You walk into your local grocery or market, looking for apples. You see the displays. They are bursting with apples of many varieties. To your left you notice a sea of yellow and red apples – the sign says they are Jonathans. To your right you see bright, green Granny Smiths. But straight ahead, you see the biggest, reddest Red Delicious apples you have ever seen. You are drawn to the display knowing that is what you want. As you walk closer you can see that the merchant has polished every one.
You pick up a bag and start to select a few of the red marvels. Usually in this process you sort through looking for the fruit with no blemishes or soft spots. Today, though, each of these beauties is perfect. It is as if the merchant has already done the work for you. As you hold each apple in your hand you notice that each one could be used in a picture postcard or an advertisement.
You smile as you carry your paper bag of apples to the cashier. In your brief, pleasant conversation with the cashier you mention how great the apples look. He smiles and assures you that they taste even better. He mentions he had one on his break and he thought it was the best apple he had ever eaten.
When you get to your car and close the door, suddenly all you can smell are apples! Between the sight, touch and conversation about the apples you were already hungry. But once you get the smell, you can wait no longer. Before you even start your car you pick up one of those big red apples and take a bite. The taste is incredibly sweet, and it is so firm that you hear that satisfying snap when you complete the bite and pull the apple from your lips.
So tell me . . . Are you hungry for an apple?
Can you almost taste the imaginary apple in this short story?
If you can, there is a reason: Our minds can’t tell the difference between something real and something vividly imagined. If this story created a vivid mental image for you, you are likely wondering where you can find an apple.
And in this story of the apple lies the keys to creating a powerful vision for a project team (or any team for that matter).
A vision must be real. This story was more real for you if you buy apples, have a car and most importantly if you like apples (especially Red Delicious). When we make a vision for a project real for people – something that they can see happening and seems within the scope of the “possible" (even if it is a stretch) – we will make the vision much more powerful.
A vision must be personal. Notice I talked about the market you go to and your car. I tried to make the story as personal to you as I could. And, as you read it, you likely were embellishing the story yourself. Seeing the market you shop in – whether a Farmer’s Market, roadside stand or your favorite grocery store. We must make the vision of project success personal. People need to see how they will be impacted and how the work and its outcomes will have meaning from them. When we do that, we have a created a more motivating vision.
A vision must be desired. Again, if you connected with this story, you probably like big, juicy, red, crisp apples. If not, this story isn’t very desirable to you and therefore the vision won’t be that compelling. If you don’t like apples (or if you have never eaten an apple) this might not work very well for you. This is important. Often the vision is desired by the leader or the people who start the project (they really like apples) but for that vision to be compelling to others, the others must want to achieve that vision as well.
A vision can be expressed powerfully in a story. Hopefully I’ve illustrated this for you. And, when we can help people create the story (rather than telling it to them as I had to do in this situation) the vision becomes even more powerful.
You have the four keys now, and you have a story to help you put the keys together. Now it is time to create a vision for your project. Maybe the project is halfway done or maybe it starts next week. Regardless the stage in your project’s lifecycle, you can use these keys to your advantage for the ultimate success of your project and its team members.
Now, go get your apple.
Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. To receive your free special report on Unleashing Your Potential go to http://www.kevineikenberry.com/uypw/index.asp or call us at (317) 387-1424 or 888. LEARNER.