What is the best way to communicate vision? According to Dennis Crowley, the CEO of the rapidly growing company Foursquare, the secret is doing it over and over again. He says that he overcommunicates the company’s vision to his 130-plus team members. I read an article about him and his company on a recent trip to San Francisco and took this picture of a great reminder for all of us.

Overcommunicate Vision - Quote from Dennis Crowley, Foursquare CEO
Share this Graphic on Pinterest If you are a leader, your team should know your vision so well that they can recite it first thing in the morning. (Click to Tweet)

You should know it, believe in it, and communicate it right up until the point where you are sick of it…and then communicate it again.

Part of the reason is that in a growing company, the faces change frequently. Every week, it seems, there are new team members. They need it drilled in.

The other reason is that the daily grind of customer calls, server crashes, reporting, sales meetings, etc. often causes teams to forget the vision. So repetition becomes very important.

7 steps to developing, communicating, and drilling home a vision.

1. Include your team.

They will it better if they are a part of crafting it. It will also reflect company values, not just yours.

2. Revisit it often.

Once it is developed, revisit it a month later to be sure that is how you wanted it worded. Then revisit it yearly to make sure it still represents your values and objectives.

When Your Team Says You Suck - How to Get, Give, and Use Feedback for Leaders
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3. Require memorization.

Memorization may seem childish, but it is important, especially early on. Require your team to memorize it.

4. Tie it in to everything.

When a customer says something nice, remind your team that this is the result of your vision…and state the vision again. When you create a new department, tell them how it fits into the vision. Tie everything to the vision.

5. Use it for decision-making.

You must use the vision to make important decisions. If you are considering spending $250,000 on a new phone system, you must ask if that is in alignment with the vision to answer all phone calls by the third ring. Will it help you do that? If not, then you need to consider an alternative.

6. Share it openly.

Share it with customers, vendors, and the public. As a leader, share it with your mentors and other groups you meet with. Allow them to hold you accountable. Allow them to remind you of your own vision.

7. Put it everywhere.

Put it on your desk, on the walls in the sales center, on monitors…put it everywhere you can.

When I worked in politics years ago, I had a saying:

We will hammer our message on television, radio, print, internet, and mail. When they are sick of us, that’s when we’ll ask for their vote.

Every message must be repeated often. Especially vision.

How have you seen vision appropriately communicated in this way? How have you communicated your team’s vision?

26 thoughts on “Overcommunicate Vision

  1. Eric Dingler says:

    Re craft your staff evaluations. If you are going to use this tool, ask strategic questions. We ask 7. The first five are connected to our 5 core values. (For example, our first core value is Safety First. So, our first question on every evaluation and at every single staff meeting..”Does anyone have any safety concerns?” Our sixth question is “Did you detest and abstain from gossip at all cost?” Finally we wrap up with “How are we doing on our PNM?” Which for us is our brand promise, Place, Name, Mission. I believe what you ask about shows what’s most important.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is awesome Eric. Thanks for sharing this.

    2. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      Thats a way cool example of ingraining the vision into the culture!! use it to craft evaluation questions! right on Eric!

  2. Bob Winchester says:

    Great topic!

    I think of vision like a picture. The longer you go without seeing it, the fuzzier it gets in your memory.

    The items you lay out above are perfect! The only thing I’ll add is that keeping it simple is also very helpful. I recently witnessed a company that went from a 25 word mission statement to a 7 word statement. The new 7 word statement is now repeated more often by everyone. They are all using as a weapon against under-performing, as it should be.

    Nice work Matt!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Shorter is better.

      A company can’t realistically have a vision of 24/7 customer service and being a family-oriented business. They are mutually exclusive.

      A business can say they will provide outstanding service Mon-Sat 7am-9pm and do that though.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        oooh, realistic. So true. I think we often try to be everything to everyone…and in the process become annoying to everyone. Case in point: “The customer is always right”….no, the customer is not!! haha.

