By Jan-Jaap Lukas, senior consultant at &samhoud Personal Vision
Organisations increasingly recognize the value of a Personal Vision for their employees. Why? Because a Personal Vision calls on personal responsibility and entrepreneurship and paves the way to a meaningful personal life. The organisations who have implemented Personal Vision so far experience that the concept works for all employees. It’s not just designed for managers. And larger companies use it as a strategic Human Resource tool in, for instance, the search for talent.
What is Personal Vision?
A Personal Vision gives answers to fundamental questions in life using ratio, creativity, self-reflection and feedback from others. It’s a very personal document that gives direction to one’s life… and work. In order to excel, employees need to very clearly know who they are, what they want and what they are capable of. A Personal Vision helps them to determine that. A Personal Vision consists of four elements:
• A higher goal which is an answer to the question: why do I exist?
• An audacious goal which is an answer to the question: what do I want to achieve?
• Core values which answer the question: what do I stand for?
• Core qualities which answer the question: what do I excel at?
These four elements form a whole – a total merger of mutual empowering elements. A Personal Vision is the final outcome of a journey along personal values, qualities and goals. It’s both inspiring and disciplining and that makes it powerful.
A steering wheel for employer and employee
After finalizing a Personal Vision, the next step is to make a Personal Strategy that gives a clear overview of what needs to be done to realize the goals from the Personal Vision. These ‘agreements’ are documented in a personal contract which is included in an organisation’s regular review cycle. And that in the end connects each individual Personal Vision to the organisational vision. People, processes, goals, skills, meaningfulness and what more all become aligned – they become in sync and create energy to increase productivity and easily implement new formats. An employee who is in the right place is a core theme in HR policy in both private and public sectors. Organisations realize that employees determine their success and they realize that they need to focus on both personal goals and organisational goals.
Personal Vision sessions at Microsoft: Creating Personal Visions in organisations takes place in tailored sessions. We asked Pieter Kop from Microsoft in the Netherlands how he experienced these sessions.
Why did you choose Personal Vision?
At Microsoft we have ninety people managers. In this community we have set the goal to improve individual and natural leadership that stems from within people. We believe that managing people and getting results improves when leadership is based on personal passion and competences. We offer different programs, including Personal Vision. Personally, I am curious to know my own direction. So when I was invited to join the two-day sessions, I accepted.
How did you experience the sessions?
We had a sessions in the House of Connection in Utrecht. The intensity of two days of self-reflection completely takes you away from daily work. The building and the facilities were great and contributed to the quality of the session. The way we were pampered made a big impression on me. The process is very thorough and at the same time comfortable and natural. The power of Personal Vision is that it combines a philosophical part with a practical and an active part. The facilitators anticipated the group dynamic very well with great respect to every individual – it was very professional. The facilitators had a natural way of guiding the process from permissiveness in the beginning towards a setting in which different methods encouraged us to seek real answers. There was a good balance between working individually and working with the group.
What was it like to do this with colleagues?
This process has definitely intensified the connection between the people in the same sessions. Since then we work together at a different level. Content-wise I communicate a lot faster with colleagues and on a more personal level teamwork has improved. It’s like you share some kind of DNA with people who have had the same experience. For instance, I can have a beautiful conversation with someone I didn’t know before.
Can you describe the difference of how you were doing before and after the sessions?
I have reached a point in life where I want to change things, but don’t know what or how. Until the sessions it really preoccupied me because you don’t want to do a brainless thing. Personal Vision has really helped me to straighten my thoughts. It’s not a recipe, but offers the ingredients that fit you. Now I have found control. I don’t want my life to be managed, I want to manage it myself: I can make my own choices. I feel I can be more successful knowing my goals, my passion and my competences. And I also discovered it doesn’t mean I have to leave Microsoft. In fact, Personal Vision has brought more meaning to my current job. I have really sensed a change. My entrepreneurship has been ignited and I want to use that for Microsoft. My returning theme is curiosity. Curiosity makes people move and my leadership is based on that.
What has changed in your work?
I have expressed my wishes to Microsoft and they gave me the opportunity to redesign my job. As a result, I have experienced personal growth and growth for the organisation. I combine content, including scorecards and Key Performance Indicators, with personal development in an 80-20 ratio. I am far more effective with far more energy.
Is Personal Vision about you as a person or you as an employee?
Microsoft’s vision is ‘Realize Potential’. You can only live that out if you know what you want and know what you are really good at. I am a true Microsoftie, but I am also a person. Private life and work are the same to me – I am the same person at home. That also goes for my Personal Vision: I live it at work and at home.
How does the concept of Personal Vision work when it’s rolled out in an entire organisation, from general manager to call center agents and the guy at reception? We asked Robert van de Graaf, CFO of Centraal Beheer Achmea, about the impact and effect of Personal Vision in his company.
“We live and work in turbulent times. The pressure in the insurance market is high, there is little growth and prices are very competitive. Our organisation is always in search of improvements. We change constantly. As a result, it has become more and more important that every employee takes control of their life and their career. We want to help them discover that grip because that raises employee value. Many people don’t know what they stand for, what is important to them or where to look for and find security. Research demonstrates that Personal Vision helps to find answers to these questions. We want our employees to feel great so we do a lot for them, like health checks and Personal Vision. It’s in our own interest because our employees make a difference in our business. Many colleagues accepted the invitation to step into this process. Now almost 33% of our organisation is involved and we experience a real knock-on effect. Not only our employees are given the opportunity to create a Personal Vision, but management is also involved. It has been a year since we first discussed that during an intense session.
It was a very special moment which we still refer to a lot. We talked about fundamental issues in each of our personal lives. That really connected us. In the end it’s all about personal development. What is your direction and are you happy with that or would you rather change your course?
The next step of course is to have the right conversation with your employees based on their Person Vision. How can you help them reach their goals? But also: how do your personal goals fit with our company goals? Personal Vision is the ideal peg for such a dialogue because you have an entry to ask the question someone really wants to be asked: what is his or her passion or challenge?
Colleagues sometimes fear that the good people will leave the company because of their vision. I don’t share that fear. I believe the organisation can do a lot to meet their needs, but I also think that when someone has different thoughts, in the end it won’t work. Besides, new talents will replace them. That is how an organisation develops and grows.
Why we do this is because we take our people seriously and we take ourselves seriously. In our Corporate Identity and in our strategy we have made clear choices about employership and how we want to invest in people. To us Personal Vision is a perfect match. I would recommend it to other organisations because it’s a win-win for the development of both individuals and the organisation. It is really satisfying to further explore your company vision by having your employees reflect on their own personal vision as well. Besides, scarcity on the labor market lies ahead of us. We all know that. You need to stand out certainly for the new generation. Working conditions like salary are no longer decisive. Many people want personal development and I think that is a healthy mentality.
In terms of financial results I expect productivity will increase. People feel better and are better positioned. Research shows that our employees are very much inspired to reach their goals. Employee satisfaction levels increase and another important effect is that absenteeism drops.
Personally, the whole process has brought me a lot. The connection within my team has intensified, but in addition to that I realize that I have still some steps to take. I have had several beautiful conversations with colleagues, friends and myself revealing great insights about me. I have found new energy to reach my personal audacious goal. And my higher goal is still not 100% in place. I feel privileged to work in an organisation that gives me space to sort things out. The next step is to implement Personal Vision on a wider scale, help other people and give back to society.”
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