Compass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."

The best leaders are always compelled by something greater. Something that is beyond them. Driven by something just out of reach, they are striving for new growth and new opportunities.

Great leaders, in short, are driven by a vision.

Guided By Vision

Vision drives great leaders.

Vision also drives great business. 

It’s popular in the business world to talk about three closely related things: mission, vision, and values.

And while similar, they are distinctly diCompass and Map with overlay text, "Compelled by something greater."fferent. All are needed and all are necessary. However, they should not be equated to the same thing.

Michael Hyatt, in his book The Vision Driven Leader, makes the following distinction:

“Both mission and vision inform strategy but in different ways. Mission provides day-to-day clarity by defining the identity and scope of the business. Without a clear mission, you can easily drift off target and head into either too many directions, or the wrong direction…A proper Vision Script is…a robust document, written in the present tense, that describes your future reality as if it were today.”

This is a helpful distinction and provides clarity for where we’re headed.

Values – The moral and ethical code the leader or the business operates by. This is integrity in the personal and business sphere. A list of words (usually 5-10) that are non-negotiable.

Mission – The identity of the leader or business, defined by the practice and day-to-day operations. This is usually a sentence or two that provides strategy and action principles for the organizational culture.

Vision – The future destination of the leader or business. A full, robust manuscript that has actualized success and invites the readers into a compelling narrative of what could be as if it has already happened. This is usually much longer, much larger, and much more integrated.

Make It Compelling

Truly great leaders are able to draw people into their vision of the future. Their vision of the future is compelling, motivating, inspiring, and equipping. It guides other people into proper ways of thinking and doing.

Think of a vision board on steroids.

It’s large, comprehensive, and transformative. Vision creates the principles by which the mission is executed and the values are maintained.

A compelling vision removes any doubt about the direction we’re going and as well as irradicating the opportunity for settling or stopping short of the goal.

A vision statement covers all aspects of personhood or business to make sure that nothing is missed or left to chance.

3 Steps For Creating A Compelling Vision

1.) Take the Necessary Time

This is not a quick process. A compelling vision doesn’t happen overnight. It may not even happen in a weekend. It’s an intentional time of focus, reflection, integration, and prospecting.

Creating a compelling vision means carefully crafting words, feelings, and desires into a language that motivates, inspires, and equips.

2.) Suspend Doubt and Judgment

Too often, we are our own worst critics. We want to achieve great things but are plagued by doubt and fear.

Great leaders with a compelling vision have been able to squelch that voice.

Don’t be limited in your imagining of the future. Your current reality or availability does not determine your final destination. In the future vision, you have unlimited resources, ability, people, and technology to meet your goals.

Avoid limiting language and limiting belief. Hold space that all things are possible. Ignore the voice that tells you to play small or live in fear.

3.) Firmly Believe The Best Is Yet To Come

To craft a truly compelling and transforming vision, we must hold firmly to the belief that the best is yet to come. The products we create, the people we help, the influence we have, the legacy we leave. All of that grows and expands over time. Unleashing a force of good, we continually reach new heights, meet new expectations, and bless new people.

We must remain certain that the best is yet to come. We embrace the challenge of leaving the world a better place and know that by fulfilling the vision we are writing we will do so.

Where Are You Going?

Ultimately, the question for everyone is, “Where are you going?” For leaders, this is especially important.

No one drifts towards greatness. If we don’t pursue it intentionally, we will never reach it.

Failure to clearly articulate our desired vision of the future means we will never have it.

If we can’t firmly affix our steps to a larger purpose, we will never have one.

 

Friends with thought bubble cutouts and overlay text "A Failure to Communicate"

The one thing any business owner, entrepreneur, or leader never wants to happen is a failure to communicate clearly.

Why?

As Mark Miller points out in his book Win Every Day, “Communication is the oxygen of execution.”

A Failure To Communicate

In his book, Miller highlights the difference between what is expected of everyone in an organization, and what is expected of leaders.

Everyone in an organization must be concerned with “Helping Others Win.” Leaders have the added burden to “Communicate Tirelessly.”

When it comes to communicating mission, vision, and values, the experience of my own coaching clients bears this out.

One of the points I make repeatedly is the need to over-communicate these key aspects of the business.

Here is the rule we start from: Once you’ve talked about your vision a hundred times, the average employee has heard and understood it less than ten.

Shocking, right?

But it’s true.

One of the great failures of business owners and leaders happens when they think everyone else ‘just gets it.’

They don’t.

As a business owner, you may be passionate and inspired by your vision. Compelled by the mission, you get out of bed every day ready to change the world.

Your average employee doesn’t.

To bring them into the mission and vision you created, it must be shared.

Constantly.
Relentlessly.Friends with thought bubble cutouts and overlay text "A Failure to Communicate"
Effectively.

