Vision Without Volition is Daydreaming

vision questThe other day I was talking with a business owner who was at a crossroads with his leadership team.

Everything seemed so promising at first. There was energy and planning. Everyone had a sense of shared vision.

That sounds invigorating. What’s the problem?

I think I built a team of dreamers when I should have built a team of doers.

That’s a problem.

Dreaming is good. Working is good. One without the other is bad.

Seeing clearly (vision) is often half the problem. Having the will to do it (volition) is the other half.  – Michael Novak

While it is critical to have visionaries on the team, even leading the team, it is imperative that the team also have pragmatists who execute and hold others accountable.

Every leadership team needs to have both vision and volition.

Vision is seeing a compelling future in focus.

Vision provides clarity of purpose and establishes a guiding track of direction. It draws leaders toward a dream that is so realistic that others fall in behind them to join the quest.  Leaders are not driven to pursue a vision, they are drawn to it.

They can’t help themselves.

For these leaders, their vision is more of a conversation around destiny than it is dedication.

Volition is embracing the reality of having no choice.

Sure, leaders get tired and discouraged. Sure, there are days when they would prefer to roll over, pull the covers up and stay in bed.

But when you ask great leaders why they work so hard at accomplishing their vision, they will usually squint a little, tilt their head and look at you with a bit of confusion and reply with the resignation of a five-year-old.

Because. I have to.

Where do leaders get this level of motivation? How do they develop this strong will to press on?

Their vision.

We have all had the wise sages in our lives tell us the old adage:

You don’t have a vision. A vision has you.

It’s true.

Once you are gripped by that compelling vision with clarity, you thrive on action – even when you’re tired. You act out of a sense of duty and responsibility, not guilt or powerlessness.

When you are captured by your vision you still move forward. Like a passionate runner, you put on your shoes even though it’s dark, cold and raining outside. You know how it will feel when you’re done and you honestly believe that it is the right thing to do.

You have no choice. And you like that.


Your Calling: The Unique Value of Where You’ve Been

Hands Holding a Seedling and SoilYour calling is revealed by discovering who you are, and what you can do, in light of where you have been.

All of us are in a state of becoming something unique, and can do things no one else can, because of where we’ve been.

To understand who you are becoming, and what you can do differently than anyone else, you first consider where you have been, that place no one else has been; those rare experiences (both good and bad) that no one else experiences quite like you have.

Developed largely from the works of Michael Novak, I developed an acronym to create a dialogue about the discovery of calling – that unique value that everyone can discover.

People cannot give you your value. They can only recognize it.

Vocation  (Lat. Vocatio, a calling): something toward which one believes him or herself to be called.  Vocation (or calling) is not always the same as a person’s career. However, you can fulfill your calling at work.  The key to discovering value at work is to find ways to fulfill your calling.

Ability – To identify one’s calling, two things are normally required: the God-given ability to do the job, and the enjoyment in doing it. We tend to enjoy what we are good at. (1) Competency – “Are you good at what you do?” and (2) Enjoyment – “Do you enjoy what you do?”

Love – When a person is fulfilling his or her calling, it becomes a labor of love. This labor of love is two-fold: it involved both what and who. You love what you do and you love those with whom you work and those whom you serve.  Larry Crabb has said that “Happy people do not love well. Joyful people do.” Joy is a deeply rooted state of contentment, largely based on self-efficacy. When people have this deep sense of emotional security and self-awareness, they tend to not only love what they do, but those with whom, and to whom, they serve.

Uniqueness – A person’s calling is unique to each individual. Not everyone wants to be a business professional, minister, mother, counselor, or caretaker. Each person has a unique inclination to serve in some way that is needed by someone else.  And, whenever you serve in a way that helps another, you do God’s work. Thomas Aquinas suggests that each person reflects a small, but very beautiful and significant, part of God’s character.

Experience – Discovering one’s calling takes time, sometimes a lifetime.  Few things contribute to your sense of value more than overcoming an insurmountable obstacle and discovering who you have truly become in light of where you have actually been.

Your value is discovered through thoughtful living and is gradually revealed by, and through, your passion. Your greatest passions almost always emerge from pain.  It is precisely this pain that drives your passion and reveals your calling.

You are called to make a difference, not in spite of where you have been, but precisely because of where you have been.

Rekindle the Flame (at work)

I love my job coffee mug

When I speak about employee engagement, I usually get one of two reactions. One is deep appreciation for the impetus for improvement and change. The other? Well, not quite the same.

It’s usually the same scene, one person waits around until everyone else has left. They approach me carefully, cautiously glancing out the sides of their eyes for potential prey. Then variations of the same question ensue.

“What if you can’t stand the place, and there really is no hope?”

If you are that jaded about your company, engagement may be a challenge. However, it’s not impossible. It may not be too late to rekindle the passion.

If you’re finding it hard to want the best for a company you believe is responsible for your misery, you have two options.

Rediscover the attraction you had in the first place (much like renewing a stale marriage).

1. Read old letters – Re-read your application, letter, resume, etc. that you submitted for the job that you so desperately wanted. Take note of how carefully you matched your qualifications with the job posting and recall the excitement and enthusiasm you felt when you submitted those initial documents. You might just be reminded how much you really actually love your job. You just forgot.

2. Look at old pictures – Scroll the company website and corporate brochures as you did when researching for your interview. Recall the things that were so exciting to you and even generated the heightened sense of excitement. Remember feeling how thoroughly disappointed you would be if the job was given to someone else? Well, you got it and you were thrilled. What happened? Did the job change? Did you change? Maybe there has been a little change in both.

3. Express appreciation – We used to sing a song “count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.” As happiness research shows, writing down three things for which you are grateful can dramatically elevate your outlook after just 30 days. What would happen if, each day, you wrote down three things you like about your job? Just give yourself thirty days and see what happens.

OK. Still hate your job? Consider moving on to #2.

Leave (still talking about your job here, not your marriage).

1. Same circus different clowns – Some people move from job to job only to discover that each place they work has the same problems. After a while, it occasionally dons on some that they are the common denominator, and their consistent attitude facing typical workplace frustrations is the real culprit. Their expectations are out of line with reality. It’s not the problems that are the issue. It is the attitude in facing them.

2. Stick to your core values – If, however, you are working in a place that conflicts with your personal values, you are likely to experience justifiable angst. Often times we expend an enormous amount of energy trying to resolve surface issues and petty conflicts, until we discover those are merely symptoms of bigger problems – a significant disparity among core values. Your core values may be “service, harmony, faith,” etc., while your company’s core values may be “profit, competition, leadership,” etc. None of these values are bad, just different. Core values are what drive our daily energy. The mismatch between yours and your company’s might be just too much to justify.

3. Stay friends – Never burn bridges. Ever. Even though the movies make it seem so awesome, torching the place on your last day will only lead to regret, yours more than anyone’s. Breaking up is hard to do. It involves emotion – lots of it. Keep yours in check. Remember, this is a place you loved at one time. Sometime after you leave, you may want to reconnect with old colleagues. You may even need a reference at some point in the future. And, depending on how quickly you blasted through the options of #1, that point may be sooner than later.