When people asked me what I was most looking forward to about moving to New York, the answer I kept coming back to was getting rid of my car. After years of driving to work, I was genuinely looking forward to ditching it and being able to use a public transit system to get around instead. I thought the biggest benefit for me would be ease of use and convenience. And it has been – despite what many New Yorkers say about the Subway system, it is actually very good, reasonably reliable and really cheap!
What I hadn’t expected was the entertainment value. Some of it comes from fellow passengers and their eccentricities, but a large part also comes from the subway adverts. Anyone who has ridden the Subway in New York will know that some of the ads can be very witty, while others are just plain thought-provoking. They certainly help to pass the time.
Freelance agency Fiverr frequently provides thought provoking journeys with their choice of ads. In fact, it was one of them – Thinking Big is Still Just Thinking – that inspired me to write this blog post. The message is that what you really need is action, not just thoughts. And they’re right. We don’t get anywhere if we don’t take the first step. But it’s not the only thing.
Now, I don’t think Fiverr are saying just do anything but I do worry that sometimes there seems to be an addiction to action, quick wins, concrete steps. As a coach, I read a lot of articles about how to help clients with goal setting. In fact, goal setting is the mantra of much of the coaching literature. While it’s great to have something tangible to aim towards, goals on their own aren’t enough. Without an idea of where we’re actually trying to get to in overall terms, goal-setting risks being somewhere between pointless and downright dangerous.
This clip from Business Insider uses the analogy of packing for a holiday when you don’t know your destination as a way of explaining the risk. How do you know what to pack – what will the weather be like, how will you be spending your time, etc? That example works for me – from both a personal and a business perspective. I’ve made my own packing ‘mistakes’ and ended up badly equipped for what should have been a dream vacation. And I’m guilty of having spent too much time doing ‘stuff’ without thinking about whether it would move me forward.
So how do we stop that happening – or at the very least, reduce the risk?
A good starting point is to make sure that our overall direction is clear. Where do we want to be? In ‘business’ speak – what’s our vision?
The traditional view of a vision is that it describes who we are, what we want to achieve and perhaps how we’re going to get there. Getting it right is important. Research suggests that a vision employees can recognize and buy in to increases engagement and productivity. Who doesn’t want an engaged, productive team? So it’s important, right?
Many businesses have vision statements – but how many of them are actually visionary? Do they really tell us what our ambitions are? Do they paint a picture of where we want to be, what impact we want to have, what our success will look like? Do they inspire other people? Do they inspire us??
Stand-out visions should do all those things – they should describe what we want our (business) future to be. They should show us what it will look, sound and feel like, and what impact it will make for us and for the people around us. These are the things that will keep us on track and moving forward. Stand-out visions will motivate us when it gets tough and will provide direction when there are difficult decisions to be made.
My advice? Spend your time painting your picture of the future, not writing a snappy statement that looks good on paper but doesn’t get to the heart of what you really want to achieve. Ask yourself some questions about what that future will be like. What will you be doing? Who will you be working with – customers and team? What will you already have achieved? What will you be planning to do next? What will people be saying about you?
Working out the answers to these questions can free you to develop a stand out vision. One that means something to you. One that feels so real it inspires you to work out the action you need to take to make it happen. And perhaps even one that makes others want to get involved too.
Thinking big is indeed still just thinking, and action is important – but it’s the combination that essential. Knowing where you want to be and what you want to achieve, taking the action to achieve it and inspiring others to join you – that’s the real prize in my book.