Vision: Your Inspring Vision Leaking to Others: A Mastership Thesis by Master Travis Dillow
Posted: May 21, 2017
Through my years of leadership, team building, and executing of strategy, values, plans, and missions, I have come across some core principles on vision that apply to almost any area of leadership. Some of these I have learned the hard way, others from books or just by listening to people who have accomplished great things in their lives.
Why Vision Matters:
Vision is the destination, the common denominator by which we rally our team and ourselves to manage the daily task and stay on track to accomplish a greater cause. It is easy to get discouraged or frustrated in the seemingly menial tasks and check lists that define our lives, but when those task, all accomplished and put together, end in a fulfilled vision it all becomes worth it. Vision is essential to keep burn out at bay in the daily endurance race of whatever endeavor we are in.
Without vision from the top, the team that follows has no clear direction to follow. The Scripture says “Without vision people will perish.” The actual translation is “without vision people will throw off restraints and run wild.” You cannot lead an organization, or a group of people if they are all running wild in different directions. Vision is the banner which all people will run towards.
Vision matters. It unifies the team, gives them a common goal to pursue, keeps you focused on what is important, and keeps you going in the day to day task of what you do.
There is always a lot of talk on “dreaming big” and pursuing the dreams in your life, which I believe is an honorable and worthwhile practice. However, if your goals stop with a dream, then they will never get accomplished in your life, organization, or family. A dream is the concept or hope of what might be someday, vision is what it looks like when you get there. Think of it this way, vision is the skin on your dream. It is the flesh that truly defines what your preferred future looks like.
Having this vision in place in your life or organization is critical to accomplishing anything. Whether leading yourself, a team, a company, or just a group of boy scouts, it is the vision that you lay out before them that will create the momentum and energy to fulfill the daily task and discipline that is required to make the vision a reality. A well-defined vision will also reveal to you the next steps you need to take to accomplish the vision at hand. For example, have you ever heard someone say “I just don’t know what to do with myself”? If you have, that is a person that has no vision for his or her life. Or a leader of an organization may make a comment like “we have tried everything, and don’t know what to do next.” Again, this is an organization that is being led by a leader who has no vision. Once a clear vision is in place, it brings with it purpose, roles, requirements, disciplines, and a “to do” list that answers the “what’s next” question for your life and organization.
When it comes to my life, and leading the organization that I lead, here are some basic thoughts on vision that I hold very true to. I will explain how they relate to ATA’s concepts, then I will explain how I applied them to my own life and used them to build and grow the ATA.
First, I want to give an example of the time where vision has impacted me and led me to make the largest step in my Taekwondo career. When I earned my 4th degree in 2001, I immediately went to the next available leadership camp in Little Rock. I was the youngest and one of the newest fourth degrees there. My instructor Master Brandon was there and completely took me under his wing.
At that time I was running a school in St. George, UT and a club in Mesquite, NV while Master Brandon was operating his large location in Las Vegas.
The training at that camp was definitely one of the best! Chief Master Clark was sharing his ideas on all the new curriculum being used to expand his leadership programs. Master Brandon and I were very excited to get back to our schools and apply this new curriculum. It was after one of our great training sessions that we had sat down in our sweaty, smelly clothes on the steps of the 4H center at about 1:00am to discuss how we were to apply this curriculum to our programs.
As Master Brandon and I got further in our discussion, we came to understand a few things. First of all, we both loved training. Second, we both wanted to do more in the ATA than just teach regular classes. That’s when Master Brandon shared with me his Vision of having more than 10 ATA schools but could not do it alone and needed a right hand man. My wife and I would have to make an extreme sacrifice of moving back to Las Vegas and selling both the schools that we were currently operating. We ventured to make that decision in March of 2002.
Upon teaming up, we opened 7 schools and have more than 10 junior schools that consult with us on a regular bases. The best part is that it continues to grow, even 9 years later, and our vision continues to grow with the ATA.
Here are the thoughts that I have on how vision works with both the ATA and myself.
- Vision leaks: The team you lead will never remember the vision as well as you do, it seems to leak out of them over time. It is critical in leadership to keep filling them back up with the vision that originally empowered and motivated them to lock arms with you and accomplish great things for themselves and the organization. A great leader shares vision all the time, and practices sharing it all the time. That leader must be able to clearly and precisely communicate vision. Just because you are consumed by it, doesn’t mean those that you lead are.
- Eternal Grand Master Lee was the best at this. I remember a story that was told by Mr. Jim Wolff that upon opening his first studio, Eternal Grand Master Lee was having a meeting with his highest ranking seniors about how proud he was that they had accomplished their goal of bringing Taekwondo to America. He then had requested that they get a map of the United States and hang it on the wall. When it was hung on the wall, Eternal Grand Master Lee then took a hand full of thumbtacks and went up to the wall and started to put them in all the places that he wanted ATA schools to be. At this time all he could tell that the seniors were feeling content and he knew immediately that he had to expand their vision. I remember Mr. Wolff telling me they all felt overwhelmed at this point, but to this day you can still visit ATA World Headquarters and see that very map along with other maps of the world with thousands of pins on them.
- I know that at times, especially when times are rough, my vision sometimes leaks. I am honored and blessed to have an instructor like Master Brandon that is very similar to Eternal Grand Master Lee when it comes to vision. I make it a definite point to continually spend time with him on a regular basis to hear his ongoing growing vision and how I can apply it to my own vision I have with the ATA.
