Guest column: The best way to clarify your vision
Business leaders experiencing burnout rarely have clear visions. Kara Jorvig of Allegro Group in Fargo, N.D., offers expert advice about how to create boundaries and keep leaders focused.
Part of every leader’s job is to cast a vision for their team. But before you can cast a vision for others, you must clarify the vision you have for yourself.
There was a time a few years ago when I was desperate for that kind of clarity, and I found it in an unexpected place.
It was early December, and I was exhausted. Like most business leaders, I had been grinding through hundreds of meetings throughout the year and rarely slowed down.
Business was piling up, Christmas was around the corner, and I still needed a plan for kicking off the new year in a big way. But I couldn’t create a clear vision for the future because there just wasn’t time to establish the right mindset. Then, I did something I had never done before.
I canceled my meetings and took a solo trip to San Diego. For a few days, I gave myself the space to clarify my vision.
When I came home, I had a fresh perspective for myself and my business. It wasn’t the trip itself that brought me clarity; it was the practices I made time for while there.
Burnt-out leaders rarely have clear visions.
We grind. We make moves and make things happen. We feel like we don’t have time to slow down or get tired. Our work is demanding, and we also put a lot of demands on ourselves.
We aren’t meant to go this hard without any end. The daily pressures of business and personal life will inevitably pile up and cloud our vision, leading to burnout.
When you get swept up in the grind of the day-to-day, it’s easy to lose sight of who you are, how you want to show up for those around you and where you want to go.
That’s why it’s so important to set aside the time and space to focus on clarifying your vision. This isn’t about work-life balance; it’s about boundaries, knowing when to press pause and being disciplined in doing so.
But how do you do that?
Four Steps to Clarifying Your Vision
1. Take an Intentional Pause
It’s difficult to gain clarity on any topic when you’re running on empty. That’s why the first step in the visioning process is to create the right conditions.
This starts with setting a specific time for your visioning session; I recommend a three-day process. Don't try to weave it in between meetings or make it part of a typical work week. Slowing down like this is usually unnatural for leaders, so you need time to ease into it.
Clear your calendar completely for the days before, during and after your visioning session. This way, you have time to rest and refuel. Plus, you won't have a pile of work waiting for you on the other end and distracting you from the task at hand.
2. Open Yourself Up to Inspiration
It’s important to create the right mindset on the day(s) of your visioning session. Visioning is unlike many other types of work that we commonly do in business. It requires a blend of creative thinking, heightened awareness and deep focus.
Here are some ideas that can help you establish the right mindset:
- Hold your session in an environment that brings you a sense of peace and joy; somewhere in nature, a clean and comfortable space of your home or another quiet place that inspires and uplifts you.
- Set the vibe in a way that awakens your mind but doesn’t create stress. Aromatherapy combined with bright, natural light and inspiring background music are a powerful mix. Use as many of your senses as possible to tell your mind that it’s time to explore what’s possible.
- Clear your mind; declutter your space and relax with a meditation exercise.
The goal is to think about the future state you desire for yourself, your business or your team. You can start by declaring your intention. Write that down so you can refer to it later.
Remember that you are starting a new thing that is probably unlike most of your work. Don’t get overly tied to an outcome, and try to stay open to what the process brings you.
3. Establish Your Word of Intent
To keep from getting overwhelmed, I recommend identifying a “word of intent”, a specific theme or idea that resonates and inspires me.
Having an established word of intent helps you stay focused on your vision. Use it as a lens and ask yourself “Did I live that out today?” and “Do I feel that way?”. Over time, your word of intent will become a compass that guides you closer to your vision.
4. Create Your Vision
Most people don’t just think their way into their vision. They capture it in some sort of way, typically through a visual or written medium. My team and I encourage clients to stay open minded about trying something new and experiment with the following tools:
- Physical vision boards – using tag board and magazine cutouts
- Digital vision boards - using Pinterest or a graphic design program
- Mindfulness - using guided meditation with introspective questions
Remember, though, your vision board or vision journal isn't a to-do list. It is a symbolic collection used to remind you of your vision and act as a source of inspiration throughout the year.
Bring it Full Circle
Visions aren’t just for individual leaders, so once you have your own vision established, it’s important to replicate the process for your team. Aligning teams around a shared vision is a key component of the business and leadership consulting work we do at Allegro Group, and it’s critical to building high-performance teams.
It takes discipline, but the results are worth it.
Kara Jorvig is the founder and CEO of Allegro Group, a premier consulting, organizational development and talent acquisition firm in Fargo, N.D.