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Inspiring Your Team Starts with This Simple Tip

August 7, 2019 Mark Hannum

The most effective leaders provide hope and inspiration for the future and direct their energy toward a bold vision. These Purposeful Leaders create an inspiring vision that unites teams and organizations toward a common purpose.

An inspiring vision must be made up of a series of goals, and our research in Purposeful Leadership® shows that effectiveness and goal setting are highly correlated. In fact, we have found that leaders who are rated highest by their teams in effectiveness are also rated highest in their ability to set a goal.

Consider this: There are usually no more than 10 jumps from the most fundamental tasks done in an organization to the broader mission or vision of the organization. As leaders, we must be able understand how these fundamental tasks fit into the broader mission—and be able to communicate that vision in a way that truly inspires others.

A young leader in the healthcare field that I’m coaching recently asked me, “How can I be more inspiring?”

I offered to look at some of the materials she had recently presented to her team. My inbox soon filled with Word documents, PowerPoints, and MBOs she had written for her direct reports. I spent an hour or so combing through all them, analyzing the message being communicated to her team via these documents. 

Here’s the vision I found buried in these materials: “Shaping our organization’s future by finding and sharing new knowledge.”

Let’s unpack that. This vision statement meets many of the common criteria for a vision statement, including concise, clear language, and it’s memorable. It’s just 10 words and begins with an action verb—which is a good starting point.

On the other hand, this vision statement doesn’t tell me what the operation of her team is—does she work for a library or archive? I walked away not feeling very inspired. There’s a lot missing here—and I wanted her to dive deeper to develop a truly inspiring vision.

I emailed her back and asked a simple question: “In order to…?”

She replied: “Support our scientists.”

Again, I responded: “In order to…?”

Her response: “Develop pediatric therapies for life-threatening diseases.”

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere—but we’re not quite there yet. I replied: Your organization supports scientists in finding knowledge that helps to eliminate life-threatening pediatric illnesses.

Do you think that your team of 20 will find this more inspiring?

A few hours later, she hit the nail on the head: “Here’s a vision that will inspire my team: My organization collaborates with scientists to develop therapies that save children’s lives.”

I call this exercise the “In Order To” Ladder, and it’s a hugely beneficial tool for those looking to create a vision that truly sparks inspiration. This simple exercise can have a huge impact when it comes to crafting the definition of your own inspiring vision.


Tell us: How do you work to inspire your team and organization? How did you develop—and maintain—your own inspiring vision?

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