As leaders we have a vision for the future — of our team, our product, our organization — that we are passionate about. We can see it in our minds, we can imagine the possibilities. We craft it and polish it and present it to our team like a precious object. We hope — and often we demand — that they pick it up and love it, too.
Then they just shrug their shoulders and go back to what they were doing.
Put yourself in their shoes. You’ve just sat through a presentation, or a conversation, or a concept video. You’ve come to this meeting which is one of 6 other meetings that day. You’ve heard, yes, an exciting presentation. Or at least one the leader seems passionate about. You have a hundred questions, not the least of which is: what does this have to do with me? My job? My career? The other twenty things on my plate?
The trouble is, when introducing a vision for the future, we tend to skip some really important steps. When you want someone to engage with your vision, you have to involve them in it. It’s not just a nice to have. It’s imperative. It’s true, you could treat them like a pair of hands, “leverage” them like widgets. But you won’t get the creativity, the desire, the strength you are hoping for unless each person can see themselves in the vision.
These involvement steps take time. Figure that into your timeline. If you don’t involve others in the early rollout of a vision, if you cheat time, you’ll pay for it later. One hundred times over.
Show your work
Don’t just share your vision – give people the same information you used to come up with the vision in the first place. What was the thought process you went through? What crucial pieces of information really pushed you in this direction? Talk it through with them.
Give people time to process
It took you time to come to this conclusion. Why wouldn’t it take others time, too? Don’t expect your team to just jump at your idea immediately. Share your vision with them initially, then do it again a week later. Ask people to think it over in the interim, to bring questions to the next session.
Plan a rollout program, not a rollout presentation
Most people – myself included – get so wrapped up in the vision, the story, the idea, that they forget that change takes time. It’s a multi-step process. Think about the result you are going for and work backwards from there. Use all the participatory, Lean UX, and facilitation tools in your toolkit. If you are asking people to make a big change in their behavior, expect that to take some time, and a creative approach.
Share your vision early and often
Don’t wait until your vision is perfect to share it. Guess what. It won’t ever be perfect. If you keep it too close to your chest for too long, you may come up with exactly the wrong thing. Or you may become too protective of it. Share it with people informally. Have conversations. Invite people to be part of the process early on.
Ask people what they think
Assume that the involvement of others will only make the idea stronger. Ask. Share. Listen carefully.
Show people where their ideas have made an impact
When you solicit feedback, don’t just take it and run. Go back to the people you spoke with and show them how their ideas have been incorporated. Appreciate them. Tell them the impact their thinking has had on the direction of the project.
Ask people how they see themselves in it
In order for people to be engaged with something, they need to see themselves in it. This might range from “what’s in it for me” to “what will this require of me.” Don’t assume, though. Ask. The answers may surprise you. Incorporate the answers.
Involve but lead
Finally, with all this talk about involvement, don’t lose sight of the fact that you are, in fact, leading this vision. You are capable of discernment, of making strong choices. Involvement doesn’t mean design by committee. Don’t be a people pleaser. Hold the outcome, the result at the forefront of your mind, and act with strength.