The Vision Book You Need To Lead

books leadership Jul 11, 2021

I like to read (or listen) to a good book. Usually, after time has passed, these books become a footnote in my awareness.  I remember them, but I don't reflect on them too much. However, I found one book that I keep coming back too.  It's become more than a footnote.  It's the one book I'm so glad I read, and yet oddly enough it's the one book I wish was never written. 

"Why?," you wonder.  Because it flipped over my apple cart.  It made me rethink everything when it comes to business and leadership. You can say it's disrupted my world. 

The good news is that it disrupted it for the better.  The bad news, it's still disrupting. :-).  

The Book

"What's the book?", you ask.

It's The Vision Driven Leader, by Michael Hyatt.  A book that has quickly become one of my top 12 favorite books of all time. *

If I were to write a book on vision, I would have written this one too. :-)  But, since it's already been written, why not  pass on my favorite takeaways and elements of the book.  

* For a complete list of my favorites, wait to the end, but, do me a favor, share with me your list too.

Insider Baseball Info

Hyatt is not writing from a posture of academic hypothesis hoping you'll believe, he's writing from a position of qualified experience helping you achieve. This is what he has found that works. It just might be the insider baseball info we all want and need when it comes to building and sustaining a business or organization.  

The term "insider baseball" is American slang referring to the  the inner workings and intricacies of a system or organization that only a few understand.  It's about divulging the tips and secrets that give us greater insight and know how.  

I invite you to join me on a little journey. What follows  is in no way a replacement of Hyatt's book.  It's just a highlight reel.

It Starts with Vision

Vision according to Michael Hyatt, is the "act of seeing what the future can be, and then articulating that potential in an inspiring, clear, practical, and attractive way."  Does this mean we have to swing for the fences?

Not necessarily.  It simply means have a vision.  That's the value proposition.  Vision matters. The question is, "can you can you communicate the vision?"

Hyatt calls the communication of the vision a Vision Script.  We will unpack this more in a moment.   But consider the following.  If you want to be a better leader, if you want to grow your business to be better than it was before -- especially in the aftermath of the 2020 dumpster fire that we had with COVID -then then you'll need an inspiring, clear, practical and attractive vision.  

Hyatt offers these questions to consider.

  • What do you want?
  • Is it clear?
  • Does it inspire?
  • Is it practical?
  • Can you sell it?

Those are just 5 of the 10 questions Hyatt shares to "Focus Your Efforts, Energize Your Team, and Scale Your Business."

Does Vision really drive everything?

I tend to read books as a partial skeptic.  I am a questioner.  For example, the title of the book, Vision Driven Leader, begs the question, "Does vision really drive everything?"

My thinking -- the way that I've been programmed the last twenty years -- is that culture eats strategy for breakfast.  But how does vision fit in?  Where does it lay? Is it between culture and strategy?  Before culture?   

It turns out the culture is written into the vision. Vision doesn't eat culture.  Vision is culture.

Hyatt makes this statement. 

"Vision is the ESSENTIAL ingredient for successful leadership.  There's no substitute. Without it influence fades."

That caught my attention.  I all-capped the word ESSENTIAL for your benefit --  and mine too. ESSENTIAL means "absolutely necessary."  

My mentor John Maxwell shares that "Leadership is Influence, nothing more nothing less."   My takeaway is this.  Without vision there is no leadership.  Without vision there is no culture.   Without vision there is no strategy.

Question -- Are you keeping a vision up front and center?  Is it ESSENTIAL?  Why or why not?  How does it stay ESSENTIAL?

Leaders Create 

Seth Godin shares something profound that Hyatt himself echoes,  

"Leaders create things that didn't exist before."  - Seth Godin

How do they do this?   

It turns out it takes two things.  Vision and People.   But you can't lead people without vision.  Without vision the people perish.

Hyatt adds the following:

"Leaders create vision, while managers execute vision.... Leaders take risks, while managers control risks." - Michael Hyatt

I've heard and read the differences between leaders and managers many times, but Hyatt's perspective cast a new light for me. This is where my apple cart got flipped a little. 

For the most part, I have been a vision minded leader.  That's who I am.  But if vision doesn't stay essential, then the leader can quickly become a manager of the old vision.  That jolted me in two ways:

Scenario One

How often does a leader cast a vision?  Pursue the vision?  Maybe have some success achieving the vision?  But then not keep a fresh vision in mind afterwards?  Without a fresh vision, we move from a leader pursuing a vision, to a leader managing an old vision.  Trying to sustain yesterday's vision is futile. Why?

Hyatt shares that "Vision is a clear, inspiring practical, and attractive picture of your organization's FUTURE." He adds it's not a vision 10-20 years down range, it's a usually a vision "3-5 years out. " That triggered scenario #2 for me.

