By this time of spring, most schools have selected their student government, resident advisors, club leaders, and peer mentors for next school year. My big question is—could they use some help getting ready?
At Growing Leaders, we’ve decided to post a helpful article each week continuing through the summer on our blog page, geared especially for student leaders. You can expect it on Fridays. They’ll contain practical tips for leading meetings, communicating a vision, choosing priorities, dealing with difficult peers, bossing your calendar, effective planning and more. You can find today’s tip below. If you like it, it’s our gift to you and your students. Feel free to copy it for each of your student leaders as a discussion guide that will equip them to be more healthy leaders. Also, click on “Free Resources” to view and download the growing library of Leader Tips on a special page of our site. This is a page just for young leaders to practice great leadership. Feel free to have your students look for it, all summer as they anticipate leading this fall. Enjoy.
How to Communicate Your Vision
Every leader must have a target they want to hit. It’s the primary goal they hope to achieve while leading their team or organization. Often, this target is simply referred to as a “vision.” It’s a picture of a preferred future they hold in their mind today.
Personally, I cannot separate leadership and vision. If you’re in charge and you have no vision, you are really only managing people. Helping them to do what they do in an orderly fashion. Vision is what propels leaders and teams to go the “second mile” to push forward and build something that, perhaps, has not been built before.
Once the leader recognizes his or her vision, they’re responsible to communicate it to their team. Leaders cannot assume team members automatically share their vision. They cannot assume they see the problems they face identically or would solve those problems the same way. Consequently, leaders must take time to walk through this sequence of steps with their teams:
Leaders cannot be aloof. Step one is to get in the middle of the action, determine the issues and see what problems need to be solved. They must expose themselves and their teams to the struggles and decide which ones are top priorities.
Next, leaders must explore possibilities for solutions to those problems with their core team members. This is a time of safe brainstorming and “dreaming out loud” about what could be done to improve the situation for everyone.
Next, they must clarify and explain that vision. This can and should be a team effort whenever possible. Leaders should allow their teams to gain ownership of the issue by defining the problem and the idea (or vision) that would solve that problem.
Finally, leaders improve their chances at pursuing a vision that works by experimenting with different approaches before deciding on what action plan to take. This can be done with core team members or a special task force from the team.
Gaining a Yes Vote…
All of us have ideas we want to pass on to others. The key is to think not only about WHAT your idea is, but HOW to best deliver it in a memorable way. When we attempt to communicate a vision to a group of people, there is a sequence that follows logic and compels listeners to want to act. Dan Sullivan from the Strategic Coach program suggests a flow of thought that I want to modify for our purposes and build upon below. It’s a flow that persuades others to VOTE for your vision.
The key thought: Here is what we want to see. Begin with the big idea. Lay out your vision in a concise and clear fashion. Ask the question: Wouldn’t it be great if we could do this for our school? Our community? Our world? In this first portion, the communicator shares the desirable idea with the audience. This is our hope.
The key thought: But our world is not this way because of our present opposition or circumstances. This is a statement explaining why this wonderful vision hasn’t come to pass. At this point the communicator shares the obstacles or struggles preventing this vision from becoming reality. This is our dilemma.
The key thought: In order to improve, these changes or events must take place. This is what will transform us from our present negative reality to our future desired reality. At this point, the communicator talks about the necessary price to pay to transform the situation. This is our essential change.
The final key thought: Here is how we do it. I will now provide the action steps we must take if we plan to experience a better tomorrow in this area. It’s enlistment time. At this point, the communicator gets practical or even logistical with the listeners about what steps they must take to participate. This is our action.
Questions for Reflection
1. What creative ways have you used for communicating your vision?
2. What ideas from the list above would increase student engagement on your team or in the classroom?
3. What’s one clear step you can take to become more effective at sharing a vision?
4. When will you take that step?