Got vision? Get some.

vision2Let’s debunk the notion that a vision statement is a bunch of baloney. Like many others — I used to feel that these statements were just an exercise in futility. But over the course of time I’ve seen that I was sorely mistaken. Vision matters.

Considering vision can be a defining moment for an organization, and a vision statement can serve as a powerful guide as it moves forward in the world. If a clear vision doesn’t exist, it should be the first order of business.

GPS for your business
Vision should never be a throw away for a developing business — as it can help direct strategy, pricing, advertising and eventually the talent you are able to recruit. Where a mission statement defines what you do as an organization, a vision statement embodies what you’d like to be  and where you would like to go, as an organization. It is future-oriented and crafted to motivate. The statement is strengthened by the actions and words of the organization. It also can be the impetus for a value-based message to your customer base, driving business and relationships.

As explained by Jenifer Ross, owner of the W@tercooler, a coworking space located in Tarrytown, New York,  “Our vision is like a road map that we can refer back to as we grow and develop our coworking community”. As such, their vision embodies where they wish to go as an organization. Here it is:

  • “Striving to be a catalyst for communication, idea exchange, collaboration and personal/business growth by being a HUB for it’s members, the community it serves and the coworking movement as a whole. W@tercooler will attract, support and cultivate a creative and active community of individuals, entrepreneurs, and small businesses that “work together independently” in the collective and generous spirit of coworking.”

Lost in the sauce of the everyday
Most businesses begin with some sort of vision, but rarely re-visit it. Often it is simply never documented — but getting back in touch with vision can be a great exercise. If you haven’t discussed or even mentioned your organizational vision recently, it’s time to do so. This process can clarify action and direct behavior.

If you find your business without a vision, establish one that helps your business focus and connect with your customers. Keep the strengths of your organization in clear sight, expressing the passion and heart of the business. Try the following exercise:  Think of 3 concepts or words that you would like your customers to use to describe your company. For example: Modern. Cutting-Edge. Service Driven.

Reinforce often
Helping your vision develop “staying power” requires reinforcing the concept through words and visual reminders during the course of your day-to-day operations. Be sure to link back to company vision as much as possible with your employees when discussing performance or customer dilemmas. Spot check your company’s vision “IQ” by bringing up vision at your next meeting. Ask employees to describe your organizational vision and what it means to them.

If you hear crickets – you’ll know there is some work to do.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist located in East Lansing, Michigan. Connect with her on Twitter and Linkedin.

Tell the Story of Your Organization

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Photo by Ryan Graybill on Unsplash

Tell me a leadership story — one that embodies the very core of where you and your organization are headed. There may be spread sheets and profit margins. Metrics and shortfalls. But, stories paint an engaging  portrait of any organization or institution.

All businesses possess a rich history and leaders play a pivotal role in that developing story. Whether a start-up or established venture, leaders have a story to tell.

Leaders can provide a compass for change, can align vision with talent and have the power to exert a tremendous influence upon an organization (whether positive or negative). A leader can catapult an organization to the forefront of an industry or bring it to an early demise. Just as great presidents have helped shape our country — leaders help define an organization, for better or worse. Tell me a leadership story — especially those of the leaders that have failed. We can learn from that, as well.

Leaders that takes the helm of an organization at a given point in time, can reveal volumes about the state of that organization and where it might be headed. Each phase of an organization’s development required a very different type of leader — and that’s a lesson in itself. Tell me about that.

However, there is another story we need to hear.

Tell me your organizations leadership story.

We can all to this. So what is your story. What has been left untold?

Telling the tale of an organization’s leaders can serve as a powerful learning tool — one which can leave a lasting impression on an employee.

  • Onboard history. Speak of the leaders who were present in the early phases of the organization’s life cycle. Explain their vision and how it shaped the organization.
  • Failure 101. Reflect on leadership failures and what was learned in the process. How did these failures change the course of the organization?
  • Who is at he helm? Introduce current leaders and the expertise they bring to the organization. Explain how their current vision has been translated into strategy and action.
  • Strategy review. Discuss key inflection points that influenced the organization. How did leadership impact the outcomes? What did we learn, going forward?

With a look to the past,  we can improve the future  and possibly avoid costly mistakes that have already been made. Take the time to discuss the rich history of leadership in your place of business and offer your employees the advantage of perspective.

Tell the story of your organization. It’s a tale that needs to be told.


Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can find her on Twitter and Linkedin.

What We Really Need Now From Theories of Leadership

Relaxed Businessman

I still hear discussions of Steve Jobs and his amazing contribution to the success of Apple. Although inspiring, it confirms my suspicions that we haven’t yet captured all we need to know about effective leadership. Strong leaders such as Jobs are often an enigma — and unraveling the source of their strength is critical as we move forward. His skills possessed some of the nuances and often non-quantifiable elements of leadership that we strive to capture.

However, these legendary tales don’t seem to help us develop emerging leaders.

Current theory (and accompanying practices) may not be enough for those interested in organizational success, to make confident predictions about required leader skills. This lack of confidence directly impacts the “state of the opinion” surrounding the selection and development of leaders.

This gap essentially affects all of us going forward.

A Debate for the Decades
Leadership is one of the most well researched workplace topics  and with good reason. Relevant theories of leadership have the potential to have limitless impact upon organizations and their employees. There is a great body of existing theory and research, beginning with the “great man” and trait theories.

However, are leadership theories capturing what organizations require to move forward effectively? The answer may be “no”.

Here is what we might need to examine, to move forward effectively:

  • A dynamic view of leadership. There has been a long-standing emphasis on the specific, individual attributes of leaders. (The list is endless.) But that may be distracting us from a larger, more dynamic view of leadership effectiveness. We may need to step back to take a much broader view that examines a leader’s overall ability to flex in response to the varying situations and stresses they may encounter. Organizational needs change rapidly which requires a leader to flex or change their approach as well. For example, we might  refocus on the notion of a leader’s potential to develop the right “script” for a specific leadership challenge.
  • Leader-culture match. Identifying an merging leader through succession planning or hiring an industry star is one thing. Being sure the leader can navigate the organization and gain acceptance is another. Does the prospective leader have the capacity to absorb the prevailing organizational mindset and represent that group? (Think of the debacle at Time, Inc.)  Culture of the organization is no longer on the fringes. It is a critical element to consider. If a potential leader cannot represent that culture and embody its vision — it is unwise to move forward, as context does matter.
  • Training  & development opportunities. By and large, if a theory doesn’t contribute to leadership development efforts, it seems relegated to a “read only or great to know” status. Descriptive theories are necessary, but more of a focus on usable training points is needed. Moreover, these experiences should not exclusively take place in a classroom setting. For example, does exposure to extremely challenging assignments and situations (as Jobs was) enhance a potential leader’s skill set moving forward? I suspect the answer is “yes”.
  • An integrative approach. Obviously, leaders do not lead within a vacuum. An approach that considers not only the leader, but followers, customers and external conditions is needed. As discussed in the American Psychologist (Avolio, 2007), integrating these elements is the future of leadership theory.

As organizations strive to innovate and remain competitive, effective theories of leadership will remain a focus. Hopefully, theories will continue to evolve and capture the synergy of elements contributing to leader success.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. You can find her on Twitter and Linkedin.