4 Levels of communication

1.) A Failure to Communicate

The first way we communicate is not at all. Like the famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we have here is a failure to communicate!”

A number of years ago, I shared a meme that reminds me of this. The caption I posted was, “This signifies my day so much”

The meme was of a couple, sitting on opposite ends of the couch. The woman, in her diary, was writing about her the distance her husband had been displaying that day. She had made his favorite meal, and there was not so much as a “Thanks.” involved.

She wanted to go out that night and get dressed up. He seemed disinterested.

She tried to snuggle him and watch tv, he was cold and stand-offish.

The diary continued, wanting to know what the problem was. Was he seeing another woman? Maybe their relationship was in trouble? Did he not love her anymore.”

Then we see his diary. Motorcycle won’t start. Can’t figure out why.

This lack of communication led to marriage trouble that didn’t have to exist, at least as far as the meme was concerned.

I shared it that day because it resonated. If I remember correctly, I had a lot of apologizing to do after that.

2.) Poor Communication

Since we’re on the subject of things I’ve learned the hard way, here’s another one.

A couple of years into our marriage, in the midst of a ‘heated discussion’ my wife finally snapped. “I wish you wouldn’t call me “dear.” You only say that when you’re angry with me.”

Lesson learned

Sometimes we communicate. We just do it poorly. The wording is wrong. The metaphor doesn’t work. The imagery fails. It happens when I speak (more than I’d like to admit) and it happens when we share the vision with others.

Business owners just as frequently communicate poorly.

Every time a business owner shares company values but doesn’t practice them, there is poor communication.

When a business leader excuses poor language, crude humor, or angry outbursts as “their personality”, poor communication is experienced.

3.) Base Communication

Assuming you as a leader don’t want to fail to communicate or communicate poorly, what are the other options?

The first is base-communication. But let’s be clear upfront, this is still not considered good communication.

It’s the bare minimum required to get any given task accomplished.

Base level communication is, “John I need you to send me that report.” Why? “Because I said so.”

The job gets done. You will get the report emailed to you, but it’s hardly exhilarating leadership.

Base-communication cares about one thing: results. But, as great leaders know and practice, we care about more than results.

First, we care about people over projects.

Second, we make intentional investments into new leaders.

So where does that leave us as leaders wanting to do more, be more, and have more?

4.) Over-Communication

Over-communicating is people inspiring, mission clarifying, and value-enhancing. Over-communicating looks at more than the task or the goal, it examines the heart of the person we are speaking with.

The best leaders we know practice the art of over-communicating. They speak clearly, concisely, and contextually. Great leaders know how to get at both the heart of the matter and the heart of the person quickly. Excellent communicators know what it means to elevate others and embrace the mission.

Over-communication requires commitment, bravery, and an extreme commitment to service.

The Case to Over-Communicate

To win the hearts of those around, the only way forward is to over-communicate. But note that over-communication is not micro-managing. It does not over. It does not belittle. And it does not de-value.

Over-communication accentuates the positive. It brings out the best in others. Over communication sparks light and life in those that are listening.

Over-communication holds unwaiverlingly to the idea that everyone can witn.

When we over-communicate with our spouse, employees, team-members, and friends we bring value and honor to their personhood.

And as we’ve already seen:

Communication is the oxygen of execution.

Abraham Lincoln Statue

Growing Leaders

I’m becoming a huge fan behind the idea of “Dynamic Leadership.”

More than influential, this is transformative.

For the individual, the team, and the organization. Most importantly, it’s also highly transformative from a customer experience.

To be dynamic simply means to be in constant change, to make progress, or to be characterized by energy and new ideas.

Isn’t that what we want from leaders.

Isn’t that what we want to be as leaders?

Dynamic Leadership

One great example of dynamic leadership is Abraham Lincoln. Viewed as one of the greatest presidents in American history, I’m amazed at his leadership journey. From a small town, this largely self-educated individual rose to lead the nation through the greatest turmoil it ever experienced.

In total, some 620,000 American soldiers died in the conflict. To date, 1.2 million soldiers have died in war. This means that nearly 50% of all American soldier deaths happened during the Civil War.

It’s an amazing statistic and a wild time in our history from start to finish. In August of 2019, I started listening to Shelby Foote’s three-volume series on the Civil War.

In addition to other articles, books, and journals, I have become fascinated by the leadership story of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln’s overriding commitment throughout the Civil War was the preservation of the Union. That is, he wanted above all else, a continued united group of states.

But throughout the war, his vision of what this was and how it needed to look changed dramatically.

Changing Morals

One big area of change, thanks to the influence of Frederick Douglas, was his stance of slavery. Lincoln went from fairly apathetic about it to strongly convinced of its evils and the need to abolish it.

His values changed. Abraham Lincoln Statue

The experiences of his life changed him.

He was open to others, listened to their experiences, and became convinced of the need to change his stance.

