Some of the most challenging talks I have to give are the ones delivered to my own staff. It’s one thing to speak to a crowd that has paid for a ticket to hear you talk. It’s another to try to inspire an audience that’s required to be there, whether they want to be or not.
I’m reminded of this annually at the company’s yearly vision talk, which I give every January on Martin Luther King Day.
If done well, vision talks can be the ticket to get buy-in from your team when you want to steer your company in a new direction. Your team feels like they’re a part of building something great or heading somewhere exciting. If your talk falls flat, it can leave people feeling a bit bleak. This creates an environment of frustration or hopelessness and can result in a reluctance to work hard for any new idea.
Since founding Duarte, I’ve had the opportunity to deliver more than two and a half decades of vision talks. I’ve gotten to see what kind of talks work—and which fail to inspire. Over the years, I’ve developed a method for creating and delivering vision talks that actually motivate the masses.
Pick a Clear Direction
Be decisive about where you’re heading. To start, listen to ideas. Talk to executives, stakeholders, and general staff before you start brainstorming.
When I know it’s time for Duarte to chart a new course, I come up with an extensive list of moves we could make. Then, I take the long list and iterate, research, and refine. Once the list is shorter, I consult with a group of trusted advisors who give me feedback and validate my ideas.
Then, in the end, I use my gut to choose the direction I know is best. If you want to be a visionary leader, you have to have faith in your instincts.
Determine What it Means to Arrive
Once you know where you’re going, decide what it’ll take to get there. Define how you’re going to measure your results and what the metrics will look like when you arrive. Use detailed descriptions of the end results of your vision to motivate team members. Being clear about how they’ll benefit will make the effort it takes them to overcome obstacles worth it.
Declare the Dream
Once you are very clear about your ultimate goal and what it looks like, declare your vision to your team. Start with what the dream entails. Then, explain what will have to be done to get there.
The actual declaration or vision talk should feel like a ceremony or a moment of inspiration for everyone involved. You can match the fanfare to how large or small the vision is and how intimate or public the talk is. Ultimately, a successful vision talk will immerse the people that need to come along with you in your dream. This will help them feel connected to your goal and like they are already a part of what is happening.
Communicate Over and Over
To encourage continued buy-in, you can’t just rely on one vision talk. You need to consistently communicate about the dream over and over again. While you’ve probably been deeply immersed in it the dream for years, it may feel foreign or jarring to team members—especially if they are hearing about it for the first time.
Everyone will not jump onboard after one hour or one declaration.
Come up with a long-term communication plan before you ever deliver the vision talk. Use it to remind team members of where they are headed and what awaits once they get there. Show them that the change will be a win for everyone who comes along for the journey.
The most successful organizations continually evolve. It takes the vision of a leader to get a company from one place to the next. The most groundbreaking leaders know that no vision will ever be perfect. They also know that moving forward is better than the alternative. An organization whose leader always needs to be sure that they’re sure that they’re SURE that they’re making the right move will end up stagnant. So, pick a clear direction for your vision, then effectively plan and deliver a vision talk to let your company know where you’re headed. This inspirational declaration of your ultimate goal will help you win much-needed buy-in and support from your team, and serve as an essential first step to successfully steering your organization down a new path.
Illustrated by Jonathan Valiente