Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Relationships Last As Long As There Is Shared Vision

Interesting thing I've noticed about people. They can endure nearly anything and overcome any obstacles as long as they have a vision of something better in the future. Ask any POW or read the stories from Viktor Frankl, and the message is the same – vision of a better future is what will carry you forward.

Unfortunately, without that vision of a brighter future, people can hardly endure even the slightest struggle.

As a coach, I find this holds true as much in relationships (business or personal) as it does on an individual level. But in relationships, unlike personal vision, lost shared vision can and usually mean the beginning of the end of the relationship.

When two or more people come together to create a shared vision of the future they are trying to create, no obstacle or struggle will get in their way. They look at barriers as opportunities and revel in working together to solve the problems they face. But if they don't have a shared vision or if their personal visions begin to deviate too far from the shared vision, even the smallest obstacle can spell the doom for the relationship.

Partners in business see this all the time. One partner begins to see the future differently as circumstance or his life changes, and the decisions that need to be made jointly become more and more contentious. They struggle as the day-to-day dealings which were tolerable in the past, become down right impossible when you know that you want different things for the future. And sadly, it is precisely at the moment when one or all of the partners can no longer see how they will ever be able to want the same things again, that the partnership is over. It might take days, weeks or years to consummate the end, but nothing can undo what has been done.

So what can you do about this? People change. What they want evolves and their visions of the future they want morph. How can this be avoided?

In some cases, it is inevitable. The relationship must come to an end - the parties are just too far apart. But those are honestly rare - and with ample attention to these principles at the beginning of the relationship and throughout the life of the team, a lot of heartache and pain can be avoided.

What it takes is a little work and focus at the beginning of the relationship. That work is clearly defining a shared vision - taking it from implied to stated. It means writing down the words that every one agrees on and doing your best to honor the personal vision of all the participants.

Ahh, but the work doesn't end there, simply because life doesn't end there! Shared vision requires all parties to not only commit to the vision, but to also commit to communicate if they begin to feel they don't agree with it any more - even slightly.

It's about sharing when you begin to feel that you want something different - communicating the difference to all involved. Sometimes this may be a big deal, but I find that's rarely the case - if communicated promptly.

The truth is (and we all know it), it's not that small differences will destroy the relationship. But small differences show a trend of deviation - a widening gap. The good news is that regardless of the issue, a trend if caught early enough can be remedied - by altering the vision slightly for the evolving dreams of the individuals involved.

However if the deviation of one's personal vision begins to grow too far from the shared vision, a rift begins to form. This split will often result in resentment and disillusionment about the partnership.

So if you want to have a great partnership - business or personal, take the following steps:

1. Write a shared vision with all involved.

2. Plan to review the shared vision periodically to evaluate its relevance and make changes as necessary to keep all actively engaged.

And actively commit to both the vision and the promise that it represents.


  1. JJ - Your blog posts are always so honest, real and straight-forward. I appreciate that about your writing ... Thank you for sharing something of value every single day! This post was very interesting and I completely agree with every word. A shared vision is vital to EVERY relationship. And, the vision is only as real as everyone's commitment to it. I like that you added the importance of reviewing the vision - that (in my mind) is just as vital as the original idea! As we know, challenges and real life steps into play and the vision can sometimes get pushed aside. I'd like to add step #3 - Stay enthusiastic about the vision! Do something every day (big or small) to contribute to the success of the vision.
    Have you noticed that if enthusiasm dies (action usually comes to a stop) and the vision dies as well?

  2. Wendy,

    Love your third step. It's part of what I do, working with my clients every day, but didn't think about adding it to the blog. Thank you so much for your insight.

    And in response to your question, I'm not sure if enthusiasm dies because the vision is lost, or if vision is lost because of a lack of enthusiasm. But I do know it requires a "conscious" effort to keep them both alive beyond the initial excitement of the creation of something new.

  3. JJ:

    It is funny how well this fits in with the conversation we had last night. I hadn't read this until now.

    You are one of the most insightful people I have ever known and I truly admire you not only for the incredible vision you have but also for your determination in seeing it through.

    I am grateful to have you in my life as my coach. ;-)