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Becoming a Person Centred Leader Part 5: How to Create a Shared Vision, Purpose and Goals

“Defining a shared purpose is often a challenging and painful exercise because some narrower interests will have to be sacrificed for the interests of the whole” (Heifetz, Linsky and Grashow, 2009, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership). And I think this is true for sharing a new vision as well, because something new (vision and /or purpose) requires that there be change. And within the change process, it is important to manage the elephant in the room, that there is loss as well as gain for the people involved.

For this reason I’m not going to talk about the practical aspects and tools for developing a shared vision, purpose and goals. These can be found in other places – and I have listed a couple at the end of this post for you. Instead, I am going to focus on the people part of developing a new vision and purpose or adjusting an existing one.

So what do I mean by loss as well as gain being associated with change? Imagine a team that has  been together for 2 years and they provide a great service to their clients, work well together, know what to do and how to do it,  they are comfortable, autonomous and certain in their roles. Their leader however has a different perspective and recognises that if they keep providing the service in the same way, their clients will outgrow them, moving towards service providers that work in a different way. She knows they need to develop a vision and purpose that embraces a new way of thinking and working that will ensure that clients remain satisfied with the services they are getting now and into the future.

Now imagine the impact of this on the team. Team members may have to change the way they work and how they view themselves (e.g. expert). They will need to learn new ways of doing things. They are likely to feel less certain in their roles and knowledge, autonomy may be impacted for a while and so may their feelings around their status in the team creating feelings of disequilibrium. These may be felt as losses and they are barriers to change, to developing a new way forward.

So how could this leader then approach the creation of a new vision and purpose that will ensure the future growth of her department and her team? What could she do?

  • Remembering that we each see the world as we are not as it is, she could share her perspective and help the team understand what she can see and how she learned what she has learned.
  • She could ask them for their views on what she has shared.
  • She could find out what is important to the team about the work it does and for what purpose they do this work – both individuals and as a collective (their purpose and values)
  • She could acknowledge the losses associated with the required changes
  • And importantly she could also talk about the losses associated with maintaining the status quo.
  • She could ask them for their ideas for the future directions of the services the team provide
  • And she could relate this back to the teams existing purpose aligning future with current purpose and values and creating space to develop or build on these in the context of the new vision.

How to create a shared vision by Jesse Lyn Stoner

Defining purpose and setting goals

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