Vision: Why It’s Important
In October of 2014, I had the bittersweet pleasure of attending a client’s after work event. It was for a senior executive who was retiring after decades of service in the field, along with close to a decade, working at this particular agency. I was at the table where the Executive Director also sat.
As this client was preparing to relocate its headquarters to a brand new site in the near future, much of the talk at the table concerned the move. The Executive Director was asked about the progress concerning the renovation of the space. Her eyes lit up, and she began to talk about it and where they stood. It was clear from her tone and body language that she thought things were going well. And it was infectious; others at the table were listening intently.
At some point someone asked about the architects in charge of the renovations. How were they selected? The Executive Director discussed how during the Request for Proposal (RFP) process, she narrowed it down to two architecture firms. During the first round of interviews with both, she asked about practical matters, such as what their experience was, references and work methods. She also questioned them about how they would manage the process of converting a former warehouse into a preschool. Both firms essentially performed well in this meeting.
Vision is what separates you (as illustrated by by the example with the architectural firms) from others in consideration for the same opportunity.
She then asked them both to visit the site in question. This was a critical step in the selection process, primarily because the space was challenging. One floor had a ceiling which was lower than average (approximately 7.5 feet). Also, all the windows on that same floor had been sealed. The second floor had a different problem–its ceilings were roughly 20 feet in height!
In what ways would these respective firms tackle these concerns, and help to realise the client’s vision of a great space for young children and their families?
The Executive Director and Firm A came in to look at the space. How did they view the challenges of the space? As she put it, “Their eyes lit up like kids in a candy store!” They immediately started to create plans on how they could work around the limitations of the space. For one, they thought that recessed bay lights would help offset the effect of a low ceiling. For another, they insisted that the windows be unsealed, and interior spaces be designed to take advantage of as much natural light as possible. In other words, they saw solutions and possibilities.
At a later date, the Executive Director brought in Firm B. Talk about contrast! Whereas Firm A saw possibilities, Firm B’s response upon seeing the space was, “I can’t do anything here.”
Two firms, both technically competent and suitable for the assignment. Which one do you believe got the contract with the Executive Director’s agency? Obviously, it was Firm A. While the two articulated that they could perform the base functions of the required work, only Firm A demonstrated vision.
By coming up with ideas, which turned a deficit into a chance to create something different, Firm A demonstrated a ‘can-do’ vision, and won the contract.
In the context of this post, I describe vision as the ability to see, articulate, and execute objectives that go beyond the minimum requirements asked by a client or organisation.
How does a person or organisation display great vision? Here are a few suggestions:
- Insight. This means that you understand the client’s needs, both spoken and unspoken. Vision needs to be aligned with a client’s core needs. For job seekers, this means going beyond what may be outlined in the job description. For businesses, insight means being able to understand the full scope of the client’s request for services. From there, one must be able to understand where it can provide added value.
- Attitude. I define ‘attitude’ as the way a person responds to people, situations or events. In the context of this post, it’s about how you interact with an organisation and its members. Are you displaying enthusiastic behaviour? Can you provide solutions where others may not see them? For Firm B, they demonstrated the latter. This is part of the reason why they didn’t win the contract with the agency.
- Work ethic. Of course, having vision must also be coupled with the ability to carry it to fruition. Otherwise, adequate value isn’t being given. Work ethic ties in closely with attitude, with a focus on how to demonstrate your approach to getting a job done. Your work ethic shows employers or clients that your behaviours match what’s needed in order to execute effectively. For example, if the job entails short deadlines, do you demonstrate a sense of urgency? Your work ethic is how you show employers or clients that you know how to do great things for an organisation.
In the story I shared, Firm A demonstrated that they had the ability to see where its practice can be used to relieve the Executive Director’s anxiety about the site’s renovation (insight). They displayed enthusiasm in coming up with solutions to a number of design challenges (attitude). And those ideas are now in the process of being realised, and were shown to be in-line with the agency’s needs (work ethic).
Whether you’re a job seeker looking to obtain a role, or a business attempting to secure a sale, it’s important to have vision. A clearly articulated and well executed vision serves as a signal, allowing others to see how you’re going to make their lives easier and deliver great value.