There is no one I would be more excited to host on my first-ever guest episode than Lois Weinblatt, founder of True North Visionaries. Luckily for me - and you - she is exactly who I had the pleasure of sitting down with for this first-ever interview on the podcast.
Lois has forever changed the way I think about company vision - no small feat. Today she’ll not only be sharing the framework that’s helped numerous companies rethink how they see and use company vision, but also a step-by-step formula for creating your own MVV (Minimum Viable Vision) - something she’s never shared with anyone but her direct clients!
I could NOT be more excited that Lois is willing to pull back the curtain on her work and process so that you can benefit from her brilliance in this area. I highly recommend downloading the free Minimum Viable Vision Guide before diving into the episode.
In this episode you’ll learn:
Why you should ditch a one-sentence vision statement - and what to replace it with.
The 3 critical components to include in your company Vision.
How to ensure your Vision is inspiring, but NOT a fantasy.
Who to involve in the process and when for maximum buy-in.
Why a clear Vision is such an impactful tool for decision-making.
Reflect On This
➜ If you asked five different people on your team where your company was going to be at the end of 2024, do you think they would all have the same answer?
➜ Does your team have a shared filter to sift out distractions from opportunities?
➜ How aligned do you feel your leadership team is on the future of the company?
Think you understand vision? Think again.
I was recently on a call with a Head of People who shared that their CEO mandated a return to the office, citing a lack of clarity and alignment as cause for the change.
I found myself wishing we’d had this conversation 6-months ago, so I could point their CEO to a solution that actually achieves that end goal. That solution? A company vision. Before I lose you – I’m not referring to the two-line motivational statement that usually comes to mind when we talk about company vision. I’m referring to the following explanation taught to me by visioning consultant Lois Weinblatt:
Vision is a clear definition of success at a specific point in the future.
By this definition, a company vision is a document defining the desired future state of your organization – its growth, its impact, and its culture. It solidifies a clear direction for your company, and serves as a critical filter for strategic planning and decision-making. A vision needs to be inspiring, strategically sound, and should encapsulate the values and purpose of your company. This new understanding of company vision – and of the process of creating and aligning on one – forever changed how I approach organizational clarity.
It all started with an exercise for demonstrating why companies need more detailed vision
Lois was leading a workshop I attended, along with eight other leaders. She talked about how CEOs often try to motivate their teams by telling them the old adage “you’re not just laying bricks, you’re building a cathedral!”
She asked us to close our eyes and imagine a cathedral, and really use our imaginations to get specific.
What materials were used to build the cathedral? What color is it?
How large is the building? How many doors and windows are there?
What’s the environment like within the cathedral wall?
Upon opening our eyes, she asked one of us to describe our cathedral – and then asked for a show of hands: who else had built that exact same cathedral?
Of course, none of us raised our hands. Sure there was some crossover in materials or location, but no two cathedrals were the same. Not by a long shot.
That’s the part CEOs so often miss. They task their teams with building something beautiful – heck, they may even get folks fired up and inspired to do it – but they never tell them exactly what kind of cathedral they’re building.
That's like asking a construction team to build based on a general description of a structure, but no blueprints
It’s a recipe for spinning wheels: everyone works hard, but with no certainty of exactly where they ought to be going, teammates wear out quickly.
Or, as one founder told Lois, “Before undertaking this process, it felt like we were all running at 3,000 miles an hour, going vaguely the same direction, without a finish line in sight.”
Oof. Did that hit hard for you? It knocked the wind outta me when I first heard it. That grinding, frenetic feeling. That urgency with no clarity. It felt so relatable.
That is the power of a vision.
You’re not just tasking your team with building a cathedral. You’re committing to why you’re building it, where it’ll be located, when you’ll finish, what it’s going to look like, and how it’s going to feel to stand inside of it. Once clarified, you can work backward to determine how you’ll build it, via a sound strategic plan.
In my last Head of People role, I brought in Lois to help our company create a 3-year vision. It was the most impactful project I undertook in the role.
There’s nothing loosey-goosey or woo-woo about visioning. No shade to some of the other practices associated with the word “vision,” but we’re way beyond poster board collages here. The act of defining and aligning on a specific company vision is truly an exercise in democratizing clarity for your entire org.
Here are just five of the benefits we experienced from having a vision:
Fully-Remote Alignment. Our remote-first team said reading the company vision gave them a sense of clarity unlike anything they’d experienced in former jobs. They saw where we were headed and what parts they played in achieving success.
Decision-Making Clarity. We introduced the question, “does this get us closer to or further away from our vision?” It was a powerful tool in empowering distributed decision-making, which was vital to our culture.
Leadership Buy-In. The visioning process challenged our leadership team to communicate, disagree, hash things out, and make the critical decisions we’d been avoiding - which ultimately led to alignment. Having tackled the hard questions together, there was more cohesion and ease between leadership than ever before.
Better-Aligned Hires. While we didn’t share the whole vision with potential employees, we did use pieces of it to showcase where we were headed. It was instantly clear who was energized and motivated by what we were sharing.
More Engaged Onboarding. I can’t tell you how many times I heard, “I’ve never experienced anything like this!” when reading the vision to new hires. They clearly understood what we were focused on, and could immediately connect how their skillset would help us achieve it.
And it’s not just the finished vision itself that yields such benefits, it’s the very process of creating it. Lois’ visioning process doesn’t just make room for reflection - it requires it. Only once you understand your company’s past trajectory and present state - approaching it with curiosity and honesty - can you determine the non-negotiables for the next stage of growth. Armed and empowered with all this insight and alignment, you then clarify your shared definition of success at a specific point in the future. This brings us back to why I wish I could’ve shared this process with the CEO who felt the only way to gain alignment in his company was to get people back in the office. If your team is dealing with misalignment, decision-making issues, communication bottlenecks, and/or confusion around priorities, you’re struggling with symptoms of a more insidious root cause: lack of alignment towards your company’s vision.
Alignment is achieved with clarity, not with physical proximity.
Struggling with the symptoms? There are a couple of ways for you to establish your own company vision.
Utilize the free Minimum Viable Vision (MVV) framework. As you know, I’m all about giving people the tools to create change in-house. Last fall, Lois was generous enough to create a DIY vision exercise exclusively for my Want To Work There podcast listeners. Today, we’re giving you all access.
Build a V1 of your company vision
If you’re feeling equal parts inspired and overwhelmed by the idea of creating a company vision, you’re in the right place! Lois loves working directly with organizations but also wants her unique process to be accessible to as many companies as possible. An exclusive goodie for Want To Work There, her Minimum Viable Vision exercise guides you through creating a one-year company vision!
The Minimum Viable Vision (MVV) guide walks you through shaping and specifying a one-year vision for your org, so your entire team can start the new year with confidence and clarity.
Specifically, it includes:
Instructions for leading four 1-hour sessions that will progressively build to the creation of a 1-year company vision
Recommendations for pre-session prep and leadership team involvement
Writing guidelines for establishing a clear, engaging vision
We love to focus on activities you can do without a lot of additional buy-in because we know how important gaining momentum can be. In this case, you’ll need to gain buy-in from the CEO or founders before creating a company vision. We recommend sharing this page and podcast episode as a great starting point to further discussion. If you have further questions, you can schedule a call with Lois directly.