Today’s BIG IDEA—Last week we talked about the importance of having a family leadership strategy, and that strategy starts with creating a family vision.
In the winter time, I love to go backcountry snowboarding. That means we don’t go to ski resorts with a chair lift—we earn every turn. These trips are some of the best memories of my life, but can also be grueling, disorienting, and sometimes a little scary.
For example, we usually begin the hike in full view of our objective—the peak. But sometimes it starts snowing or the fog drifts in, and it can be very hard to tell which direction we want to go, especially if there is no clear track in the snow.
Other times, we get into thick trees where we cannot see the mountain peak anymore and it is really easy to get off course.
But every time we can see the mountain again, we take steps to get back on track.
What I realized is this—Without clear vision, it’s very difficult to tell the difference between direction and distraction.
Having a clear vision can help prevent families from being knocked off course by the storms and dark forests of life.
Great companies have great vision—and so do great families
Many people don’t know that Stephen Covey went on to write another great book based on his bestselling title—The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. Unsurprisingly, he still recommends we begin with the end in mind when it comes to family leadership.
I once attended a seminar by author and marital therapist Dr. Gil Steiglitz who said something I have never forgotten—“Your family wants to know you are taking them to a desirable future.”
That really stuck with me.
No great leader ever says, “Come with me, I can take you to a gloomy and terrible future!” Who would sign up for that?
Not your team members, and not your family.
Now—most parents never set out to communicate a gloomy future to their families, but let me give you a few questions to ponder.
- Do your financial decisions today communicate safety and stability for your family’s future?
- Do you have regular family time each week that is so important that nothing encroaches on it?
- Do you schedule important family memories to look forward to, and share the excitement?
- Do you help your family members know their purpose, and who they can become on the journey?
These things help communicate to your family that you are taking them somewhere desirable. And remember, behavior communicates much louder than words.
Just like leading a team at work, it’s your job to lead your family by developing an inspiring vision, sharing the vision, and recommunicating it regularly.
Some principles we talked about before regarding vision for teams also apply to families:
- If you can see it, you can build it (Daniel Harkavy)
- The followers can rarely see the vision as clearly as the leader (John Maxwell)
- If people can’t easily repeat it, they don’t know it (Dave Ramsey)
You Need a Filter
The modern age is unprecedented—we are bombarded with more choices than ever before in human history. In his enlightening book The Paradox of Choice, psychologist Barry Schwartz describes how we can become paralyzed and anxious when faced with too many options.
We have mistakenly assumed that more choice is always better.
Without a clear vision, it is very difficult to decide what choices your family will make. Lots of things seem like great options when you have not established what direction you are heading.
Leadership expert Patrick Lencioni just wrote a new book entitled The Three Big Questions for the Frantic Family, in which he emphasizes the importance of knowing what makes your family unique and having a family “rallying cry.” You need clear selection criteria to filter out thousands of possible choices, so that you can pick the ones that get traction toward your family vision.
Do not let your family’s direction be determined by default. Not making a decision about this is making a decision—to allow other forces to influence your family direction.
Of all the things you think of at the end of your life, surely a family vision will be one of the most important things you ever decided to do.
Don’t let your family drift in the current of the culture or other influences. Be intentional and be proactive.
Here are 6 ways you can take action now:
- Be the example first. Without leading by example, you have no credibility and no influence. The first step is to embody the vision yourself. Make it your mantra—More is caught than taught.
- Write down your family values. Values help us make better and clearer decisions. Research shows that making decisions in alignment with your values can drastically reduce anxiety and depression. But in order to make decisions based on your values, you must take the time to identify them first. Families without clear values are like cities with no walls, open to any outside influence.
- Establish regular family rituals. Vision doesn’t work without rituals to back it up. Rituals help the vision become a reality. Weekly family routines serve as incredible anchor points. Most children (and people) thrive off of predictable routines, especially those that communicate love and sacred investments of time.
- Create a family mission statement. Stephen Covey recommends that all families have a mission statement. This should describe how your family is unique and special. Shoot for three to five sentences that really captures what your family is all about.
- Decide what memories you want to create, then schedule them. Life is all about the power of moments. And many of the most important moments we have are family memories. If you are married or have a partner, take time to discuss what kinds of memories you want to make and why they are important. Then begin scheduling them! Life with a kids only accelerates the speed so plan activities that build lessons you want them to learn. If you don’t schedule them now, it’s easy for life to pass you by quicker than you expected.
- Have regular family meetings to stay on course. Without regular family meetings to keep the vision alive, it’s all to easy for this to be a great idea that never goes anywhere. My wife and I have used family meetings to check in with our vision, track our progress, and course correct when necessary.
Have a great weekend!
- John Maxwell- The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
- Daniel Harkavy- Becoming a Coaching Leader
- Dave Ramsey- Entreleadership
- Patrick Lencioni—The 3 Big Questions for the Frantic Family