Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Vision is NOT a hallucination

With the political season in high gear, there's a lot of talk about vision coming from all the candidates...and that's a good thing. We need to have a clear idea about where we're going before we set off in the wrong direction. But it's hard, in the middle of such contentious races, to talk about the candidates' visions without getting mired in their political views...

So here's something less controversial (except to New England Patriots fans.) After the Super Bowl cliff-hanging last quarter, the press talked to winning Giants' quarterback ELI MANNING, who was voted the Most Valuable Player. He talked about those last thrilling minutes when he threw the winning pass that won the game and described his thought process. "I was glad we were down by 4 points! If we were only down by 3, I'd have been tempted to go for a field goal. Being down by 4, I had to get a touchdown. I didn't have a choice. So I did."

Necessity forces us to translate a vision into reality.

That's what I think about when I talk about "vision." That almost calm determination. Manning believed he had no choice but to go for the winning touchdown. The founding fathers believed they had no choice but to go to world with Great Britain, the most powerful country in Europe. The framers of the Constitution believed they had no choice but to risk committing treason for the second time by overthrowing the Articles of Confederation and setting up a new republican form of government.

When I was interviewing CEOs and executives for my new book, everyone one of them told me something very similar. They looked down the road...they had a vision...they saw the future they want to create and they set about doing it.

A City Manager was called to city after city that had deteriorated. He looked at each one and saw a new city, vibrant and unique, waiting to escape from the urban decay. He shared that vision and city after city rose from the squallor and decay.

A banker looked out and saw a different approach to helping individuals who had accumulated great wealth look to their legacy. Knowing the predictive statistics that that fortune would begone within another generation, he fought back. He saw these peoples as wealth creators and their legacy families. He brought the entire family together to create a vision for their future and to create a plan and decision making process to protect that vision.

An executive, who had sold "tooth paste and sandwiches," was tapped to head a new healthcare delivery system of walk-in clinics co-located in other stores. He saw a chance to 'change healthcare' and is delivering on that promise, growing the business at a phenominal rate and being called on to advise industry leaders and the government.

A public servant took over an ailing healthcare system in a major urban area and in two years turned it from a problem-beset, crumbling system into a financially sound system with patient satisfaction soaring and people opting to use their services instead of going to private hospitals.

An engineer rose to CEO of a national engineering firm and set out to make it the "first billion dollar company with a culture!" He created a common vision for the seven merged companies that made it up and insisted that engineers become involved in the community as trusted advisors. Then with a simple statement, "Our offices ought to look like the communities they serve," he transformed the board, the staff and the company's vision for its future.

I could go on with these exciting examples. Each of the executives that I interviewed had thbe ability to turn vision into reality. They simply did not believe that it couldn't be done. As one executive told me, "I was too dumb to know any better!"

Stop a moment and think about the vision you have for yourself, your family, your company, your country. Vision is a powerful driver...It doesn't give you any choice but to succeed.

-- Rebecca Staton-Reinstein
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