Paint the picture

‘I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.’ (John Kennedy)

‘A computer on every desk in every home.’ (Bill Gates)

Every leader-manager, at every level, needs a clear vision, a picture of how we are when we’re doing our best work. You can’t avoid it if you want to engage your team.

Vision literally means ‘seeing’ and the best visions help people ‘see’ the ultimate results of their efforts.

Here you are, leading a team of toy makers. Which vision should you offer them:

  1. Our toys make wide-eyed kids laugh and proud parents smile.
  2. Our toys are enjoyed by all our customers.

Research found, not surprisingly, that vision number 1 encouraged significantly better performance.

When I lead meetings of leader-managers to develop a vision, I ask them to think of a day when every operation and every team is working optimally. Absolute perfection. A dream come true. Then I ask them to describe that day in these terms:

  • What am I seeing?
  • What am I hearing?
  • What am I doing?
  • What am I thinking?
  • What am I saying?

They write it down and then share it with the others. Then we capture the key themes and develop a joint vision. The resulting visions are invariably amazing and they all paint a clear picture that can bring employees fully on board.

What is your clear, image-based vision that you use to bring people fully on board?

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Leadership and the art of persuasion

I recently had the privilege of leading a session at the Australian National University called Leadership and the Art of Persuasion. It was for an amazing group of people doing a Masters of Screen Arts and Business through the Australian Film, Television and Radio School.

Masters candidates asked questions of a most august duo: John Borghetti, CEO of Virgin Australia and formerly Executive General Manager of Qantas; and Bob Campbell, managing director of Screentime (which produced, among other hits, Underbelly and Crownies) and a former CEO of both Network Ten and the Seven Network.

John has successfully led the Virgin team of 7,000 employees to rebrand Virgin Australia and reposition it as the airline of choice for corporate and leisure travellers, doubling its share of those markets in 18 months. Bob has been one of the leading lights in the world of television and entertainment for several decades and has led thousands of people, from stars to scenery shifters.

The idea of the session was to discover what makes great leaders and persuaders like these two men ‘tick’ and glean some of their secrets, both as people and as master communicators. As you’d expect, they both set very high standards, for themselves and those they lead. As you’d expect, they are passionate—they love the business they’re in; they love leading others; and they want to make a difference.

Like all excellent leaders, they have a clear vision for the airline (in the case of John Borghetti) or their current project (in the case of Bob Campbell), and they communicate it well and often, in the ‘language’ of the people they are speaking to and in a way that shows how achieving the vision will also meet the others’ needs and priorities.

And they keep learning, because they know that failure to learn ultimately leads to failure—period.

(This was such a full session, I’ll be blogging more about this session over the next few weeks. Look for their thoughts on persuasion, their secrets to making effective presentations, how they manage performance, and how John Borghetti leads change.

Discussion questions

How are you preparing yourself to be an excellent leader, communicator and persuader? Which of the seven characteristics mentioned above do you possess?

Is it possible to even be an excellent leader without also being an excellent communicator and an excellent persuader? Do you set high standards for yourself and others? Do you love the business you’re in and want to make a difference? Do you have a vision for your work team that you repeat often and do your team members understand how they can benefit from achieving the vision? Are you a ‘lifelong learner’?