In part 1 of this series on why MY vision is not yet OUR vision, I addressed the investment problem: that all too often I am generating interest in what is happening but not involvement from people. Until people see their face in my vision picture they will not find their place in my vision, so they will not make it our vision. The solution to this problem means that if I generate involvement and go beyond mere interest, my vision will begin to become our vision.

The second problem and realization that I have about vision is as follows:

Direction Problem
Realization: I am facilitating discussions but not decisions

I find that we leave meetings with a lot of great ideas but that everyone lacks clarity on next steps or even what the purpose of the meeting was. People are giving input, but later on they seem to have forgotten what we talked about. I have begun to realize that I am facilitating discussions but not decisions related to our key mission critical work. I have a direction problem when it comes to vision in my leadership role.

Here’s a story that might help you see how this feels… perhaps you relate:

Image by Oren neu dag via Wikimedia Commons

The 12 Pirates Parable

Twelve pirates piled into a lifeboat after their ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean after a battle. After a dark night on the waves the pirates woke up realizing that their boat had a small hole in it, so they were all sitting in four inches of water. The Captain gathered his mateys about him and they began to assess the situation. One suggested the hole came from a cannon ball. Others thought that the hole was too small for that, and must have come from a musket ball. Another said that the wood may have rotted out. After examining the hole together they wondered if perhaps a shark had been worrying the bottom of the boat in the night. This prospect filled them with terror. Eventually they all agreed that the hole was most likely created by a musket ball. The Captain had engendered great loyalty among his crew, as usual, and they all felt they had contributed to the discussion helpfully. So, satisfied that they had engaged in a robust and hearty discussion of options and likely cause of the hole all of the twelve pirates subsequently drowned when their lifeboat sank.

Here’s the moral to the 12 Pirates Parable: Discussing a problem does not mean you have decided anything that will solve it.

Too often I as a leader am satisfied to facilitate a discussion about things without arriving at any critical decisions after such discussion. What’s more, we may have some sense of unity about the situation, without having actually arrived at any solution to the problem. The pirates were unified in their discussion, but someone needed to ask: “shouldn’t we be deciding how to stop the lifeboat from sinking, rather than analyzing why it is sinking in the first place?” Any old pirate can ask this question and help turn an inconsequential discussion into a consequential decision-making meeting. As a leader, however, this should be my job first and foremost.

It is my not role to help everyone “give input” alone. It is my job to facilitate decisions that move us forward.

Come back for Part 3: “Execution Problem”

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