Leaders must inspire people to fulfil their organisation’s goal – getting buy-in to their vision. Without that shared vision, the way forward is obscure and progress can stall.
This is easier in a small group. The leader can explain the vision one-on-one and align it with each team-members needs. Most observers suggest managers can’t effectively handle teams bigger than eight to twelve direct reports.
Leaders of big or fast-growing organisations need to get large-scale buy-in. Brand building techniques can help with that.
“The highest-performing companies are good at getting buy-in across all levels of the business.”
– BTS (the Economist Intelligence Unit and strategy consultant)
What exactly is vision anyway?
An organisation’s vision statement essentially expresses an ideal future that stakeholders will experience.
A vision statement works best when it is vivid, emotional and forecasts a tangible positive impact on the world. The organisation’s leaders must be 100% behind it. It will be easily understood and recalled, and readily accepted.
Most importantly, it must be based on reality – people don’t back ideas that sound fake or unachievable.
Take it from the top
Chat with a CEO and you’ll usually find them very effective at articulating their vision in a few sentences.
However, ask various stakeholders about that vision and often out come confused and conflicting stories. This seems to occur because it’s hard for people to remember anything longer than a short phrase.
A good communicator can inspire and persuade with the strength of her or his personality. But the power of their message may be diluted when retold or written out verbatim.
Simple, emotional, achievable
Getting buy-in for an organisation’s vision begins with crafting the statement.
The vision statement is a component of some strategic management tools, such as the widely-used balanced scorecard system (BSC).
The result of these processes is often accurate, but overlong and not easily digested and recalled. To drive buy-in, it’s often useful to simplify the vision statement and make it more accessible.
Examples of effective vision statements include:
Amazon – Our vision is to be earth’s most customer-centric company.
Tesla – To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
IKEA – To create a better everyday life for the many people.
Zoom – Video communications empowering people to accomplish more.
After the leadership team agrees on a shared vision, it’s time to get universal buy-in for it. This will be an ongoing initiative that constantly reinforces the idea at all levels.
It’s strategically important for a leader to have their internal stakeholders understand and embrace a shared vision. When they do, individuals can work at moving the entire organisation toward it.
Build vision into brand
Suddenly launching a campaign to promote the leaders’ vision risks being greeted with scepticism and apathy. It’s more effective to instil it as part of a wider organisational transformation.
Usually a transformation occurs at a pivotal moment for the organisation, or pursues a defined objective. For example, a significant milestone, entering a new market, new commitment to technology or merger or acquisition. Each of these is a good opportunity to revisit branding and share vision.
It’s strategically important for a leader to have their internal stakeholders understand and embrace a shared vision. When they do, individuals can work at moving the entire organisation toward it. For external stakeholders it’s equally as important, as they will understand the positive changes the organisation seeks to create.
Therefore, the vision should be baked into the brand, stated as the organisation’s purpose, or even subtly reflected in the logo (Amazon) and positioning phrase.
Get wide participation
People are more likely to buy-into ideas they had a role in developing.
Researching and testing directions can involve many stakeholders. Interviewing senior executives is often very rewarding in terms of ideas, opinion and understanding how they align with the leader.
An online survey targeting every level of staff gathers opinions and encourages a very wide group of people to think about the organisation they are part of in deeper terms.
Share internally, then launch
Keep your team informed that the brand vision initiative is occurring at the beginning of the process.
Then allocate a budget to unveil your vision internally with impact by presenting it with appropriate branded communications tools, beautifully designed and executed.
Engage your team to make a big splash when your initiative is launched to all stakeholders.
Effective ways to communicate your brand vision include...
A themed event for your team celebrating and explaining the branding initiative will demonstrate leadership commitment and create positive memories.
External stakeholders can be invited to a variety of gatherings to understand the vision and how it benefits them.
Reach all team members with a meaningful short video of the CEO explaining the brand and vision and what it means.
You can produce various versions of this at a single shoot, targeting partners, customers, investors and other stakeholders.
An explainer video can also reinforce the key ideas and be shared via many channels to encourage buy-in.
Useful gifts and souvenirs relevant to the vision are effective reminders because they attract interest and are more likely to be used by the recipient.
Develop presentation kits that enable the brand and vision to be shared by HR people and others with a direct connection to individual team members.
Presentation decks can be easily adapted to explain what the change means to various internal teams. Then adapted again to serve external audiences.
These training sessions should aim to give participants the ability to explain key aspects to outsiders. They also offer an opportunity for Q&A to encourage strategic thinking as a team.
There are many ways to encourage buy-in online. If the initiative involves a digital transformation then use the channels your stakeholders are most comfortable with. And introduce them to any new digital resources that will support the transformation.
Obvious tools and channels include the corporate website or a purpose-built mini-site, intranet, social media, webinars, messaging, blogs and email.
An AMA (Ask Me Anything) online session with the CEO is an opportunity to explain the vision in real time to key stakeholders.
Presenting your vision vividly as part of your overall branding efforts can motivate people to work together, and turn that vision into a reality.