I was listening to an audiobook on leadership during my scenic commute up Route 1 the other day when the topic of vision and passion was broached. It was a V8 moment. Slapping myself on the forehead, I realized I had yet again forgotten a basic leadership and management tenet.
When any of us creatives walk into the potentially inspiration killing corporate environment without a clear vision of where we want to be and the passion that accompanies a truly audacious vision, we unintentionally set the stage for bad things to happen.
Bad thing number 1 – The forest fire conundrum. Almost every in-house designer I’ve ever spoken with desperately relates that they don’t have time to be strategic because they’re all too busy putting out fires. Yet, ironically, if they were more strategic (read creating a vision) they would tackle many of the issues that cause the fires they’re constantly putting out.
Stop thinking of this as an either/or proposition. You can do both, even if you can only set aside a few hours a week. It doesn’t take that long to establish the vision, though implementing it will take time. If it’s powerful enough, you may even inspire yourself and your co-workers to put in some lunch and evening hours.
Bad thing number 2 – Cynicism and resignation. Without a vision there are no exciting goals and without exciting goals, there’s no inspiring sense of purpose. There have been studies that show that a sense of purpose can trump salary as the primary motivator for individuals at their place of work. This fact alone makes creating a vision an essential act.
Bad thing number 3 – Lack of credibility with clients and upper management. A powerful vision is an essential ingredient for a strategic team. Without it, a group is just a reactive blob of underutilized gray matter and atrophying talent. Clients and upper management know this, value strategic thinking and look for organizations that are committed to it structurally and in practice – that’s why agencies and design firms make such a point of marketing themselves in that way (and why clients choose them over their in-house teams). No vision – no juicy projects.
Bad thing number 4 – No career path. It’s no secret that most companies lack a compelling career path for their creative teams. This means you have to make the path by expanding the reach of your department into bigger more strategic responsibilities and functions. What’s the necessary precursor to this expansion? Why it’s the creation of that vision I’ve been talking about…
Bad thing number 5 – Confusion. Without a vision no one knows what he or she should be doing, why he or she is doing it and how it should be done. A vision provides the underpinnings of a focused successful team.
It should be obvious, given the rationale above, that creating a vision for you and your team should be one of your top priorities. It’s not an easy undertaking but the rewards will surely justify the effort.