A New Vision post-Covid-19

By Conor Kenny, Principal of Conor Kenny & Associates, a professional development, training and direct consultancy company. Conor delivers a number of programmes on behalf of Irish Times Training including The Psychology of Service and Why People fail to Sell.

This pandemic has, of course, taught us many things but perhaps the greatest single lesson is that we think we are in control. We are not. As the old adage goes, “Man plans the future and God smiles.” When something unexpected, sudden and traumatic occurs, our first instinct is survival. That’s followed by fear “What if….?” Then comes a certain acceptance until a new norm becomes the norm.

Image: Stock Library

Most people confuse Vision with Mission. Vision is the guiding light that takes you where you want to go. It is idealistic, imaginary, and visionary. It should also be exciting, engaging and based on realistic viable goals. On the other hand, Mission is simply what you need to do to get there. It can be tricky to create a path that will help you map out exactly where you want to go. This article will give you the structure not just to create your vision but also the things you need to do to make it happen.

Before you can begin a journey, you have to set out where you want to go and then communicate that vision, image or picture to the people who will take you there. If you fail to paint the picture you will quickly run out of steam and your troops will be busy fools consuming energy, resources and profit. Vision then is painting a picture of your destination. Simply, it is where you want to be. It is what you aspire to.

In simple terms, ‘the mission’ will set out the things you have to do to reach the destination, you know, that ‘vision’ place. The mission is the immediate road map of where you are going to travel. Simply, mission is how you execute and deliver your purpose. Paul B. Thornton sums it up; “Without mission, there’s no purpose. Without vision, there’s no destination. Without values, there are no guiding principles”

Many businesses are in the same business. Many target the same customer and have similar propositions; many are more of the same. So what is it that marks out those that are more successful than others? Stephen Covey said; “Principles should not be confused with values. Principles describe how things are and how they work, whereas values state where we aim to go. If principles are the territory, then values are maps”. Values are what you stand for, what you believe in and are, in some ways, the moral compass of your business.

If your strategic discussion begins and ends with the present reality then you will take your people on a scenic undulating journey that will have set out full of hope and optimism but ended up in a cul-de-sac right by the road you started on. On the other hand, if you inspire, lead and motivate your people well and lift their eyes beyond the horizon away from the daily slog of firefighting, it will quickly become a cheerful, productive and optimistic exercise. Strategy is not just a plan, not just an idea; it is a way of life for a company.

The objectives, mission, and goals will determine the people you need. The people will fit the structure and the structure must be the most efficient use of skill, ingenuity and resource available to you. Structures should not inhibit growth, thinking, change or more importantly, innovation and outside the box thinking. The right people could be right under your nose. Talent is not some magical imaginary ‘perfect’ manager outside your business, they are already within. The trick is to identify them, move them, develop them and encourage. After all, no plan will go anywhere without a motivated, trained and clear team.

It’s not much good having a map if you have no measure. Imagine a petrol tank with no gauge. Not much use and sooner or later you will run out of fuel and probably when you are least prepared. It’s not a bad dictum to state: “Measure everything.” By measuring things we know how we are doing. By knowing how you are doing you can test how well you are performing against your standards. But, standards, and especially the dreaded SOP manuals, need to be tested, revisited, updated and challenged regularly.

Control, in this context, means how do you know if you are off course or have derailed. A successful strategy recognises and prepares for that. Good leadership stays calm and works around the problem. It takes time to realise that a roadblock is not going to shift – precious time, and certainly not a good use of energy, fuel and resources!

Organisations and people imitate their leaders. Culture comes from the top. Perish the thought then of a bad leader in a stormy sea. Leadership and leaders define your business. If you get it wrong you will struggle to recover, get it right and you will plough through the waves. As John Quincy Adams once said; “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

A few years back I had the privilege of doing some work with Diageo in their London office. The conversation and meeting were dynamic, creative and cheerful. At the end of a long and rewarding meeting, I finally got to look at the caption under the poster that had been in front of me all day. It was simple, effective and memorable. It quoted Abraham Lincoln; “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.” Come to think of it, isn’t that exactly what a good strategy should be?
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