Lincoln was a dynamic leader.

Compelled more by the conviction to lead, help, or serve he was willing to personally be wrong in order to accomplish what was right. Many of his correspondences with military leaders gave them his input or insight, but he deferred to them to do what they thought. In short, he trusted their expertise, more than his own, to accomplish the mission.

This was true, despite the increasing pressure and opposition from friend and foe and in spite of personal losses and setbacks.

Becoming Dynamic

Becoming a dynamic leader isn’t easy … but it is worth it.

Dynamic Leadership allows us to lead both up and down an organization.

Dynamic Leadership promotes humility, service, open-mindedness, and grace.

Most importantly, dynamic leadership leads to the transformation of individuals, teams, organizations, cultures, and yes, countries.

If you’re interested in becoming a dynamic leader, let me know. I’m preparing to launch a fully online leadership course in dynamic leadership where we’ll talk about growth points, visionary leadership, and team dynamics.

Blog Post Title on background of workplace

The Culture Challenge

Leaders set the standard. Recently, I read an article (excerpt below) that reminded me about the vital importance of leadership culture. This week, we’re talking about the culture challenge faced in leadership, and ways to overcome and transform poor culture.

“The culture inside the Nebraska locker room isn’t OK.

Scott Frost made that apparent during the bye week, when on his radio show he said there was a “portion” of the team not ready to play at Minnesota, where the Gophers blew out the Huskers.

He went all in and called out his team Saturday, saying his team is ‘just OK’ and that he’s not ‘going to be happy with just OK.'” (source)

As a fan of all things Nebraska, this has been a particularly painful football season. While most of the last twenty years has been a disappointment for one of college football’s most storied and proud programs, this one hurts deeply.

Why?

The expectations were different. The season was supposed to be different. The outcome was supposed to be different.

Year two of a coach’s tenure is supposed to see improvement. Year two of Scott Frost’s tenure at Nebraska, his alma mater, was supposed to be glorious.

Blog Post Title on background of workplace
The Culture Challenge

Instead, eight games into the season, analysts are reporting how the culture is, ‘just okay.’

Just Okay Is Not Okay

When talking about culture, on the field or in a company, just okay is not okay. Fighting okay is a big part of the culture challenge faced by leaders.

Leaders set the standard of conduct. They set behavior expectations, acceptable methods of social interaction, as well as the vision and direction of an organization. When someone, or a group of someones, fails to live up to those standards, it is up to the leadership to change the culture.

There are, of course, many ways to do this. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to unpack the importance of culture in leadership. We’ll examine how to create a new culture if you’re in a startup, and how to change a bad culture.

For now, here are three principles to use no matter what your current circumstance is.

1.) Set a Clear and Compelling Vision

Like a masterpiece painting, a healthy culture is a product of vision and hard work. Longing for a great culture and actually having one are two different things. 

As a leader, spend time intentionally investing in the culture and direction of your company, team, and surrounding people.

What does the workday “feel like?

How do people act?

What’s the end goal?

How does your department handle promotions? Confrontations? Missed sales goals or development targets?

If you can’t articulate your culture clearly and simply, it needs more work. Worse yet, if it doesn’t inspire others to be better, it will ultimately bring harm.

The goal is to articulate the what and why of the organization in a way that shapes, inspires, and transforms.

2.) Inspire Others to Greatness

Once the vision is clear and compelling it should inspire those that hear it. It should be a place where people outside of the organization say, “I want to work for them.

Inside the organization, there should be tangible feelings of joy, clarity, and a desire for growth. This doesn’t mean that people necessarily want to work longer hours, but it means that they want to work harder in the hours they do work. Why? Because their work has meaning and purpose. They know that they are contributing to something greater, something beyond themselves.

The goal is to call forth the highest level of character achievement and belonging.

3.) Take Immediate Action

Violations of the culture will happen. Eventually, someone will know that a tardy might go unnoticed and regularly start showing up late. Part of a healthy culture is dealing with problems that arise quickly, fairly, and with the goal of restoration. Discipline happens to correct behavior and hold the standard high, not to deliver punishment.

Tardiness is corrected not by docking pay, but by showing them what is missed or at stake when they fail to show up on time. Poor attitude with customers doesn’t mean demotion, it means providing better training to help them deal with the stress of other people’s bad attitudes. 

The goal is to restore the person to their own personal standard of morals, to the team, and to the vision and culture set in the company.

Transforming Culture

The challenge presented to Scott Frost is daunting. Not only does he have to instill his good culture, but he also has to overcome the bad culture he inherited. On top of that, he has to rewrite twenty years of poor standards.

For many of us, we face similar situations. Family histories, company profits, and personal standards all confront us on a daily basis. Some we inherit, others we create. All need to be transformed and redeemed.

Creating a compelling, inspiring, and consistent culture is not easy. But it is worth it.