Four Keys to Becoming a Better Vision Caster

You have a group of employees, customers/clients and maybe volunteers, so how do you motivate them? How do you inspire them to do something insanely great? How do you get them emotionally involved so that they’re willing to work harder, at a higher level, and in the direction you want them to go?

Answer: You become a master-caster! But therein lies the problem Very few owners, entrepreneurs and leaders have been trained in how to cast vision, let alone how to cast it well.

So to take your vision-casting abilities to the next level (i.e. to improve your ability to inspire others and raise morale), you’ll want to take advantage of these four quick and easy keys to effective vision-casting.

1. Use the first plural pronoun, “We.”

One of the most common mistakes leaders make when casting vision is they talk from their perspective as the leader. They’ll often say, “As I see it …” Or, “Here’s where I’d like to see us go.” Or, “The executive team and I have concluded that …”

The problem with all of that non-we language is that it separates you, the leader, from the people you’re trying to lead. That’s not very inspiring.

Most people want to be a part of something bigger than them. So when you make the change from the first person singular pronoun, “I,” to the first plural pronoun, “We,” your vision casting ratchets up instantaneously.

Instead of saying, “Here’s where I’d like to see us go,” you should say, “Here’s where we’re going.” “This is what we’re going to accomplish.” “Together, we’re going to …”

I can’t overstate how important this simple change in language is. But if you want to become a master-caster, then you’ve got to change your pronoun from “I” to “We.” The moment you do so, you’ll begin to see your people’s eyes start to open and get excited.

2. Give your people a name

Following on the first key, most people want to be a part of something bigger. So, how do you do that? Well, think through organizations you’ve been a part of. For example, I attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When the university writes to me how do you think they refer to me? Exactly, as a Badger. The name means something.

If I worked at IBM, how would you refer to me? You’d probably call me an IBMer. Back in my former career, the name of my church was Seneca Creek Community Church. When I wanted to cast vision I always referred to my people as, “Creekers.”

Now, it’s not just that a name is a name—a name should mean something. It ought to stand for something. For example, one of our core values was about excellence. So if I was talking with someone and their work product wasn’t excellent, and I wanted to cast vision, I could refer to our name and simply say to them, “Do you think this meets our Creeker standard?”

Now, the real power in a name comes when you combine keys one and two, “This year, as Creekers, we’re going to …”

So, what name can you use to refer to the people in your business or organization?

By the way, this same principle works in parenting. My children, from their toddler years on, have heard me say over and over again, “This is what Johnsons do …,” as well as, “Johnsons don’t do …”

3. Make sure your vision passes the believability test

Another common mistake in vision-casting is casting a vision so big it’s not believable. For some reason, way too many leaders think that if they’re going to cast a compelling vision it has to be HUGE!! Wrong!

From my former career, I’ve watched churches do this for years. A church of 200 (or 500 or 1,000) will say something like this. “Our vision is to ignite a world-wide movement …” Or, “We’re going to change the world …” Or, “We’re going to be largest church in the world …” Yada yada yada.

Unfortunately, none of that will happen. The vast majority of the people in the communities in which those churches are located aren’t even aware that church exists in their community (let alone the rest of the 6.8 billion people on planet earth). None of those visions pass the believability test.

Now, lest I be too hard on churches, businesses do this all the time as well. A small business with a handful of employees will say something like, “Our vision is to change the way the world sees XYZ.” Really? The world. All 6.8 billion people are going to see something completely differently because a small business with under 10 employees made it their vision? Forget that! It ain’t gonna happen!

A vision that can’t be seen by others isn’t a vision, it’s a pipe dream.

Now, I’m not saying, “Dream small.” If you follow me at all you know that isn’t true. I want you to dream big. Just make it believable. If you have 10 employees, then maybe you can change something in your city or county. But forget casting the “best in the world” vision. It’s just not believable.

Note: If you’re the next Steve Jobs and you can get people to believe it, go for it. But for the rest of us mere mortals, scale it back a little and I’m confident you’ll find far more traction with most people.

Besides, who decides who’s the best? How do you measure it? And who cares?

Note 2: The one way around this is to keep narrowing your niche and geography down. To be the best SEO company in the world is hard to justify (especially for a small business). But to be the best SEO company for small real estate attorney practices in Montgomery County that prefer Bing over Google, that would be achievable and possibly believable (though I doubt inspiring).

Let’s be honest, apart from the leaders of companies, you and I have known very few people who really care if they’re the best or biggest or largest business in their market—which is why the fourth key is incredibly important.

4. Make sure you appeal to something your people are interested in

The final mistake that most leaders make when they’re trying to cast vision is they focus on things they’re interested in, not what their people are interested in.

For example, owners and CEOs often care about numbers and metrics, shareholder value and ROI, market share and profitability, size and status compared to others in their market space, etc. However, most employees and customers don’t care as much.

Whether their company is the best or biggest or world’s number one rarely motivates them (usually because the changes don’t benefit them—though they often do for the owner or CEO—which is why they’re so interested in the changes).

What do employees care about? You know, the things that affect them (like how much more money THEY’LL make vs. how much more the company will make. Or how will these changes affect their work? etc.)

But their biggest desire, and the one you should speak to often, is to know that their work matters. That they’re making a difference. That they’re a part of something bigger than them that’s having a positive impact on other people’s lives.

Now to help you believe that this can be done with anything in any business, I’m going to pick something rather bland and boring—increasing efficiency scores, and make it more appealing. So, here’s how you could do this.

Instead of saying, “So, this quarter my goal for our business unit is to increase our efficiency scores by 10%” (snore), you might want to say something like this.

“This quarter our goal is to increase our order processing efficiency so that we can get the right drugs to the right scientists as quickly as possible because you and I are not in the order fulfillment business, we’re in the helping to find cures for people business. And if we can get the right drugs to the right scientists faster than we have in the past, maybe just maybe, we can play a part in helping to save a few more people’s lives. So will you join me on this endeavor this quarter?”

The difference between the two is amazing isn’t it? Even though both were focused on the same issue, increasing efficiency—the first was focused on the management side and the second, on the employee side.

In other words, whenever you can connect a task/initiative/change effort/goal to something bigger that your people care about (not you/management), you’ll immediately see your vision-casting abilities skyrocket.

So, there you have it—four keys that can take your vision-casting to the next level. If you use just one of these, you’ll improve your ability to cast vision and raise morale. But if you use all four, you’ll be amazed at the difference. Plus you’ll be a master-caster!

That said, there’s only question left to answer, “How can you use all four of these vision-casting keys in the next 24 hours?”

To your accelerated success!

P.S. If you have some other practical ideas or keys for improving vision-casting, would you take a moment to share them  with the rest of us by using the comments section below (or, if you’re reading this by RSS or email, click here).