Imagine that you had a vision of running a half marathon 5 months from now. Let’s assume you currently have a little bit of running experience, but you are now ready to push yourself to the next level--13.1 miles to be exact. How are you going to set goals to align with your vision?

First, you would need to figure out how to train for a half marathon, so you could finish. Once you found a training plan, the next question you ask yourself might be: How can I make this training plan fit into my existing schedule? Or what might I have to give up the next 5 months so I can train properly?

Basically, there are three questions you are concerned with when taking on a new project or vision:

  • How can I ensure that my daily goals and tasks align with my vision?
  • How will I stay motivated when times are tough?
  • Who can I get to support me, if and when, I need some help?

What is vision and alignment?

When working with teammates and colleagues, the process is no different (than the running example above) when you are trying to get everyone to align with your “vision.” A key element of leadership is the ability to come up with a vision--an inspirational description of where the leader would like to take the organization--and then get others to follow that vision.

And, “alignment” happens when you get everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.

Why is getting others to buy into your vision so hard?

Having a clear vision can give a team direction and inspiration and be the foundation for goal setting and action planning. But, if a leader creates a vision on his or her own, they often find themselves trying to persuade, inspire, cajole, and influence others to get everyone aligned.

This approach also takes a lot of time for the “buy-in” phase from others. Many teammates may end up being more compliant than committed.

Should you develop a shared vision?

If your objective is to energize your team, gain their commitment, and provide direction, then you might want to consider getting others involved in the creation process. The vision then becomes “our vision” or “the team’s vision.”

The advantages of involving others in the creation of a vision are a greater degree of commitment, engagement, and diversity of thought. The disadvantage is that it takes more time up front and can be messy.

An 11 Step Process to Align Your Colleagues with Your Vision

  1. Decide who should be involved. In many cases, this may just be your own employees. In other cases, project team members and other key stakeholders might add valuable ideas and contribute in implementation of the vision.
  2. Schedule collaborative working time. Schedule at least a half-day, or a full-day for larger, more complex projects. Off-site locations are often the best choice as you want to minimize interruptions and get people away from their day-to-day environment in order to stimulate creativity.
  3. Assign a neutral facilitator for the meeting. This will take the focus off of you and also allow you to be a participant.
  4. Get prepared in advance. Schedule the meeting far enough ahead of time to prepare properly. Send out documents to review ahead of time (market research, competitor analysis, survey results, etc.). Establish the expectation that preparation is a must in order to participate and follow-up to make sure people have done their pre-work.
  5. Set the stage. At the start of the meeting, review the desired outcomes, agenda, process, and ground rules. This sets the stage for how the rest of the day will flow.
  6. Create a plan and use a process. You want to ensure full participation, openness, creativity, and efficiency. A trained facilitator can help you with this, or you can design it yourself.
  7. Write the vision statement later. Group time should not be wasted creating the vision statement and wordsmithing it to death. The leader can do this offline, or ask for a couple of volunteers to do it.
  8. Talk privately to those who disagree. If there is anyone who disagreed with the output, or anyone who is upset because his or her favorite idea was not incorporated, talk privately to see if they are committed to the vision. Explore ways to connect the vision to their interests and needs.
  9. Reconvene the group. Hold a shorter meeting once the vision statement has been drafted. Solicit input and make changes.
  10. Review the draft with key colleagues who were not at the meeting. This is the time to review the vision with your manager, peers, customers, suppliers, and anyone who has a stake in your team's work. Use this time to get input, make it better, and begin to build a broader coalition of support.
  11. Start communicating the vision. Begin making your vision a reality. This is the next step and most likely requires another meeting. Partner with some of your most creative employees to bring the vision to life in a way that inspires--perhaps using images, metaphors, and stories.

Team members and colleagues become more involved when a leader uses a shared approach. Creating a shared vision inspires ownership, commitment, and alignment. How is your team creating and aligning shared visions?