This Q&A response comes from Reta Lawrence Clyde, Leadership Development Training Specialist at HCA Healthcare and VitalSmarts Certified Trainer Plus.
Q. “I am in the process of putting together the pieces of my 2020 training vision for 2021. With so many fractured and competing needs and a drastically different landscape, how do I reset my vision and bring healing and hope to my organization?”
A. “Vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.” —Bill Hybels
2020 was a year that will not long be forgotten. Every day seemed to bring new challenges, new conflict and more change. Many of us found ourselves underwater in a sea of more things to do and different ways to check those things off our lists. The word “pivot,” while evoking humorous visions of the gang from Friends attempting to move a sofa, became the mantra for simply getting through what was at best perplexing and at worst excruciating.
At the beginning of 2020, a significant portion of my job responsibilities revolved around traveling to different parts of the country to support members of my team. From January through the end of February, I took 10 flights, spent 17 nights in hotel rooms and learned to travel light. I genuinely loved this part of my job. I found great satisfaction in supporting my colleagues one on one, in person. That all came to a screeching halt at the end of February 2020 as the novel coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19, signaled a new way of life for people across the globe.
I recall what was to be my last trip in 2020, to San Jose, California. I sat in the airport waiting for my trip home, watching people hurry toward their flights wearing masks. It was the first time I had observed what has now become the norm and, in that moment, I thought it an over-reaction. Surely whatever this virus was would clear itself quickly without such drastic measures.
This same reflection occurred to me recently while cleaning out an Outlook folder of archived e-mails from my director. In a message from early March 2020, I was directed to postpone a late March trip to Florida until later in April. Weren’t we all optimistic that things would return to “normal” within mere weeks?
As the Covid numbers continued to climb, and we began to understand that this was no longer an epidemic but a pandemic, the world of work changed. Terms like “essential workers,” “shelter in place” and “work from home” became hardwired into our collective vernacular. Gone was the idea that we could meet together when needed or hop on a plane to go support a teammate. In its place were the tools and resources of a curious new virtual professional environment.
My larger team was not immune to this change, but as trainers, whose primary role had been delivering leadership development content in the classroom, we faced big questions. Could we deliver all of our content virtually? How might this look? Did we have the skills needed? And how would we even begin to tackle this monumental shift in the way we engaged with our work?
Collectively, we took a big breath and jumped right in. Over the course of a mere 90 days, and working in unison, our team converted the curriculum for an entire leadership development program into a virtual delivery model. What was easily two years’ worth of work was ready to deliver to our internal customers by mid-summer. This was nothing short of remarkable.
Looking back over those intense working sessions, I wondered how we were able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. How had we, as a team, been able to perform such a herculean task with an incredibly high level of productivity?
We knew the value of vision!
In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (GTD), David Allen highlights the importance of this simple, but incredibly valuable step in moving toward great accomplishments:
“In order to most productively access the conscious and unconscious resources available to you, you must have a clear picture in your mind of what success would look, sound and feel like. Purpose and principles furnish the impetus and the monitoring, but vision provides the actual blueprint of the final result. This is the what instead of the why. What will this project or situation really be like when it successfully appears in the world?”
During a time where chaos seemed to be the order of the day for many organizations, as they struggled to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, we were able to move proverbial mountains. Whether every one of our team members knew it or not, we had applied a key GTD skill to a seemingly insurmountable task with great success. We knew what victory looked like and we named our project accordingly with the desired outcome.
When I first began facilitating GTD in 2018, I was captivated by the muscle of this simple but profound step. How often do we fail to achieve the results that we hope for or simply get bogged down, unable to move projects or ourselves forward because we don’t know where we want to go or what we really want? Queue the Spice Girls, “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want!”
I often recall the experience I had with my friend Tommy when I think about the power of vision and naming a project. Tommy was a student in one of my classes and took this idea to heart. Two weeks after Tommy participated in GTD, I saw him in the hallway at work. Tommy greeted me with a big smile and said, “You changed my life!” High praise indeed, but I wanted to know more. When I asked Tommy for additional details, he shared with me that he had, for two years, wanted to remodel his home with the intention of creating a place for his mother to live so that she could move in with Tommy and his wife. What was the life-altering impact for Tommy and his family? He clarified his vision and changed the name of his project! Tommy and his wife captured the heart of what they wanted and changed the name of their project from a bland “remodel the house” to a motivating and inspiring “create a place for mom”! They had vision. They had purpose. They gave it a name. It made a difference.
Two weeks after this in-class revelation, Tommy had moved to action. After two years of holding onto this thought, vision and purpose had cleared the way, a contractor had been hired, and a start date for the remodel was planned.
I look back at 2020 and forward into 2021 with David Allen’s compelling questions in mind. “Why does your company exist? Why do you exist? What really matters to you, no matter what?”
Through the tumult that was 2020, this is where my team and other great organizations continued to shine: knowing that the capacity within each of us to achieve incredible results lies in our own control when we understand the power of vision and purpose.