March 30 2009 03:29 PM

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush had a problem. He was unclear about the power of the “vision thing.” Some say he lost the election to Bill Clinton because he didn’t share his vision. If only he had read Peter Senge’s 1990 book, The Fifth Discipline, he would have learned that, “A shared vision is not an idea. It is rather a force in people’s hearts, a force of impressive power. Few, if any, forces in human affairs are as powerful as shared vision. When people truly share a vision they are connected, bound together by a common aspiration.” Imagine if your company or your team shared a vision. How different would your workplace be?

My first piece of advice to be a better manager is to “share your vision.” Many times, when I make this recommendation, managers tell me that they are not sure what their vision is. They think of it as a lofty statement on the wall. What is vision? How can you discover yours? And how will it help you to become a better manager?

One of the easiest ways for me to discover my vision is to think about what I don’t want. For instance, what frustrates you about being a manager? If we were talking, what would you say that you are not happy about when it comes to managing people? Think about a complaint that you have—ideally, a recurring grievance. 

Now, take a moment and complete the following sentence: I am sick and tired of __________________________________________________________.
This idea comes from the book, How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work. I answered the question this way in 2001: “I am sick and tired of people making excuses and not doing what they said they would do.”

Behind every complaint is a commitment to making something different. In my case, I wished my employees would fulfill their promises. I didn’t want stories; I wanted results. Authors Kegan and Lahey state, “We would not complain about anything if we did not care about something.” Think about your complaint. What do you care about? What commitment do you hold that is implied in your complaint?

In my example, I saw that I was committed to a value that I hold, which is trust. I want to be able to count on my staff and to trust them to do what they say. My vision is to have a trustworthy relationship with my employees.

When we complain, we tell ourselves and others what we can’t stand. When we look at what our commitment is, we tell ourselves and others what we stand for. This is your vision. Vision is seeing what life could be like while dealing with life as it is. When we share our vision with an employee, we can invite them to share that vision.

Here is my suggestion: the next time you hear yourself complaining, turn it around. Take a look at what you stand for and write it down in the form of your value and commitment or vision for the future. At the same time, the next time you hear one of your employees complain, find out what they care about. Use this as an opportunity to discover their values and vision—and create a shared vision.

The beautiful effect of sharing your vision is that it increases clarity, enthusiasm, communication and commitment. Your ability to paint a picture of the future can ignite the passion of your team. One of our deepest desires as human beings is to be connected to a larger purpose or value. As Robert Fritz explains, “In the presence of greatness, pettiness disappears.” 

Mark is the Chairman of a New York City think tank composed of CEOs focused on “outperforming” their competition. He is with Vistage International, the world’s leading chief executive organization. He applies his 30 years of experience as an accomplished CEO & corporate manager towards increasing the effectiveness and enhancing the lives of CEOs. Mark holds a MBA from the University of Phoenix and is a graduate of the Coaching and Organizational Learning Program through George Mason University. He can be reached at (212) 867-5849 or