Interpreting the Vision

Interpreting the Vision

As a leader of a team you are the guardian of the organisation’s vision. It is your role to make sure that your team is striving towards that vision and, to make sure that you are successful in this, it is imperative that you communicate the vision clearly and succinctly to your team. Clear communication of the vision gives the team goals much needed clarity, because if people can see where they are going they can far more easily understand any changes or new initiatives that may come into play under your leadership because they can align it to a known journey or path. This will make your life a lot easier from all sorts of perspectives, from dealing with personnel issues to dealing with organisational and logistical challenges. 

Most organisations will have a single vision statement that is a statement of intent that expresses the core purpose for the organisation’s existence. As an emerging leader, or a leader in charge of a team within the organisation, it is your role to translate this vision into objectives that apply to your team. By doing this you provide your team with something to aim at that is more tangible and more realistic from their perspectives. Communicating the overarching vision is still important but if we are to make use of the vision as a ‘tool’ for action, then we need to make it relevant for people, which means applying it to their experiences. So, how do we go about making this happen? To understand this, let’s look at the hypothetical example of a school.

Let’s say our example school’s vision is to be the lead provider of a globalised approach to teaching and learning for children in the region. This vision needs to translate to all areas of the school life, from the taught curriculum, to sporting activities, to extra-curricular activities, and indeed even to events that are organised by the parents committee. This is what an organisational vision is all about, it is designed to be present in all that the school does. 

Now let’s imagine that your role as a middle leader is to lead the History department. Your role is to translate this overarching vision into a realistic and achievable set of goals and targets that apply to the History department. This may mean, for example, that you start to emphasise modules on global politics over those pertaining to the country that you are in. And there will undoubtedly be several elements of your team’s responsibilities that will need adjusting to meet this vision statement. 

The next important part of the process of communicating this to your team comes down to leadership. Without going into detail, any vision that is simply ‘told’ to people without consultation is unlikely to have a strong impact. However, good leaders involve their teams in the generation and articulation of a vision. In this case, where you, as a middle leader, are not dealing directly with the organisational vision, but rather with the translation of this into achievable targets and goals, this is where you, as a leader, can involve your team. 

Remember, good leaders are outcome focused, not process focused. In your role as a leader, therefore, it is ok to tell your team what needs to be achieved and to outline what the targets are. After all, this is simply the translation of the organisation’s overarching vision into what it means for your team. 

However, the process of getting there is best negotiated using good communication, collaboration and consultation with your team so that they own the journey and can therefore take responsibility for it. Good managers within your team will have the tools and the buy-in from the team to make sure that the right elements are put in place to make the goals easily attainable. 

If the team is drawn together through good leadership this will ensure that the right elements of the curriculum are identified, changed, approved and then implemented, all through the correct processes and procedures. 

The journey from vision to action is not a complicated one in itself. However, it must be remembered that a vision is something that everyone has to live by and buy into. For some people it is easy to understand the overarching vision and to apply it to what they have to do as an individual at an organisation, but for the vast majority of people it is most likely that this needs to be broken down into bite sized chipmunks. And this is the role that middle leaders play. Your role is to translate, and make meaningful the vision of the organisation. 

And the final word on this is that organisations that have a vision that is made meaningful to all employees, are able to use it as a tool for progress and are, therefore, far more likely to achieve their vision than an organisation that simply hangs the vision statement in the front office, for customers and passers by to see. 

In the next section we will look at some practical ways that you can engage your team towards achieving their targets. 

Point of Reflection

Are you happy with the wording of your team’s current vision? If not, what would you change? 

Personal Development Activity

Listing Activity (30 mins)

A team that is successfully driving towards its vision is inevitably doing so because there have been good levels of consultation, communication and collaboration. 

In your leadership journal do the following:

  1. Make a list of all the communications, collaborations and consultations you have been involved in over the past two weeks. 
  2. Then create a 3 circle Venn diagram labelling each of the circles communication, collaboration and consultation.
  3. Place each item from your list into the relevant circle depending on where it best fits.

Can you identify particular projects or initiatives that can fit into all three? 

Can you identify particular projects and initiatives that are lacking in one of the areas?

Write a short interpretation of your findings, making comments on the relative success of each project or initiative.