Bringing the practices of mindfulness and dialogue to leadership conversations

The vision thing

In coaching supervision, a client was lamenting her lack of ‘a vision’ for her business. Two things flitted briefly through my mind:

• I’m not sure you’re strongly visual in your preferences; and
• who says we need a vision?

I let these thoughts slide by, as my client’s narrative unfolded along different lines.

Later, the theme re-emerged. My client described a clear intent to be discerning in the type of work she agrees to do. I asked: what guides you in this? We began to explore whether well-crafted ‘intent’ might sometimes be more relevant than a vision. Prompted by my earlier transient thoughts, I wondered aloud if ambitions for the future could be described as soundscapes, or through texture, or even smell or taste?

Responses to this question depend, of course, on what we mean by ‘a vision’. To me, it indicates a direction of travel (or horizon), and offers inspiration for making a journey. We can hold hopes and dreams for the way we want to live, as well as for a business. We might aspire to be a certain type of practitioner, or to embody a way of working, or a particular ‘interior condition’. These latter strands encompass my personal aspirations – where the idea of ‘a vision’ doesn’t sit so well.

Vision has its place. I’ve embraced it often, most notably when, after my MBA, I worked through ‘drawing forth a personal vision’ from The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. An image materialised, of me holding a book I’d written. With no such notion in mind, I got on with more practical things. And yet, a dozen years later, there was a book.

So: ‘yes’ to vision.

And yet, these days, two things are evident to me.

Firstly, my mind can create an inspiring vision in an instant – and I later discover that it’s inappropriate for my path and talents. I’ve abandoned so many ‘sure’ visions that I’ve become more thoughtful about the reach of my influence, and the places I choose to invest energy. Such factors now guide me in scoping future potential.

Secondly, I believe that an articulation of destination needs to be consistent with the nature of the path towards it. My aspirations focus on the quality of the contribution I want to make as a coach, coach supervisor and dialogue guide. This brings my attention to fostering an ‘interior condition’ that supports this purpose. My sense of inhabiting this future is textural, tonal, visceral. It’s hard to describe in visual imagery, or words. But I know it, as an experience, when I touch into it.

This ground was shaping the supervision work with my client, in which her inquiry ripened into a heartfelt recognition that there is ‘only this moment’. From within this experience, she wondered how she could live her intention now. It will require daily (hourly?) leaps of faith that business decisions made in this way will keep a roof over her head.

I know this uncertain place. For my part, I’m sometimes able to make the leap, sometimes not. Yet, when I rely solely on ‘a vision’, I risk basing my future on what’s currently in sight. This may exclude potential I can’t yet conceive, let alone know.

How might you inhabit your future, today?

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