There are 3 most common Vision problems which occur in Relationships do not have to do with a lack of Vision. Rather they all include a lack of effectively casting that vision from the Executive Sponsor to each of the organizations. Let me give a story which depicts a very common scenario.
Howard and Rick are both well noted for their success in industry. Howard developed commercial properties successfully throughout all the major metropolitan cities and was noted for restoration and reuse of older, downtown and industrial areas. Rick developed multi-use, residential properties and had most recently grown to some degree of acclaim through his implementation of “green”, environmentally friendly, construction and utilities technologies. At a recent convention in Las Vegas on community development, both were featured speakers. They concluded the keynote day by participating in a panel discussion.
As the moderator asked questions, it became apparent that the rapport and synergy between these two leaders was enormous. They respected each other. They had similar experiences in somewhat complementary areas of the industry. As they talked back and forth, the role of the moderator fell silent due to the frank and energized interaction between them.
They stepped down from the dias and spoke behind the stage, shook hands and said almost in unison, “We need to work together. Anything you need, just let me know. It’s yours.” With that they strode off having a great sense of new opportunity ahead.
Upon their return to their offices they told their operating team leaders of the positive interaction and commitment they had made to the other to work toogether. They each repeated, “Anything you need….it’s yours”. Both had in mind the use of Rick’s green technology initiatives being incorporated into Howard’s next commercial venture. However, neither had cast this vision to their respective teams.
Soon afterwards, the operating team leaders contacted each other. As they tried to interpret the cryptic guidance from a meeting in which none of the operating team members participated, they came upon the concept of developing a residential community in a downtrodden industrial area of a city in the northeast using green technologies. This was actually relatively close to what was intended by Howard and Rick. Then Howard’s team asked that they receive the patented construction materials and techniques developed by Rick’s organization at no charge with the intention to brand them under a new marketing initiative from Howard’s organization. Rick’s team pushed back saying that the intent was to sell them the materials and be a sub-contractor for the work itself. Howard’s team repeated the statement “Anything you need….its yours.” Rick’s team knowing that their patented techniques were a key differentiator for them in the market refused to give away such corporate treasures so freely. Six months later, Howard and Rick were shocked to find that nothing had begun and that the teams were not only not working well, but nearly opposed to each other. How did it get to this?
The issue was not that there was no vision, but that the fullness of the vision had not been conveyed effectively to the rest of the organizations. This occurs quite often. There are two steps that can be taken to help avoid this Vision problem.
Avoiding the problem of “secret vision”:
First, when Executive Sponsors get together, if at all possible, they should not have Vision discussions and make commitments associated with that Vision by themselves. They do not need other’s participation, but will benefit from other’s observations. In short, someone needs to keep notes on what was committed so that the operating teams can execute the vision.
Second, whenever possible, there should be a follow up meeting or phone call to summarize that to which was agreed. This follow up call should occur before the Vision is cast to the respective organizations. This allows for refinement and clarity of the Vision before the Executive Sponsors attempt to cast such to their organizations.
The first is not always feasible or always easy to arranged. The nature of visionary leaders who are dealing with other visionary leaders is often a derivative of what I just described in the case Howard and Rick walking off the dias and speaking behind the stage. It happens spontaneously. The Executive Sponsors recognize the synergy between themselves and another person or organization and seize the opportunity to engage them. It happens in phone calls in the office, at conferences, even in planes. They connect. They see the vision. They act on their instincts that have made them successful. The operating teams are simply caught in the rip tide of the newly formed relationship trying to swim upstream and get a glimpse of what was said and committed when they were not present.
If others are not present when these initial conversations occur between Executive Sponsors, the value of the second step is all that much greater. A follow up call or engagement before casting the Vision allows for the ramifications of some implications of the Relationship to be considered by the Executive Sponsors. Statements from Executive Sponsors such as “Whatever it takes, we’ll do.” or “We partner for life.” are very assuring. However, they are often not well considered and the details of what such statements mean are not well communicated. The operating teams try to fulfill such commitments. Yet, when the Vision is not known or not cast fully, it is an impossible task to fulfill.
Avoid “Secret Visions”. They will occur spontaneously. The way to avoid them is to have someone present when the vision is explored. Regardless of whether that occurs, there needs to be a follow up call between the Executive Sponsors, again with someone present to take notes, after the initial Vision has been conceptualized and before the Vision is cast to each of the organizations.