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In the Vision Driven Leader, Michael Hyatt emphasizes the importance of crafting a clear, compelling vision and getting stakeholder buy-in for your business success. You’ll also learn why there is such thing as ‘too many visions’ and why too many resources can potentially cripple a perfectly healthy organization.
Question #1 Are you a Leader or a Manager?
A leader creates and casts vision. A manager receives and executes it.
A leader inspires and motivates. A manager maintains and administers.
A leader weighs and take risks. A manager controls and mitigates risks.
A leader focuses on the long-term. A manager focuses on the short-term.
Question #2 What difference does your vision make?
The tragic fall of Kodak
In 1975, Steven Sasson, electrical engineer of Kodak, invented the world’s first digital camera. Sadly, Kodak leadership never had a vision of the digital photography. For them, digital photography would take margins away from their traditional film business. So, management decision went something like It’s cute – but don’t’ tell anyone about it.
And so, Kodak suppressed the invention within its own business. Worse, it was unprepared for the wave of innovation on the horizon. By the time, Kodak realized the potential of their invention and jumped into digital photography, it was too late. Their peers such as Sony and Canon had mage huge leaps in the sector and was light years ahead of Kodak.
Too much resources and too many visions ‘can’ kill a business.
Jawbone was an innovative and promising wearable tech company in Silicon Valley, that secured funding from five top-tier VC firms. Unfortunately, without a clear vision of where they were heading, they ended up chasing too many opportunities. In the end, they blew up $900 million in funding just to spin their own wheels. Jawbone went bust in 2017.
No amount of money can make up for the lack of clear vision. When you have all the resources in the world, it’s tempting to pursue all thing things for everyone. But the Jawbone’s death by overfunding proves this is far from the truth.
Scarcity forces us to ask what we really want.
And that is a critical question every vision-driven leader must answer. When Steve Jobs returned to the company, Apple product line had a whopping 350 offerings. In Job’s absence, Apple sidetracked from their vision. And so, Jobs decided to cut down the product line to just 10 offerings when he joined Apple in 1998. Focus isn’t saying yes to every opportunity in sight. It is saying no to a thousand things, to say yes to your primary cause.
Question #3 What do you want?
Direction begins with desire.
Ask yourself what you really want. It’s only when you take time to understand your desires, you start realizing where you want to go and how you will get there. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do you want with your Team?
- What kind of people do you want to be on your team? What are their demographics and psychographics?
- What do you need to attract the top talent? What’s your compensation philosophy?
- Why would your prospective employees join your team? What makes people line up to join your company?
- What does your workplace culture look like? Why difference would it make?
What do you want with your Product/Services?
- How does your product help your customers?
- Who do your products help?
- What does the customer experience look like?
- How would you decide what to offer?
- What’s your differentiation strategy?
What do you want with your Sales/Marketing?
- Where are you positioned in the market?
- How large is your target market?
- How would you reach them?
- What is your customer acquisition costs?
- What role does your sales and marketing team play in customer journey?
What do you want with your Impact?
- What are your key metrics (revenue, profit, staff count, mailing size…)?
- What are your results?
- How much cash would excite you?
- What is your role as a leader in making an impact?
- How would you serve the community at large?
- How do your competitors and partners think of you?
Question #4 Is it clear?
Make your vision concrete and explicit.
The last thing you want to do in creating a clear vision is to leave room for assumptions. Detail and articulate your vision in precise and unambiguous language.
Clarity comes from engagement and iteration.
Don’t worry if you don’t get your vision right the first time. It’s never a once-and-for-all task. Developing your vision is an iterative process.
Question #5 Does it inspire?
Exponential, not Incremental
“Hey, Travis, remember that night in Paris how we couldn’t get a cab?”
“How could I forget? We about froze to death!
“Right. Here’s a crazy idea. What if you and I found a way to make the whole taxi process easier? Maybe we could network customers directly with their ride using an app.”
“And people could hail a cab with the push of a few buttons. But… does that mean we need to raise capital to buy a fleet of cars?”
“Actually, we won’t own any vehicles…”
“Seriously? Next, you’re going to say we won’t have any drivers.”
“Good call. We won’t have any drivers on our payroll either.”
And that is how the conversation went between the two founders of Uber – Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp. The same conversation gave birth to a radically different, overreaching and implausible vision. Today, Uber is the world’s largest ground transport company and they don’t own a single taxi.
1998: Don’t get in a car with strangers.
2008: Don’t meet people from the Internet.