- Vision involves everyone: In your organization, everyone should feel that they are an essential part of the vision. I once heard a story about a guy who was taking a tour of NASA headquarters. During the tour, the tour guide stopped next to a trash can that the custodian was emptying into a larger roller dumpster. The tour guide introduced the janitor as Jim, then asked “Jim, what do you do here at NASA?” Jim’s reply was “I help put people in outer space”. Although at the moment Jim was dumping trash, he still knew that what he did as a custodian on a daily basis played a part in putting people in space, and placing America as the leading nation in space exploration in the world. Everyone on the team plays a part in the vision, no matter how small it is, and it is your job as the leader to let them know that.
- Eternal Grand Master Lee is known for his saying “Today not possible, tomorrow possible.” Grand Master had a vision that anyone, any age, any size, any ability, and of any race could be a black belt and leader in ATA. He worked with his top leaders to develop the best systemized curriculum in martial arts and best system to train the trainers. At that time, this had not even been heard of or done in any organization. His vision was to reach everyone through Taekwondo and in developing these systems.
- One of my favorite parts of being a leader in the ATA is to help others become leaders, such as taking on roles of responsibilities such as tournaments, testings, and seminars. I also love to train and develop staff members and school owners. I have learned from the leadership in the ATA that when a person is given the responsibility and the authority to lead in an area that fits their talents, they grow in more ways than imaginable. This also allows for the original vision to grow because the leader of that main vision is not overwhelmed with task and responsibilities that take all of his or her time.
- Vision brings unity: Every team or organization struggles with team dynamics and unity, but I have never seen a group struggle more with unity than one that is led by a visionless leader. In the absence of vision, each person creates their own idea of what the “dream” looks like, and they work towards it in isolation of anyone else. When you get two, three, or even a dozen people each working towards a different picture of what the dream is, you create more conflict than any great leader could ever manage. From the conflict comes disunity, and living in disunity will guarantee burn out for you and the people you are trying to lead. That is why you must understand that vision leaks, everyone should play a part in it, and be super clear about where you are going and what it will look like when you arrive. I have seen this first hand; people will set down their differences to work towards a common goal (the vision). When a clear vision is in place, people will unite around that cause and work together to see it accomplished. Now with that said, there will always be that person or two on your team who is not sold out on the vision. For whatever reason, they don’t believe in it. Those people cannot be “won over,” and honestly they need to be cut from your team. Surround yourself with people that believe in the vision, and that vision will unify your team or organization.
- Eternal Grand Master Lee was the best at creating unity. The greatest story to be told of the ATA occurred when Eternal Grand Master Lee was fighting for his life with lung cancer. Eternal Grand Master Lee knew his vision for the ATA had to continue to grow even if he wasn’t around. It was at that time he created the Master’s Council with his closest and most qualified leaders. Since the passing of Eternal Grand Master Lee, the ATA has more than doubled in size, and it is clear that all of the ATA’s leaders were very clear of Eternal Grand Master Lee’s vision. Even under troubled times, they came together stronger and better to make his vision come true.
- I find it very important for myself and all leaders in our organization to continually surround themselves with the leaders of the ATA. I make every effort possible to be a part of all major events the ATA holds, not only because I feel it is my duty as a leader, but so I can also hear and learn from the legends of our organization. After every major event I’ve ever been to, I’ve come back to my team and students and been on fire to teach and train with them. I have seen a number of school owners quit or leave the ATA because they feel like they just got “burned out.” This is why I love the saying from our current leader of leaders, Grand Master Soon Ho Lee: “Never Stop Learning.”
- says no: Probably one of the best characteristics of having a clear vision in place, is it gives you the power to say “no.” When a person or organization is really clear and sold out on their vision, they have no problem saying no to the distractions that would take away from them accomplishing their vision. There are a lot of great causes and things that you can do with your life or organization, but a person or group that says yes to everything will never accomplish their vision. When faced with decisions on programming, ideas, innovation, etc., you must always run it through the filter of “will this move us closer to accomplishing our vision?” If the answer is no, then run from it, don’t do it. It is okay to say no to great ideas or great causes, simply because they don’t help you accomplish your vision. If it is not a part of your vision, don’t do it. Just because it is a great idea, doesn’t mean it is for you or your organization. A leader that jumps on every new fad or idea will eventually lead a schizophrenic organization. They won’t know who they are or what that are trying to accomplish. As I have consulted with many different groups, it is always fun to hear their vision then put it to the test. The test is simple, after you tell me your vision I simply ask to see two things, your checkbook and your calendar. You can always tell what an organization or person is living for by looking at where they spend their money, and what they spend their time doing. Having a clear vision in place gives you the tools to say no to everything that doesn’t help you accomplish the vision. Yes, is a valid excuse to say “no, we can’t do that, it doesn’t help us reach our vision.”
There is much more to talk about regarding vision, but the above four thoughts are what guide my day to day life and leadership. We could spend more time talking about establishing your vision, articulating your vision, and making sure your vision is both narrow and broad enough. All those are important pieces of the puzzle, but for now, we will end with these few questions.
- What is the vision for your organization or life?
- What daily task are you doing to accomplish that vision?
- What do you need to stop doing that is a distraction from that vision?
- Who do you have around you that believes in your vision?