Taking The Time To See

“The pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has not vision.”  – Helen Keller

Leadership, regardless of title, evidences many characteristics.  Perhaps the most important characteristic is having vision – the kind that Helen Keller speaks of in the above quote.

Having vision means having a picture of how your advancement efforts can better serve your organization in the future.  Perhaps it is a vision for the next year, or maybe even a vision for the next five or even ten years.

Your vision for the future may include goals such as raising more money, creating a compelling organizational brand, increasing staff productivity and size, or implementing a new donor database.  It’s the dream you have for the future, with the plan to make the dream a reality.

But here’s the problem.  I typically find advancement teams take far too little time to do this visioning work.  “We have so much to do everyday, we just don’t have the time to sit around in meetings on this stuff,” is a common reason given as to why they don’t spend more time in visioning and planning.  When I hear such excuses, I know that the team has sight, but no vision.

This thinking only compounds the problem.  The less time we spend in visioning and planning, the less agreement we will have regarding the work on which we should be spending our time.  Therefore, we are more apt to respond to everything that comes along because there is no consensus on vision.

On the other hand, and very similar to Stephen Covey’s Important/Urgent Time Management Matrix, the more time spent in visioning and planning, the more agreement we will have regarding our goals.  Therefore, we are able to spend our time much more productively – and even turn away some ideas which would take us off the path of goal achievement.

So, how much time do I encourage my clients to spend in visioning and planning for the future?  At least 5-7 full days each year.  Those are days away from the office, with phones and email turned off, concentrating as a team on crafting a vision for the future, agreeing upon shared goals, discussing action plans, and assessing our performance.

This is fun work.  We should make this work interactive, engaging, playful, and meaningful.  We should make sure we celebrate and build upon our successes during these visioning days.  And we should aim to enjoy the people on our team.  When you spend 5-7 days each year doing this work, you may be surprised at how quickly team members begin to say, “We have so much to do in the future, we can’t miss one of our planning meetings!”

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