Share your Paintbrush, Share your Vision

One of the key metrics to employee engagement is how they feel their day-to-day work relates to a shared vision.

It's tempting to think that this simply means being more communicative about the company goals (which were often defined by a group of managers outside of the team). However, there's a large difference between "sharing a vision" and "creating a shared vision", and that's because there are two types of sharing.

The first is where you let others see what you have. Say you're an artist; You're working on your next painting. You've spent days on it. You've already traced and painting in the majority of the details. You're almost done with the piece and just want a few eyes on it. So you "share" your art with your team. You ask them for feedback on anything you might have missed.

This is good, and a decent way to get feedback, but you keep control of the vision to yourself.

It's more comfortable as a leader to take this approach and it's a very tempting habit to fall in to. The manager spends their time thinking of how they view the future of their team. They create timelines, make decisions, and set goals, all based on their singular viewpoint. The details of the vision are almost completely defined, except for a few missing points.

So you decide to "share" your vision; open it up for feedback. You hold a meeting or send an e-mail with what you've thought up. You ask everyone for feedback; after all, we're a team and we decide on everything together. A comment or two about something minor is brought up and discussed. But nothing major occurs; there simply isn't room for it. The bulk of the plan is already made, and changing course at this point would be a waste.

That's one way to share your vision. It's a safe way, and helps ensure your ideas are remain yours.

But there's another type of sharing, one much more open and much more vulnerable.

It happens before the painting has even begun. It's starts with a piece of paper, of which you've drawn a light sketch with a rough idea of your thoughts.

At this point, you can darken in the lines and make things definite. Or you give it to your team and say, "here's my idea, let's finish this together".

You are now handing your idea over to your team, in a way that allows them to ink in the details and erase bits they find unnecessary.

This is a scary thought for me, as the finished product will never be what I originally thought of. It will change, and likely in ways I'm uncomfortable with. It will take approaches I wouldn't; either because I was ignorant of them, or too afraid of their drawbacks.

What if your team gets an idea wrong, and you can't convince them otherwise? Now you've handed over your great work to a group of people that maybe you don't trust, much like letting a toddler loose on a tower of blocks.

And that's what holds leaders back. Lack of trust. Lack of confidence in their team's collective intelligence. Ultimately, that's what holds teams, and companies, back.

As a leader are you just "sharing" your finished painting? Or are you willing to put your pen down, give your team buckets of paint, and say to them "let's paint a masterpiece"?

Enjoy this content? Check out my upcoming book, The Non-Conformist Leader.