Scenario Two

How often does a leader cast a long range vision?   I'm talking far out?  The 10-20 year type.  This is another scenario that got me.   I realized recently that I had shifted to be more of an end-game thinker -- actually an infinite game thinker, which is important, but had I neglected maintaining clear near term goals out in front?  Fortunately a great leadership team keeps me aligned. I'm thankful for colleagues like Joe who keep me on track and the team to inject focused thoughts at our standups.

Simon Sinek's recent book on the Infinite Game got me thinking long term, which I needed, but I also need to know what's in front of me in the short range too.  There's short range vision and infinite game vision.  They both need to be in play.  And both types of vision share certain qualities that leaders need to evaluate.  Here's how Hyatt puts it.

  1. It has to be "superior to the present."
  2. It has to "motivate you."
  3. it has to "guide your day-to-day strategy and decision making"
  4. it has to be something that "your team can rally."

Vision Problems

Hyatt does a masterful job sharing the problems that most leaders face when it comes to vision. 

  1. Most leaders downplay the need for vision.
  2. Most leaders are confused about vision
  3. Most leaders don't feel equipped to cast a vision

If you've struggled with anyone of these three challenges -- and chances are that you have -- then ask yourself, "Am I being as effective as a leader as I can be?

I know how I answered that.  Let's just say I had to pick up a few apples. :-)

The good news is that Hyatt helps us conquer these self-defeating choices.  And by-the-way, I'm using the word "choices "intentionally.  If you look back at these three problems, you'll notice that they are all self-inflected choices. 

  1. We choose to downplay the need because we might not think people want to hear it,
  2. We choose to be confused because we don't seek to understand it,
  3. We choose to not be equipped and cast a vision because we don't want to do something uncomfortable

They are all choices.  And they are the kind of choices that can lead to our demise.  But if we flip it, it can lead us to success.

Remember if you are not changing you're dying.  Keep casting vision.   Start with the end in mind.  How?   We will explore that next.

Vision Statements or Vision Script?

According to Hyatt,  "Vision is the act of seeing what the future could be, and then articulating that potential in an inspiring, clear, practical and attractive way."

I'm a fan of memorable, short vision statements.  For example, at SimVentions our vision statement is

"To be a relationship-centered company focused on our employees, customers, and communities."  

I absolutely love and need that vision statement. It's clear - future focused, it's concise -- it's easy to remember. It's also infinite-game thinking, but what about a 3-5 year vision thinking?  Is it missing something that lets me build strategy?

Hyatt challenges us to go further; to have something he calls a vision script that addresses four key components

  1. The future of our team
  2. The future of our products (or services)
  3. The future of our sales and marketing
  4. The future of our impact

He shares that the vision script is not a bumper sticker or tagline.  Ouch, I like bumper stickers and taglines.  I think he just pushed over the apple cart again. 

Hyatt says we've got to cast the vision clearly.  He recommends a robust document written in the present tense that focus on those four components.

He wants us to write it a 3-5 year vision as if we are already there.

Vision Script Components

Order matters.  The order of vision script components he shares for the Vision Scripts shouldn't be shuffled. We want to start with team, before we get to products and services,  then we want to get to products and services before we get to marketing, and so forth.  

I love how Hyatt breaks down these four components in his book. One of my favorite parts  is where he shares what he calls "Questions for Prompting Vision" against each of these four components.  Here are just a few. I encourage you to pick up the book for the whole deck.  

The Future of your Team

  • What kind of teammates do we want to attract?
  • What characteristics to they all share in common?
  • Why are perspective employees attracted to your company?

The Future of your Products / Services

  • What results do your products create?  What value do they deliver?
  • Who do your products help?
  • What makes your products superior to those of your competitors?

The Future of your Sales and Marketing

  • What markets do you serve?  How large is your customer base?
  • How do you reach them?
  • What's the lifetime value of your customer?

The Future of your Impact

  • How do you hope that growth in your organization will impact you and your team?
  • How do your industry peers and competitors think of you?
  • What are your results?

Remember write these 3-5 year vision views in the present tense even though they are dealing with the future. That helps get to developing a strategy.

Vision + Mission = Leads to Strategy

There are a lot of great illustrations in the book.  One of my favorite is a Venn diagram that is very similar to one that I used in my book Leaders Press on.  In my Venn I had three circles represented by Vision, Mission and Purpose. 

Hyatt's three circles represented Vision, Mission and Strategy.  (In other words, replace Purpose with Strategy),  He nails it.  Again, he flipped my apple cart.

His center point of the Venn is marked as RESULTS, where as you can see I marked it as LEAD FROM THE CENTER.  I think both can work.

That simple little shift for me in reflecting Strategy instead of Purpose, opened up a huge new awareness.  What I realized it created is a better way to measure what matters:

  • Measure the TEAM
  • Measure the MARKETING
  • Measure the IMPACT

Results can be measured when they are evaluated against our vision, aligned with our mission, and reflect key objectives of our strategy.  