  3. Lily Kreitinger says:

    We’re in this process. It’s going to be an exciting ride, because right now our vision is quite diluted. We’re a baby venture into a “teenage” organization. I did a short presentation on vision, mission and values. No one in our group knew what does are for our organization. Lots of work to be done. Thanks for a great starting point!

    1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

      At least you know theres work to be done…I don’t think most businesses have a clue that its missing!

      1. Carol Dublin says:

        That’s a great point Mark – it’s a step in the right direction if you know it’s missing and you are working toward it. With you helping guide it Lily – your organization will go far!

  4. Mark Sieverkropp says:

    This is so true Matt!! I think its something that is applicable to every aspect of our lives. We should know what we want our families to be like and repeat it so much and in such varied ways that our kids roll their eyes and recite it 🙂
    Same with business, church, charitable organizations, etc.
    I don’t think this is done nearly enough. And the reason is that adults think they’re “too old” or “too mature” to need repitition. But it is vitally important.
    When I was a missionary we would recite our purpose at every single meeting (1-2 a week) and often every morning as a companionship. I can still quote it to this day, 7 years after finishing my mission. It’s powerful and excites me even to this day.
    Any vision we internalize will have that affect on us, our team members, clients, vendors, etc.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is a powerful point Mark.

      That you can still remember it all these years later is a testament to its effect on you.

      1. Mark Sieverkropp says:

        definitely. They have mission reunions every year, and I guarantee that our mission president could walk into one of those reunions, simply say “Our purpose is…” and everyone there would recite our purpose perfectly.
        Definitely had an affect. He was/is a great leader!

  5. Kathy Leicester says:

    The book by Rose and Ben Zander, “The Art of Possibility,” has a terrific chapter on Creating Frameworks for Possibility. Vision is a big part of that framework. They give these criteria for vision (setting one is not as easy as it sounds):
    1. A vision articulates a possibility;
    2. A vision fulfills a deisre fundamental to humankind, a desire with which any human being can resonate;
    3. A vision makes no reference to morality or ethics, it is not about a right way of doing things;
    4. A vision is stated as a picture for all time;
    5. A vision is free-standing – it points neither to a rosier future nor to a past in need of improvement;
    6. A vision is a long line of possibility radiating outward;
    7. Speaking a vision transforms the speaker – for that moment the “real world” becomes a universe of possibility and the barriers to the realization of the vision disappear.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Outstanding list Kathy! I love #7…it is transformative to know and use your vision.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Very true Jim.

      And great link. I had seen that before (or read it from him). Thanks for sharing!

  6. Tom Dixon says:

    What have you seen companies do to make the vision less of a “flavor of the month” and more of something that lasts?

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Those 7 things above 🙂

      Seriously though…flavor of the month is a big poster on a wall and a speech.

      It lasts when you:

      Say it
      Repeat it
      Practice it
      Tie it in
      Repeat it
      Train it to all new hires
      Repeat it
      Use it
      Revisit it
      and…repeat it some more.

  7. Carol Dublin says:

    Great post Matt. I plan to share with my leadership team, as we have just developed our vision and core values in the last few months and are starting to communicate that to the rest of the staff and volunteers. Thanks for the clarity in your steps.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      My pleasure Carol. Glad you get to put it to use!

  8. Wade_Thorson says:

    Great suggestions on methods to gain the buy-in of the vision. We have a company vision, but I would guess no one knows it. I am starting to work on communicating the vision and core values of our company in our weekly team meeting.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I wish you well Wade. Look forward to hearing how it goes!

  9. Jon Stolpe says:

    Matt, this is a great reminder for my organization. I think we could do a much better job consistently communicating the vision to our team. It has to become part of our culture.

  10. Chery Gegelman says:

    Matt I could not agree more about the importance of repeating the vision. Far too often I’ve seen the created vision become dusty wall art! Of all the items on your list, my favorites are
    1. Include your team.
    4. Tie it to EVERYTHING!

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thanks Chery! Glad you enjoyed it.

      #4 is my favorite too. It *must* apply to everything.

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