2019: Order yourself a stranger from the Internet to share a ride with strangers.
iPhone is yet another revolutionary piece that demonstrated exponential leap. An incremental leap would have been a better physical keyboard, ideally sized buttons and so on. But Jobs and Apple defied the conventional idea to build a touchscreen device with no mechanical keys. The skeptics were quick to weigh in, including Steve Ballmer (then Microsoft CEO) who said, “It doesn’t appeal to business customers because it doesn’t have a keyboard!” You don’t need me to say what happened next.
Question #6 Is it practical?
Vision dictates ‘where’ and strategy explains ‘how’.
Vision comes first and strategy comes later. There is no path without a destination. And there’s no progress without a path.
Mission – who you are
Vision – where you’re going
Strategy – how you’re going to get there
Values – the kind of people you’re along the way
Question #7 Can you sell it?
Sell your vision but be open to new facts and ideas.
Once you have drafted your vision, be prepared to sell it in all directions (up, down, across, outside). Don’t make the mistake of being defensive when you’re presented with contrary opinions. Be quick to listen. Slow to speak. If you’re not careful and being stubborn, you might end up shutting down everyone else. You’ll leave the room mistakenly thinking you have the buy-in when you missed the opportunity to fine-tune your vision and win their support.
Respect the past.
Always respect the past because anything that’s currently in place might have solved a worse problem. The existing vision, mission, strategy and values might be flawed (just like everyone else’s) but little do you know what they replaced and what you have might be a lot better than what they had before you arrived.
Question #8 How should you face resistance?
Expect resistance in every aspect and be prepared to overcome quickly.
In 2006, Sony launched its top-of-the-line eBook reader. One observer compared it to the Lamborghini of e-readers. Sadly, a great product alone wasn’t enough for commercial success. Sony depended on publishers to sort out contract issues with authors.
And while Sony was struggling to resolve intellectual property issues, Amazon quickly came to the market with the Kindle. The Kindle not only solved the same IP issues also was faster and better. More, Amazon leveraged their massive customer insights to prevail their competitors with a superior user experience.
“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” said Alan Kay. But invention is bumpy. Vision-driven leaders who expect the bumpy road and are prepared for the workarounds went on to thrive while others failed as happened with the Sony e-reader.
Question #9 Is it too late?
How LEGO came back from near death.
“We’re on a burning platform.”, said Jorgen Vig Knudstorp (VP of LEGO). “We’re running out of cash… and likely won’t survive.”, he broke it to LEGO leadership in 2003.
LEGO revenue had been on a steep incline since the 1970s, but profitability plummeted in 90s, largely from competition. Not only did LEGO’s patents expire, inviting new players to the market, also the traditional toy industry struggled came under threat from growing demands of video games and electronic toys. On top of that, kids had less and less time for unstructured play due to increasing after-school activities. The company was standing at the crossroads.
Desperate for a hit product to turn the tables, LEGO tripled the number of new toys, hoping for a breakout success. It also expanded into clothes and jewelry, partnering with new licenses. It opened theme parks and built video game division from the ground up.
Revenues surged. But costs surged more. Worse, they didn’t know what’s working and what wasn’t due to the lack of proper management system. LEGO lost its way and was on the brink of collapse.
Thankfully in 2003, Knudstorp’s warning saved the company. LEGO leadership eventually realized he was right. And soon promoted him to CEO and reinvented the company under his leadership.
Countless businesses fail at all stages, but some learn to rise again.
They do this through what the author calls ‘Zag’. You can think of Zag as re-visioning. In companies that Zag, vision-driven leaders come up with new inspiring directions either to save their organizations from death or to tap into bigger opportunities. A Zag then happens when the company jumps back to an earlier stage on the Vision Arc.
Zagging (re-visioning) is an iterative process.
Vision-driven leaders must always keep an eye on the shifts in industry and market trends, in order to look forward to the obstacles as well as the opportunities. Vision-driven leaders pivot, adapt and adjust their vision as the circumstances change, because they believe there’s always a better future worth re-visioning.
I’ve written a separate post on how companies like Airbnb, Marvel, Netflix and Instagram constantly ‘re-vision’ themselves to foresee bumpy roads as well as untapped opportunities.
Getting Started: Vision-driven Leadership
Perfection is just another way of saying procrastination. Waiting feels safe but waiting kills vision.
- Block time on your calendar
- Get the necessary input
- Trust the process
- Tweak as you go
- Go ahead and launch
And before you go, remember this. “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” – General George Patton
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