A few weeks ago I was on a road trip home from Cincinnati with my oldest daughter, Emma. It was our first trip with just the two of us. We were having fun playing the “alphabet sign” game when suddenly we drove into a thick blanket of fog. Everyone around us slowed down, and we couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet in front of us. Emma said, “Dad, how can you see what’s ahead of us?” I said, “I can’t, but I can see enough.”
Many times as leaders, we are driving our organizations into the fog, or the unknown. The people with us can’t see clearly what’s ahead, and many times we can’t either. However, the difference between us and them is that we are the ones driving. We feel confident in where we are going. We have a general sense of direction. Driving in the fog, you still know you are going the right direction. If those you are leading don’t know the “why” behind the changes you are making, they can feel disoriented.
To help people out of the fog, Andy Stanley says you must “cast the vision convincingly,” and here are three ways you can do that:
Define the problem – people have to realize how serious it is and what is at stake if they don’t get on board. In order for change to stick, people have to come to a place of disgust for where you are. This has got to be a “red hot why.” This program, system, paradigm, style of music, facility, or structure is holding us back from God’s best. Keep in mind that everyone may not see this thing you want to change as a problem. You’ve got to show them why it is.
Offer a solution – A vision is convincing when people can see the connection between the problem and how the organization is offering a solution. Good leaders never present a problem without a solution. If you are going to eliminate something that once had great value, you better be able to articulate why the new solution is better.
Present a reason – This is the reason that action must take place now. This is the answer to questions like “Why must we do this?” and “why must we do this now?” It isn’t that you are the first to recognize the problem itself, but a leader will understand that the problem is so significant that it requires immediate, coordinated action to address it. We can create urgency in the understanding of what’s at stake if we don’t make this change.
Vision is a leaky bucket, and when driving through the fog of change you will have to remind and repeat the “why” many times to those you lead. Let me leave you with this challenge from Andy Stanley:
“I’ll make a prediction. If you and your team will set aside time to define the problem, state your vision as a solution, and discover a compelling reason why now is the time to act, you will walk away from that meeting, or series of meetings, with more passion for what you are about than you thought possible. Something will come alive in you. And when you talk about your vision, you will be more convincing than you’ve ever been before.” (Making Vision Stick, p. 33)