It’s hard to believe in something you cannot see.

The ability to share a vision and inspire others to support an initiative or venture is a key trait of effective leaders. If you plan to make change or implement solutions, you will need to inspire others to imagine what is possible and take action. Sounds simple enough, but getting people to buy-in to your idea can be tricky. Whether you are pitching an angel investor for early stage funding or trying to motivate your team, you need to make sure you share your vision in an understandable and actionable way.

Dan and Chip Heath recommend a simple formula. They use the metaphor of riding an elephant. Elephants are massive animals you can’t move by force alone.

If you’re going to ride an elephant…

  • provide crystal clear direction (have a vision)
  • motivate the elephant (provide purpose & meaning)
  • clear the path (remove or acknowledge obstacles)

Of course, like riding an elephant, sharing your vision is easier said than done. One way to build buy-in from the start is incorporating multiple voices. Bring stakeholders to the table around a specific purpose, ask them to contribute and establish trust. When people feel heard, they are a part of the vision and more likely to be flexible as obstacles arise- and they will.

How can you clear the path? Well, you can listen. Obstacles look different for different people. Ask questions and listen deeply. What can you add or remove from the situation to maximize forward motion towards a collective vision?

Ask BIG QUESTIONS to help you grow…

  1. What is your vision?
  2. Why are you the right person?
  3. What will motivate others to support you?
  4. How can you include stakeholders in your process?

More Reading & Resources

  1. Heath, D & Heath, C. (2010) Switch
  2. SSRI. (2016) Leading Change Through Adaptive Design
  3. Ariely, Dan. (2012) TED Talk: What makes us feel good about our work

Tools for Teams

Idea Post: Want to create equity in your conversation? Try this- it’s a favorite, because it works! Grab some sticky notes and a sharpie. Set the clock for 1-2 minutes. Individually generate one idea per sticky. Use it to answer a specific question or just throw out a topic — don’t forget to share out! You will prevent groupthink and make sure all voices are heard.

Backcasting: If we take time to envision something in the future, we can set the stage for what is possible and work backwards to get there. Pose a question about a desired future (ie. “What do I want my life/team/project to look like in 6 months?”). Idea post the answer to your question. Now, what would help you make this vision a reality? Identify the key events, conditions, or triggers that are needed to reach your desired future.

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