Vision, Buy-In, and Sustainability

@MrBrettClark 2 Comments

A couple of weeks ago I had my second Leadership Southern Indiana: Discover event. You can read about my first event here.

This was out "History and Heritage Day".  We heard from experts on the history of the area, visited local historical areas like the Town Clock Church to hear about the underground railroad, discussed the founding fathers of the region, and ended our day at a business that has been in business for over 120 years.

There are three things that stood out to me about the people I learned about during this visit. They had vision, buy-in from their followers, and sustainability. 


For me, it all starts and ends with this. There is a phrase that we have using a lot around my school district lately. Clarity is the remedy for anxiety. I don't know who said it first, but I first heard it from Jason Roseberry. So he gets the credit today.  I witness so many people who suffer from anxiety at their job. A lot of time I have found that a large portion of their anxiety comes from a lack of clarity. They're unclear about whom they take their issues to, or what they're allowed to do to solve a problem. They're unclear about what their role is and what their expectations are in their position. Or maybe they're unclear about the direction of a project or of the entire organization. In the end, wherever you find a lack of clarity, anxiety isn't far behind. 

A clear vision that invokes a positive emotional response, with a call to action that people can get behind, is a remedy for anxiety. A clear vision of roles and responsibilities reduces anxiety. I think you'll be amazed at how many struggles can be reduced or eliminated just by having vision. 

Check out this video I saw the other day at a 1:1 symposium with the 1:1 Institute. The video you're about to watch includes some metronomes, a board, and a couple of soda cans. The experiment is meant to try to get all of the metronomes in sync with each other. While you're watching it, look through the lens of leadership. If what happens in the video is a metaphor about leadership, vision, and the fulfillment, then what do each piece of the science experiment represent?

Did you catch it? To me, the board represents vision, the soda cans represent leadership, and the metronomes represent those who are tasked to fulfill the vision. The board (vision) provides stability, something to stand on, and is the key to getting everyone on the same page. The soda cans (leadership) supports the vision, and provides flexibility while everyone gets in sync with each other. The metronomes (the team) might start off out of sync, but when given time, flexibility, and a consistent vision, they get to where they need to be. 

As I learned about the history of the area, I couldn't help but admire the vision the people who built this area had. They all saw something in perspective areas that perhaps many other people did not see. 


It wasn't enough that the folks I learned about had vision, they had to get people to buy into and support their vision. I'm always amazed at the amazing commitment and sacrifice people will make to fulfill a vision they truly believe in. 

I've written about this in the recent past and it quickly become one of my go-to presentation at conferences. I'll be honest, I look back over that post and I can identify exactly where I think I am in my role as a leader right now in my district and it's a little scary. I truly believe in the vision I have for our schools and while we have had some tremendous success over the past couple of years, I am always looking for ways to create more buy-in. 

I really wish I could have talked to some of the people I learned about during this event. I would have loved to have picked their brain about the ups and downs of vision casting and vision fulfilling. It must be this sometimes awkward balance of resolve plus flexibility. Knowing when to push forward, when to slow down, and when to change all together. 

Looking over that last paragraph and I think that maybe vision casting is the key to all of this. Can you tell me what your vision is? What's the vision of your company? What's the vision the project that you're leading or a part of? How often do you cast your vision? 

It's something that we are working on in my school district. We are about to enter our fist refresh of our 1:1. Working with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and other community leaders I am working to make sure that we know exactly where we are at, where we are heading, and how we are going to get there. However, I'm learning more and more that when all of that work is done, the real work has just begun. I've got to keep casting that vision over and over again, getting more and more bites, and reeling in more and more people who will be willing to help us reach our goals. 


A vision is about more than yourself. There is always going to be an "after you". A true visionary see far beyond the person they see in the mirror every day. The word that I kept coming back to during our event was legacy. I wondered how many of these local leaders and heroes ever thought about the legacy they were leaving behind. Did they ever think that people would be learning about them hundreds of years later? I imagine that they would probably be more happy to know that the thing that they started was still standing, still growing, and still having a positive effect on their community. 

I am not out to create a legacy but I do wonder sometimes about what my legacy will be after this part of my journey is over. More than anything, I just want to see the work I'm a part of to leave a lasting impact on this community. 

The only way to do that is to keep reinventing yourself. This is why a vision statement is really only meant to be for a 3-5 year period of time. I'm not going to lie, as I said above, we are moving towards our refresh of our 1:1, and I have already started to think about what what the next refresh could look like. 

by Daniel Pietzsch on Flickr
In the end, I think that legacy stuff will take care of itself. For now, I'm just trying to find the right rhythm.


  1. Hey Pal,

    First, here's another communication! You seemed mad at me the other day when I busted your Bears.

    Second, this is a great post. REALLY dig it.

    Here's a few gentle nudges from a guy who has been nothing but a teacher for his whole life:

    You talk passionately about your vision and the work that you've done to make it clear in your own mind. Do your teachers feel as passionately about that vision? More importantly, would a teacher use the same words -- specifically "your vision" -- to describe the work that your district is doing? Or if I asked them, would they say, "our vision?"

    Here's why that matters: For the majority of my career, I've been charged with advancing the visions of other people. I've never felt like any vision that has been a part of my professional life has ever been "my vision" or "our vision." It's always been me working towards "your vision."

    And whenever teachers see the work that they are doing as "your work," you are relying on compliance instead of investment to change your organization.

    Another gentle nudge: You talk about building buy-in for your vision. That word "buy-in" drives me just as crazy as when teachers say "we need to engage our students." It suggests that a decision has been made by people in power and now the work of convincing teachers to support that decision has to begin.

    If teachers are invested in an idea already, would building buy-in even be a thing? Would it even be necessary?

    I'm not saying that you don't recognize the importance of teacher voice in your decision-making. I know you and your heart. Just pointing out places where language can influence perceptions -- both of those who are making decisions and those who are on the receiving end of those decisions.

    Any of this make sense?

    1. Hey Bill!

      First of all, only Bears fans are allowed to bust on Bears. Don't worry, your Bills are off to a good start but it won't last. :)

      Secondly, I really appreciate the comments! I totally get what you're saying about "my vision", "your vision" and "our vision". That's one of the big things I've struggled with honestly. How to create a vision with 1,500 people? How many people should be involved in the process? How do you go about creating a singular vision? It's certainly not easy work but it's work that I believe must be done.

      I see your point about buy-in and I'm working real hard to not rely on compliance. I think we've all been on the end of having to implement somebody else's vision that maybe we didn't totally believe in and it's never fun.

      Thank you for the comment. It absolutely makes total sense.