It’s not exactly a secret that we rely on signs and symbols to guide us at many times throughout our days. The traffic signals which work as “Stop-wait-proceed” symbols on the road are perhaps the most famous examples. Then, there are the pointed arrows which lead us to the destination that we want to reach.
Continuing on the road, other symbols are also visible- like the ones for the airport of a highway.
Vision keeps you from getting entangled in abstract notions of growth
While these are all man-made symbols, there are other-natural- symbols which also give us an idea of which direction to move in. For instance, assume that you are driving down a road and you are about to turn right into a wooded region which you have been planning to visit.
All of a sudden, you see a wildfire up ahead of you. It’s a natural wildfire and it acts as a sign that says you shouldn’t proceed any further. So, after notifying the authorities, you turn away from your intended destination and seek out another destination.
On the other hand, you may come upon something beautiful- like a field of flowers- on your drive which you would then proceed to visit, possibly even making an impromptu detour to do the same. In this instance, rather than driving you away from it, a natural symbol attracted you towards it.
But such symbols are not found in nature alone. They are very much present in human interactions too.
The signs offered by human actions
Something as simple as a smile, for instance, could be a symbol. A friendly smile could act as an invitation to approach someone and strike up a conversation. Similarly, a furious look may be enough deterrent for many to not approach someone, or even move away from that person.
It’s not just visual cues that act as signs and symbols. Auditory signs are also as much a part of the ‘sign’ spectrum’ as anything. A wail in the dead of the night from a neighboring house may prompt you to get out of your home to go and see what’s wrong. The vicious sound of a dog snarling may give you second ideas about proceeding down a dark alleyway.
We haven’t even scratched the surface of the list of symbols and signs that motivate our actions throughout our lives. The above sub-set, small though it is, is meant to give you an idea of the vastness of these symbols which we interact with.
Reading signs within an organization
Such vastness is true about the symbols and cues which a leader processes- knowingly or not- to guide his organization towards the future.
Just as when we see a wildfire on the path, our first instinct is to run away, an employee functioning in a mode which doesn’t fit in the leader’s view of how s/he should function may make them take the reactionary stand of admonishing or even firing the employee.
However, it may be that the employee in question was functioning off the beaten track because he was trying out something that may have been ultimately beneficial for the organization. Maybe it could even have been more beneficial to the company than the trajectory currently laid out for the organization.
In other words, the symbol may have been misread. And such misreadings are more plausible in organizations than you may think. For one thing, such ‘symbols’ constituted by employee actions are harder to read than the signs that one may come across on the road. Also, many leaders and managers have a preconceived notion that employees would naturally try to slack at every opportunity.
The only way to avoid such misreadings is to get a clearer understanding of what motivates each employee in your team, their aspirations and skills which may not be in display at work but which are formidable all the same.
Using Vision to avoid misreading signs
Compelling Shared Vision is the vision that’s born from among the team members which is also the shared goal towards which they move. Contrary to goals and targets which are imposed by an external authority, Compelling Shared Vision is more organic to the team.
While being attuned to the overall vision that the organization is pursuing, Compelling Shared Vision is also derived from the aspirations and skills of the team members. This gives the team a very powerful impetus to realize the vision.
In the process of discovering the Compelling Shared Vision, the change agents are encouraged to share their aspirations, the challenges they have overcome and the strategies they used to overcome them with others in the team and their leader. This gives you an unparalleled view into each individual’s soul, enabling you to read their actions- the signs- in the right way
Temenos Vision Lab or TVL is a unique session developed by Temenos+Agility that helps teams discover their Compelling Shared Vision.