But let's understand these three circles better. In the book, Hyatt lays it out clearly.

  • Mission is who you are 
  • Vision is where you are going
  • Strategy is how you are going to get there

I couldn't agree more. But what about values?  He hits that too.  Values represent "the kind of people you are along the way."

We've talked about how to cast a vision script.  But now let's take a minute more to talk about Mission and Strategy.

How to craft a Mission

Many leaders confuse mission and vision.  They are not the same. As I shared in my book Leaders Press On, Vision is what we are after (a target), whereas Mission is who we are in pursuit of that target.  i believe Vision should and can change.  After all, it's got to have at least a 3-5 year outward view every time, right? But Mission should be pretty stable. 

Hyatt shares that "Mission provides day-to-day clarity by defining the identity and scope of the business."

Our Mission statement at SimVentions is

To be trusted partners in engineering services and technology development by cultivating innovation and delivering on promises.

I think we do a good job of defining our identify and the scope of the business with this statement.  In fact, we recently updated our mission statement in 2020 and applied much of Hyatt's perspective in shaping our mission statement.

Hyatt shares that "without a clear mission statement it's easy to drift off target."  It's easy to be distracted.  Hyatt then adds, "an effective mission statement keeps you on task by addressing four questions."

  • Who are we? 
  • Who do we serve?
  • What problem do we solve?
  • What transformation do we deliver?

This again, is where Hyatt bumps into the apple cart.  Honestly, our mission statement at SimVentions doesn't necessarily say who we serve. But the good news though is that we address this with what I call our Identify statement.  Our Identify is this.

We develop, integrate, and transition new technology to our warfighters and decision-makers.

The identify statement helps clarify who we are, who we serve, what problem we solve, what transformation we deliver.  Our supporting mission statement describes how we do this.

How to craft a Strategy  

Hyatt suggests starting with vision, and then working backwards. With a strategy we can set goals (or objectives), and then with those goals we can identify steps. Goals to me are what I identify as objectives.   What are the objectives you want to accomplish?  Leaders need to help clearly identify the boundaries and targets.

The next step is to identify key results for each of those objectives.   For a great book on objects and key results, I highly recommend the book Measure what Matters, by John Doer.

Hyatt makes an observation that is worth consideration.  He shares that vision -- the target of where you want to go -- should be fixed, but the strategy should flex dependent up the situation.  He uses a visual depiction of a map, to remind us that there are often multiple ways to go to get to a desired destination. 

"we should expect to change strategies -- sometimes many times -- before reaching our destination."  They key is to stay focused on the vision.

So strategy is working backwards from the vision you layout.  If you take time to craft a vision script, you'll have identified the objectives - what I call the big rocks - that you want to have reflected in your strategy. 

Vision-Deficit Leaders

Hyatt draws our attention also to what happens if we lack a vision.  He calls this the six pitfalls for Vision-Deficit leaders.  Here they are:

  1. Unpreparedness for the future
  2. Missed Opportunities
  3. Scattered Portfolios
  4. Strategic missteps
  5. Wasted money, time and talent
  6. Premature exists

He dives a whole lot deeper in the book. 

These pitfalls cause me to take survey; to think how I might be missing on my vision, and how I might be off on my strategy. 

Wrap Up

I couldn't be more thrilled to have this book as a reference and a tool. At the beginning of the blog I called this insider baseball insight. It truly is. Thank you Michael Hyatt!

The reason for me to share the insider baseball highlights is simple:   I want to help people be their best. I want people like you and me to understand the value of vision, and how it fits with the mission, the purpose, our just cause, our values, the strategy, and the culture.   The whole gambit.

These are insights that can help us better imagine. create. explore, and discover.  They can help us break average and persevere!  

To close, Hyatt shares a perspective not to be forgotten 

"Vision keeps us attuned to possibilities that align with the future we see"

What future do you see?

Take some time think through this. My recommendation is to go grab Hyatt's book.  Let it be a tool to help you build out your vision script. Remember leaders create the future!

My Top Twelve Books to Lead

I'm anxious to do a future Breaking Average Podcast series with my friends Mike and Rick on Books to Lead.  For now though, I want to share my top 12 list, which is always subject to change.   These are books that are beyond the footnotes for me.   I invite you to share with me your favorite books too.

  1. The Vision Driven Leader - Michael Hyatt
  2. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership  - Dr. John C. Maxwell
  3. Boundaries for Leaders - Dr. Henry Cloud
  4. The Heart of Leadership - Mark Miller
  5. Dare to Lead - Brene Brown
  6. Lincoln on Leadership - Donald Phillips
  7. Leaders Eat Last - Simon Sinek
  8. The 7 Effective Habits of Highly Effective People - Stephen Covey
  9. Poke the Box - Seth Godin
  10. The Hero Code - Admiral McRaven
  11. The Mentor Leader - Tony Dungy
  12. Good To Great - Jim Collins



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