One of the hardest tasks that you will be faced with in an entrepreneurial endeavor—or any journey that involves leading others—is helping people to see the end product of the vision that you have in your mind. Since you cannot simply transfer your thoughts into the minds of others, you have to face the non-trivial challenge of communicating past their personal biases and individual perspectives. No two people see the world in exactly the same way, but you must find a way to help others see at least a glimpse of your inner world in order for them to understand the bigger picture of what needs to be done.
Hiring purely obedient contractors or employees that have no commitment to your larger story, and don’t really care about the end goals of their work is fine in some cases, but you may find yourself fighting an uphill battle to get people motivated and to understand the meaning of their role in it all. On the other hand, a person who sees your vision is much more likely to not need to be micromanaged, to be more adaptable to changes, and to understand intuitively what it is that you are looking for.
In order to guide people towards your ends and help them to see your vision, it takes more than simply rational explanation. As much as the pieces seem to fit perfectly well in your mind as a logical whole, the truth is that people need a narrative to be the emotional glue that will hold all of these truths together for them. How do you do this, though? How do you induce people to see your project the way that you see it? Nothing you can do will guarantee it, but there are a few tactics that you can employ to help communicate your intent in a much better way than simply relaying a linear set of instructions day after day:
1) First, establish the team’s identity.
People have much more of a sense of mission when they identify with their role. This sort of thinking is both a positive and negative trait in human beings; it has built empires as well as destroyed them. Use this powerful source of motivation to your advantage. Tell your team stories about what kind of people you are and what sort of character your organization has. Tie this identity to the kind of goals that you want to achieve.
Take a cue from the likes of Walt Disney, who was very specific in that his company produce media that embodied a quality of childlike wonder. Observe Steve Jobs and how he demanded nearly inhuman results from his team of “pirates” during the microcomputer revolution.
“Who am I?” is a very important question to every person, and if you can at least partially answer that question for members of your team, you will gain devotion in return.
2) Explain the path towards your goal as if it has already happened.
Describe things as clearly as if the finished product were sitting before you. Even if plans change, people work best when they feel that there is always a direction, something definite to shoot for. Speak in concrete terms, and see the goal the way you would if it was already done. A little haziness can happen sometimes, but you can’t expect people to latch onto fog. Tell them stories of what you want and exactly how you plan to get there.
3) Allow your team to give input every step of the way.
People can get behind something much more easily when they feel a sense of ownership. They are also much more likely to understand what your goals are if they are an active participant in discussions on how to get there. Reward your team members for good suggestions and constantly ask for their input. This might even help you to expand your own limited perspective when it comes to your projects.
4) Show concrete examples of what you want.
Sometimes your vision may be for something that does not yet exist in this world, but a case like this is very rare. More often than not, there will be examples of other companies with similar goals who have achieved their ends. Offer real-world examples of the results that you want, and the members of your team will have a much easier time understanding you. As you compare the abstract ideas floating around in your mind with the concrete results of other organizations, you may even realize that you didn’t have it as well figured out as you originally thought.
5) Give your team a big “why.”
You can try to communicate the path to your goal, and you can try to influence your team to personalize their roles, but ultimately this may not be enough if the individual members don’t have a big enough “why.” You may have observed that morale is particularly low in people who feel that their work has no meaning. If your team is struggling to find a meaning to what they’re doing, then they probably don’t understand your vision well enough. Sometimes the very thing that will snap everything else into focus is revealing why you are ultimately pursuing your specific goals. The why is what determines the how, and so it will allow your team members to better understand the anatomy of your goals.
For example, if you decide that your business should enter a very untested market, then explain to your team members why you think that you will meet success on the other side. Give specific reasons and share all of your research with them. Do not let the direction of your projects be a huge mystery while you play the dictator. No one works well if they believe they are being led to their possible doom.
Ultimately, though, the best thing that you can do to clarify your vision to others is to first clarify it with yourself. As you write down your plan, think of all the details as carefully as possible. Does anything seem fuzzy? Are you having trouble putting something into words? Do you have any negative gut feelings about possible obstacles in the future? Perhaps these are areas where you are not yet clear yourself. Once your vision is fully articulated in your mind, it is much easier for others to get on board. An obvious confidence in what you want will almost always induce others to follow, and you might find that your actions and demeanor will do much more to explain your vision than your words.