How to Communicate the Vision: Striking the Right Chord

A while ago we talked about the importance of seeking to understand our leadership environment before we start trying to lead.  If we were taking good notes and paying attention, we should have a pretty good idea of the direction we want to take the team.  Now the question becomes, how do we get them to go there?

The way we communicate the vision to our team can make or break their ability and desire to actually achieve it.  Read on for an example of what I’m talking about, and three things to be sure to include if we want to strike the right chord with our team.

Communicate the Vision

You are Losing Me…

I play guitar.  It’s a hobby that gives me balance, keeps me learning, and helps me stay mentally fresh.  I make no claims of talent, but it’s fun to learn new songs, work out different strumming patterns, try to improvise.  And slowly, with some help, I’m getting better.

One of the ways I like to learn something new is to go to YouTube.  There are loads of videos about how to play the guitar part to just about any song you can imagine.  Some are really well put together.  Others:  not so much.

The worst ones?  The title promises to teach you three mind blowing guitar chords or licks that will amaze your friends and make you an instant guitar hero.

Typically the video starts with some guy in his apartment.  He greets you and then tells you how he’s going to teach you this awesome guitar lick.  And then he goes straight into the details.

“OK, start on the fifth fret, put your middle finger finger on the fifth string, mute the fourth string, and put your ring finger on the third.” 

He strums and it makes a crass, blaring sound.

“OK, next, slide your middle finger up two frets….”

This goes on for minutes as he painfully walks you through the details of every step.  The sounds are disconnected, stark, uninteresting.  It’s not long before my eyes stray, my attention wanders.  Why am I doing this again?


Want Some Jam with That?

What are the best videos?  The ones that start by immediately showing me where we are going.  One of my favorites is Marty Schwartz.  When he starts, it’s not with words, it’s with music – straight into the song or technique he’s going to show me how to play.  It sounds great, my toe is tapping, and I’m thinking about how cool it would be if I could somehow play like that.

After a short while, he stops, says hello, and starts to talk about what he’s doing.  Then he starts from the beginning, and breaks everything down, going slowly, step by step.

Every two or three cords, he backs up and puts it together again, so you can see how the pieces fit and the progress we are making.  Eventually, we are up to speed and now he’s showing us little tips and tricks to make it sound even better.  Sometimes there is even time for a little jam session at the end of the video.

Here he is teaching Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry.

Striking a Chord

What makes the difference between these two approaches?  It’s how they communicate the vision.

Why did the first guy lose me?  Because I didn’t know where he going – he never told me.  As far as I could see, there was nothing mind-blowing about the twangs and plucks he was doing – they just seemed to be disconnected uninteresting noises.  He just expected me to slog along to some unclear outcome.

But Marty struck a chord with me from the very beginning.  He painted a musical picture of what the future could look like and promised to lead me there.  Then, as he broke it down, he kept relating the individual noises I was making to the vision we were chasing.  It made sense, and I could see the progress.

And because the connection was clear, I was much more willing to labor through learning the individual finger placements.  I could see where they were taking me.

Communicate the Vision – The Takeaway

When it comes to setting the direction for our teams, be like Marty.  We have to be clear about what we are after, and show them the progress we are making along the way.

Here are three things we can do when we communicate the vision so that we wind up with teammates who are willing to go through the drudgery with us in order to get to the end we all want.

Start with the end in mind.  Like Marty does with his videos, start by describing the end result you are looking for – it helps people see where they are headed.  It’s like Stephen Covey likes to say, “Start with the end in mind.”  That way, everyone knows where they are going.

Start with the end in mind. – Stephen Covey Click To Tweet

Be clear about the Why.  I won’t care about plucking a particular note unless I understand how it fits into the overall piece.  In the same way, if our teammates understand why something is important and believe in it, they will be more willing to work harder to play their part.

When they believe in the WHY, the harder they'll try. Click To Tweet

Keep bringing it up.  Just as Marty keeps tying the fragments of the song back into the larger composition, we should keep relating our teammate’s efforts back to the outcome we seek.  As they begin to see progress, the effort will build its own momentum.

If the musical metaphor doesn’t work for you, how about a nautical one?  I’ll leave with you with this quote from pioneering French aviator and writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. - Antoine de Saint-Exupery Click To Tweet

Want to learn more about setting a vision and motivating  your team to achieve it?  Check out the Essential Leadership Skills for the New Manager Course for videos, downloads, and checklists that will help you be successful as a leader, whether it’s your first time, or 51st.

Lead On!

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About the Author: Ken Downer
Ken Downer - Founder RapidStart Leadership

Ken served for 26 years in the Infantry, retiring as a Colonel.  From leading patrols in the Korean DMZ, to parachuting into the jungles of Panama, to commanding a remote outpost on the Iran-Iraq border, he has learned a lot about leadership, and has a passion for sharing that knowledge with others.  Look for his weekly posts, check out his online courses, subscribe below, or simply connect, he loves to talk about this stuff.

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