6 Reasons Why Your Vision May be Failing (And What to Do About It)

by Chris Cloud

Since there are many excellent articles on Vision Casting out there, I have decided to come at this from a different angle. My question is: Where is a vision likely to fall off the rails? I’d argue that most individuals, and most organizations, are not guided by a clear vision.

I have been a part of a few organizations that nailed it, and a few that could have achieved so much more if they had a clear vision and steered towards it. I’ve also consulted with dozens of companies regarding their brand and strategy, and inevitably vision comes up as one of the most powerful elements of growth and impact.

Without a vision, the people perish. – Proverbs 29:18

Here are some simple observations on where a vision commonly goes off the rails, and what to do about it. Note: I believe a clear vision is just as transformative, and sadly, just as rare for an individual as it is for a group or organization. So even if you aren’t leading a company, this is for you.

Where do Visions Fail?

Lack of Clarity: “What exactly is our vision?” It’s either too complicated, or it’s too ambiguous. Keep it simple enough for a 4th grader to understand. Poor vision: “we’re going to be big and successful one day”. What does that even mean? Strong vision, “We’re going to put all of the world’s information online.” (Google’s vision). It’s clear. It’s stupid simple, though it’s not easy by any stretch. It’s ambitious, almost pretentious, but it’s compelling. It conjures up visceral imagery. The old explorers were great at this. For example, Ernest Shackleton’s vision was, “To accomplish the first crossing of the Antarctic continent.” 

Lack of Focus: OK, so our vision is to accomplish the first crossing of Antarctica. Great. Then why are we spending time and resources discussing trade routes to India? I’d say Focus is harder than obtaining the vision in the first place. It’s the day to day stuff that makes or breaks us.

Lack of Reinforcement: The leadership wizard Patrick Lencioni wrote “The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive”, and three of the four are: Create Clarity, Over-communicate Clarity, and Reinforce Clarity. We as people need way more reinforcement than we do instruction. We would be wise to build in reinforcement all along the way if we are ever going to fulfill a vision.

Lack of Unity: People rowing in competing directions is a danger area. Our vision may involve rowing this boat to Antarctica, but half the people on the boat are rowing in an entirely different direction – some to Alaska, some to Cuba – we’ll never get there, or it will be ugly if we do. Get the right people in the ship, and make sure they are rowing in the same direction.

Lack of a meaningful “Why”: We may know exactly what our vision is, and we talk about it all the time, but honestly no one actually cares about the vision, including our leadership team. No one owns it. If your vision is to “make the best quality widgets” in the industry, and your people couldn’t care less about that, you’ve got a problem.

Suggestion: Ask, “Why is this our/my vision?” and make sure your Why is greater than your What. If our vision is to row a boat to Antarctica, then ask why that matters. Watch “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” (Start with Why) by Simon Sinek.

Lack of Endurance: Too many of us give up at the slightest obstacle, the slightest challenge, the slightest wind in a new direction. Or more likely, overwhelming obstacles and mountains get in our way and we diverge. This is the reason our Why, and our people’s Why, must be big enough to push through and find a way to dig deep when the challenges and resistance comes (and resistance will always come in many forms). Ask yourself, “What am I willing to suffer for?” The greatest long distance runner in history, Yiannis Kouros, said:

The verb ‘endure’ is not a physical one, it is a spiritual one. Endure means to withstand. You must be patient and then do solid training. Without patience, you will never conquer endurance.

Does any of this resonate with your experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, or recommendations


Chris Cloud Chris Cloud is an entrepreneur who has been living and working with his wife in Nepal over the past 3 years. He is passionate about helping companies and individuals identify their perceived growth ceiling, and break past that ceiling. He is partner at a firm in the U.S., ALIGN. ALIGN helps leadership teams clarify their “true north” and gain traction by aligning every aspect of the organization to that vision. He holds a degree in business administration, but counts his 12+ years of starting or serving in a series of fast-growing startups as his real entrepreneurial education! 

On a good day, you’ll find Chris running up a mountain or snowboarding down one. You can connect with him here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ccloud/


This post was originally published on Chris’ LinkedIn article feed, reposted with kind permission.