Today’s post is the feature article  from the August 2004 issue of  The Front Porch Newsletter.  If you would like to automatically receive The Front Porch e-newsletter on the last Thursday of each month just click here to sign-up for your complimentary subscription.

blumbergface1Sight is a powerful resource. Six months ago, I learned this in an up-close and personal way. The sudden detachment of the retina in my right eye eliminated the vision I had taken for granted for so many years. It came without warning. I knew something in my vision had suddenly gone terribly wrong. It was when I was rushed in to meet a retina specialist, that he carefully helped me understand the seriousness of the situation as well as the sense of urgency and priority. Hours later I was in surgery for the reattachment of my retina. I was at peace with whatever the results would be — but certainly hoped that my vision would be quickly restored.

In the hands of an excellent and caring retina specialist, I began the very slow path of restoring my vision. I quickly found a sense of irony in the experience, in that losing my vision was painless, almost numbing — yet, regaining it would be painful and require significant patience. Six months later, I am still waiting patiently (some days impatiently) for my vision to slowly come back into focus. I can’t yet see as well as I used to — but my vision has never been more clear. Maybe I should explain.

Years ago, Dave Houser, an early champion and mentor in my professional career, assigned me to do a presentation at a conference titled “Developing and Communicating a Vision”. Over the many years of doing that presentation I came to have a deep understanding of the importance of personal and organizational vision. I was passionate about the need for it within our professional services firm. I also came to realize the realistic challenge that organizations face in trying to create, communicate and cultivate a truly meaningful vision.

In 1996, I left my 18-year career in professional services to begin my journey as a professional speaker. As I reflected back on my first 8-years as a speaker, I concluded that I had strayed into areas beyond my passion for helping organizations understand and execute the power of meaningful vision. It was a recent conversation with my long-time business coach, Mark LeBlanc, which helped me see that I hadn’t strayed at all. He opened my eyes to see that everything I did circled back to my passion for the importance of organizational and personal vision. It was a reminder to me that we are so often working on issues that are nothing more than the symptoms of a failed or meaningless vision.

In sight, vision is about WHAT you see — in life (and yes, in business), vision is about WHO you want to be. As I give keynote presentations on leadership, strategies for intentional retention, developing cultures of genuine service, connecting with the power of purpose — I have come to realize that the staying power of these messages ultimately resides upon one factor: Are they nurtured within an environment that is serious about a clear and meaningful vision? For two millennia, even the bible has expressed the need for vision — for where there is no vision, the people will perish.

Let me summarize the quantifiable part of last month’s “Front Porch” survey. Only 14% felt their organization had an inspiring vision, while an equal 14% considered their organization’s vision persuasive. Exactly half labeled their vision as clear, but fell short of crossing over to the more meaningful choice of persuasive or inspiring. But you see, clear isn’t good enough. Clear does pass the test of “creating” a vision, but falls short of effectively communicating and cultivating something meaningful. This is why we end up falling short of excellence in leadership, effective retention, cultures of genuine service and meaningful work. A full 22% of those responding may be destined to perish with their realization that their organization’s vision is weak or non-existent.

This vision thing goes beyond organizations. It is even more critical when we bring it to a personal level. Yet, when our Front Porch readers were asked if they had a personal written vision statement — a full 89% said NO!

Vision is the pathway to purpose and fulfillment. It gives us the context for commitment and accountability. I don’t know if I have ever talked to anyone who has denied the importance of personal and organizational vision. Yet, for most of us, we walk through our personal and professional life with our retinas detached.

The bottom line is that this vision thing is HUGE! So much so, that I hope you will join me on the Front Porch next month as we ponder it a little longer. I’ll share some further insights from our readers’ write-in responses to our survey. I hope we will SEE you here next month!

ACTION IDEA: Give some serious thought to writing a personal vision statement of WHO you want to be. And then think about the vision of the organization where you work. It is clear? Is it meaningful? Does it inspire? Is it driven to permeate decisions, determine measurements, and give context for rewarding the right people doing the right things? In other words — is it real?