Vision without execution

Maybe you’ve heard the quote before:

“Vision without execution is hallucination.”

I’ve seen it attributed to Thomas Edison, but deeper digging suggests it might not be that old, and may instead be from Stephen Case (AOL).

I heard it in a meeting today and remembered the first time I heard the quote. It came in the context of ownership.

If you know me, you know that my own research suggests that ownership is one of the traits seen across high performing teams in a variety of industries.

The first time I heard it we were talking about turning vision into reality (hence the quote). And the deeper question we were tackling was how to create the behavioral norms that would help every team member personally translate our vision into expectations. Otherwise we’d never see ownership.

I’ll give you an example. Our exec team at the time was holding a retreat in a nice hotel in Fort Lauderdale. We noticed that their staff was super hospitable. I mean, so hospitable that you couldn’t help notice it.

We just had to ask someone how this had come about. Certainly they were hiring for that trait. But even then, everyone was smiling and being cheery.

So we asked. And we got our answer.

Everyone had been trained with the 10 and 5 rule (I’ve since learned this is common in hotel service training). At 10 feet of distance from a guest, they are to make eye contact and warmly smile. At 5 feet, they are to verbally greet me.

This is the perfect example of a behavioral norm. It’s an action that connects behavior to the execution of a goal or vision. In other words, behavioral norms are the manifestation of vision made real.

Our job as leaders isn’t just to focus on vision but also to help our teams create ways to live it out. Jack Welch says, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

So my question today is not shocking: are you helping your teams translate your vision into behavioral norms that are practical and helpful?

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