All of us at some point of our career have read a vision statement. You might have felt that vision statements are much ado about nothing, or you might have found a particular vision very inspiring, or felt it was just a tick on the checkbox. May be you had the opportunity to write one for your own organisation. However, in my experience so far, I’ve observed that not many people are able to answer an important question about their vision, and that question is ‘Why?’.
Recently, I met a very interesting person. He is from the creative side of things, a theater artist to be more precise. But well, this is not what he does for a living. Along with a friend, he had recently started a business. As an immediate reaction (while trying to establish the link between his work and passion), I asked him how did he start this business? His response was refreshingly honest and simple: ‘we needed money, my friend could make websites, and I could sell’.
Now I am a person who likes to tell business owners that organisations should have vision, mission, and values. Not because it makes business sense for me, though it does, but because I believe in it. Still I could not find anything objectionable with his approach. After all he was doing what he could do best to make money that he needed. Why was vision required for any of it? Was the importance of vision a figment of my imagination?
Later at home, when I started thinking about it, I had to agree – this is one of the two ways in which a person starts his/ her entrepreneurial journey. Either you start for the money or you start because you strongly believe in something. When you believe in something, like I do, the management jargons of vision, mission, and values start making sense even if we don’t call it by these names. Vision is nothing but your dream. Mission is nothing but what would you do or what actions you would take on a daily basis to achieve that dream. Values are shaped more from your personality and beliefs, and are about your code of conduct. How would you behave while on this journey to realize your dream even if it makes the journey more difficult? It brings discipline to your pursuits and ensures that you retain your momentum for a long time.
Then what about those who are in it for the money? Their dream is to make money and what they are doing now is the first or best way they found where they could make money. What is wrong with that? Honestly, nothing.
The cliché goes what is the use of all this money if you are not happy. But this assumes that money alone doesn’t bring in happiness, as we too often see in the corporate world. Employees with fat salaries and fatter perks are not necessarily happier than someone who earns a quarter of what they earn. But this assumption may not always be valid. So the right question to ask is, are you happy making money irrespective of what you do? If the answer is yes, you need not worry about vision, mission and values. Not because they are not applicable to you, but because your answers don’t conform to the typical answers people expect of those questions.
But what if you are not happy just making money? What if you want something more? Well, then you have reached a stage where money alone is not a motivator and you are ready to move to another phase of your life. And for that you need to identify your dream otherwise you may as well continue doing what you are doing. As a business owner your dream should get manifested in your organisation. But what if your current organisation is not aligned with your dream? Arguably this is where many of us are or will grow into unless we started out with our passion. Instead of me trying to answer this question, let me bring back our interesting person who is answering this question in real-time.
Though he started this website business, he never left the theatre, at least not completely. He still acts once in a while and I suspect, that is what keeps him going. But now that the business has grown, he wants to take it to the next level and have a second line of leadership where he could delegate most of the stuff that he is doing and free up his time to pursue his interests more rigorously. Sounds like a plan, isn’t it? While attempting to do this, does he really need a vision for his website business?
This is where things get interesting. Who would you like to see in the second line of leadership? Someone who cares only about money? Or, someone who also cares about your organisation? If latter, then don’t you think you need to give them a purpose to be there at your organisation?
Unless you are in the starting phase of entrepreneurship where money might matter more than what you do to make that money, your organisation needs a vision. And the vision should be grandiose. I am sure you have heard this small anecdote. There were two people laying bricks. A curious passer-by went to one of them who was looking quite tired and in all his curiosity asked him what was he doing? The visibly tired man replied quite angrily, “Can’t you see, I am laying bricks”. The passer-by, still curios, approached the other man who seemed to be enjoying laying bricks and asked the same question. This man looked up and with pride said, “I am building a temple”. A higher purpose is like a filter that removes the fatigue and keeps the enthusiasm intact.
One last tip – the vision is not about you or what you do. It is about how you want to help someone else. That temple was not for that bricklayer. It was for the world!
PS: Yellow Spark’s vision is to enable every organization to build a compelling ecosystem, which people aspire to be a part of!
Author Profile: Madhukar Kumar is a leadership coach and believes in the philosophy of “Know Thyself”. His non-judgemental listening coupled with thought-provoking questioning has helped his clients to uncover authentic leadership. Academically, he holds an engineering degree from NIT Surathkal and an MBA from IIM Calcutta.