cares! If there is goodness to be had from that end state, then just do it and try to reach it.
4. Lather, rinse and repeat - No one will know your vision if you don't say it--repeatedly. I find that some leaders don't talk about their vision and the one time they do, don't understand why people don't jump out of their seats and immediately "get it." You must be a broken record. State it every day and in every interaction so that people can connect what they are doing to your vision. You'll start to see people invoke your vision when you aren't there. It, in turn, helps decision-making when the leader is not around. "If the goal is to make the world more connected, doing X, Y and Z does not support that. Instead what we should is this..."

How would you go about creating your own vision? Here's a 2-step process:
1. Create the vision by completing the following prompt, "Imagine a world in which..." For Jeff Weiner, it would be, "Imagine a world in which we have the first economic graph." For Mark Zuckerberg, it's, "Imagine a world in which people are connected." What do you imagine?
2. Put it to the test by completing the following prompt, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." because if the response is, "No, that's not cool." Your vision isn't good enough. Go back to the drawing board. For Weiner, "Wouldn't it be cool if we created the world's first economic graph?" Hell yeah that would be cool! For Zuckerberg, "Wouldn't it be cool if the world was connected?" Amen!

By removing yourself from the pressure, following these steps, and embracing the potential and opportunity of your own "crystal ball," you can bring your vision to life. Even though you may be wrong, that doesn't mean you should smash that crystal ball of yours. Maybe all it needs is a good polish before you try again.