It’s an old and slightly cheesy story, but one that still makes a crucial point. A tourist was walking by a construction site and saw three brick masons busy at work: The traveller stopped, watched the workers for a while and asked, “What are you doing?” The first mason immediately replied, “Laying bricks, what does it look like?” Still curious, the tourist turned to the second brick mason and again asked, “What are you doing?” The mason stopped working, looked at the tourist and said, “Building a wall.” Not satisfied, the traveller went up to the third worker and asked, “What about you, what are you doing?” The third brick mason turned to face the tourist and said, “I’m building a magnificent cathedral where my children and grandchildren will come to worship.”
Of course, this is a fictional story, but its message echoes through virtually every organisation in the world. Team members with the same job and responsibility can have totally different views and attitudes toward their work. The attitude and productivity of people in your organisation will be, in large part, determined by their understanding of what they are trying to accomplish. If people only see their job as completing a simple task, or blindly following someone’s orders, they will be filled with apathy and boredom. If, however, people see their work as an important and integral part of helping the team or organisation accomplish a worthwhile objective, their work takes on an entirely different meaning.
The key to this difference is for everyone to have the same clear vision for the team or organisation. A vision is simply a picture of a desired future. In other words, a vision is a vivid description of where you want to see the organisation at some point in the future. One of the primary characteristics of all high-performance teams and organisations is a clear and shared commitment to a specific objective or vision for the future.
One of the best metaphors to help understand this concept of vision is a puzzle. A puzzle is a picture that is cut into several pieces. Imagine each team member as one piece of the puzzle. It’s impossible to see the total picture just from seeing one piece. In fact, it’s difficult to even guess where the piece would fit in the puzzle without being able to see the whole picture. Only by being able to view the entire puzzle is each person able to understand where he or she fits in the total picture and in what role in the organisation. The clearer the picture of the completed puzzle, the easier it is to put the puzzle together by placing the various pieces in the correct position. Great leaders are totally focused on their vision. They think of it by day and dream of it by night. Continually focusing on the vision induces action.
Both organisational leaders and team members need to understand and internalize the vision of the company. What separates effective leaders from mediocre leaders, or from no leadership at all, is a clearly defined vision and sharing that vision with members of the organisation. It is crucial that all team members feel the emotion and the potential of the vision and be totally committed to it. The leader’s role is to inspire a zeal for the organisation’s vision. When team members fully grasp and share the vision, they dedicate the full power of their potential to the company’s future. Vision is the gift of clearly seeing the possibilities. Vision expands your horizons.