I’ve heard many executives try to answer questions about vision. The responses tend to be wordy. Perhaps the speaker meanders a bit. That’s unfortunate because a question about vision is often a plea for help.
Here are some questions you might hear:
If the question comes from a junior employee, I’m inclined to take it at face value. The questioner just wants to know about the vision.
On the other hand, if the question comes from a more senior person – especially a person who manages other people – it may have a different meaning altogether. The question is not so much when we’ll have a vision but:
The person may well understand the vision (in general terms) but doesn’t feel comfortable explaining and defending it. The question is actually a plea for help.
You could, of course, answer the question and explain the vision. But you would miss the opportunity to convert the person into an ambassador for your message.
If you answer the question literally, you’ll give information to one person. If you can create an ambassador, on the other hand, you can amplify your message and deliver it to hundreds of people. Moreover, your messengers will be trusted members of the local environment. That’s often much more powerful than hearing the same message from an executive who works thousands of miles away.
How do you create ambassadors? There are at least three steps:
First, make them feel like part of the team. Someone who feels they’re off the team, won’t convince others to join. How do you make
people feel like they’re on the team? Include them. Ask their opinion. Listen. Treat them with respect. Say “thank you”. It’s not so hard to do but it does take time and requires some thoughtfulness.
Second, simplify the message. You’re trying to put words in someone’s mouth – more or less literally. It’s easier to put a short message in someone’s mouth. Long messages tend to get filtered and edited in unpredictable ways. Short messages are more likely to survive intact as they pass from one person to another.
Third, repeat the message. And ask others to do it as well. Your target audience will need to hear the message at least half a dozen times before it sinks in. Even if you think it has sunk in, don’t stop delivering it. Take a hint from Coca Cola. We all know what Coke is but that doesn’t stop the soda giant from continuing to deliver the message.
Once you create ambassadors, be sure to treat them well. More people will hear your message from them than from you. That means you can use more of your time to do other things — as long as you can keep your ambassadors on message.