Jimmy Buffett on Creating a Vision

jimmy buffettI am a self-professed Parrotthead. If you aren’t familiar, Parrottheads are an “elite” group of people who maintain a special appreciation for the world of Jimmy Buffett. His music promotes a lifestyle of cheerful relaxation with allusions of Caribbean beaches, island drinks, and ocean-side hammocks.

This utopic Margaritaville-eque frame of mind provides a powerful vision of what we can all aspire to become. You don’t need a rum-filled concoction to feel the emotions Jimmy’s fostering; it’s a state of being, an image of the future we aspire to acquire. This is no different from the vision we need to promote in our organizations.

The reality is that most company visions are rarely meaningful, lacking adequate time and thought to develop an inspiring direction. However, without a clear goal, the work being done is not accomplishing any long-term goals. How could it when you haven’t defined the long-term goals?

Creating an effective vision starts with looking at the current state of the organization and deciding that it’s just not good enough. For Parrottheads, the trigger can be a tough day at work. For leaders it may be dipping profit margins, the competitor’s accomplishments, or a sense that the team could use a renewed burst of energy. Regardless, the creation of a vision stems in the need to achieve great(er) things.

To craft your masterpiece vision, here are four things to consider:

Enduring

Vision statements are often confused with mission statements. Mission statements are present-based, intended to express why the organization exists. Vision statements are future-based, intended to inspire and provide a direction for the team. While a mission statement asks, “Why does my business exist?”, a vision statement is more interested in, “Where do I see my business going?”

When drafting your vision statement, start by paying attention to their organization, the industry, and the economic landscape as whole. What are the trends? What’s already been attempted? What can be leveraged? The list of question can go on indefinitely. The point is to study what’s been done, observe the present state, and formulate how the future should look.

No I’m not the first, won’t be the last. You lust for the future, but treasure the past. – Jimmy Buffett, “Barometer Soup”

Simple

A well-written vision statement takes little or no explanation. It is clear, concise, and can typically be communicated in one sentence. The more complicated and long-winded it becomes, the less likely people are to understand and remember it. Jimmy has stated that he can simplify his ideology into two words, “island escapism.” Your vision may be a bit longer, but it should be just as easy to interpret and convey. Need a shortcut? Complete the sentence, “We want to…”

Life is complicated with it’s ifs and ands and buts; It’s alright to be crazy just don’t let it drive you nuts. – Jimmy Buffett, “Simply Complicated”

Inspiring

I once saw a vision that was both simple and long-lasting – “We want to make a lot of money.” Everyone in the company understood it, but it did not warm the heart. A great vision should help everyone rise, including employees, customers, and the company. It’s a win/win/win. Employees win because they believe in what the organization stands for and where it is going, customers win because they are receiving exceptional service, and the company wins because its moving towards a vision of success.

Communicate

Once your vision is written, it’s time to communicate it. Through multiple mediums, Jimmy’s been promoting his vision for an “island frame of mind” for over 40 years. He has albums, live performances, books (for children and adults), hotels, restaurants, and a full line of merchandise. Because of this blitz, Margaritaville is a distinguishable brand.

Don’t rely on any one way to get your vision across. You may not be interested in selling tequila, but you have numerous lines of communication at your disposal. Speeches, emails, posters, memos, meetings can all work. For whichever you choose, repetition is key, as is your dedication to modeling the behaviors you are promoting.

Like a roomful of Parrotheads singing Fins, your vision serves as a focal point of effort. It unifies your team and acts as a catalyst for future growth. If this seems daunting, keep in the mind that the vision is not written in stone. Don’t get to the point where you feel like you’re “wasted away again in Margaritaville.” Your vision will change as the organization changes. If you are re-visiting it every year or so to ensure its relevance, you won’t need to “search for your lost shaker of salt.”