If you and your employees are not all seeing exactly the same visions of what your company looks and feels like three years out, there is no chance it will ever happen the way you can see it in your mind today.
Have you ever observed an athlete right before a competition? The next time you watch the Olympics or World Track & Field championships, take a look. Whatever the sport, these athletes use visualization to achieve their desired results, and by imagining the obstacles they might face along the way, they prepare themselves mentally and physically for the challenge.
The gymnast Mary Lou Retton carried index cards around with her with each step of her Gold medal routine mapped out. She read them over and over again and then re-created her vision during Olympic competition.
The visualization techniques used by athletes can also be applied to business. I’ve had enormous success with the process since learning about it from an Olympic coach and sports psychologist.
Years after listening to this Olympic coach talk at an Entrepreneurs’ Organization business event in 1998, I found a concrete business example where the process of visualization was already working in companies. Builders used it every day with clients. It was a lot like building a dream home. Homeowners can visualize what a dream house—or designer kitchen—looks like, then the homeowners talk to an architect and explain the vision they have. Once the architect can “see” the same vision as the homeowner, he or she can create the blueprints for the dream home. The construction workers simply follow the blueprints and can build the vision the homeowners had in their minds without ever needing to talk to them.
When you have a blueprint for success, you’re more likely to achieve your desired goal, whether it’s building a house, winning a sports competition, or growing a business. That’s why it’s essential that you communicate to your employees, suppliers, shareholders and even your clients, what your business is going to look like at every stage of its growth, but most importantly, what it’s going to look like in three years. I find a three year timeline the best time period to cover. It is short enough to be seen as realistic and achievable thereby allowing employees to incorporate the blueprint into their over-arching and day-to-day goals.
This blueprint isn’t a to-do list, a five-year plan, or a vision statement. The Entrepreneurs vision is more like a Painted Picture. It’s different. It’s so much more. It’s a written description of what the future looks and feels like. This is when an entrepreneur, founder, CEO—whatever you call yourself—plants one foot in the present, and then dips the other into the future, into what “could be.”
When you peer into the future, what do you see? What do you want to be there? What materializes in front of you as the epitome of success? Don’t worry about how you’re going to build it, just focus on describing what you see over the next three years. One exercise that is helpful is to imagine you’re filming every aspect of your business: your employees, customers, supplier relationships and so on. Once you’ve completed this exercise in its entirety, you’ve created what I like to call the “Painted Picture.” You can find a sample of one by reading mine on the Who’s Cameron tab of my website.
Cameron Herold is the founder of BackPocket COO, where he coaches CEOs and entrepreneurs, and the former COO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? He is speaker resource for the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (www.eonetwork.org) and Young Presidents’ Organization (www.ypo.org), global networks of more than 24,000 business leaders in over 100 countries, and has spoken to entrepreneurs in 17 countries and in groups as large as 2,000 people. His blog can be found at www.BackPocketCOO.com/blog.