The year was 2014, and one organization was struggling to stay relevant. Customers were not returning; its competition was stifling; its new tech was confusing consumers, and it had long given up its hold on the market. It was quickly aging out of relevance.
The organization in question? Microsoft.
Yes, that’s right – the Microsoft.
Nine years ago, Microsoft was fighting to keep its title as a titan of the tech industry. Users of their software were satisfied enough with older versions of its products to keep from buying new releases. Its cloud products were facing competition from Amazon and Google, and of course, Apple was dominating the mobile phone market. Something had to change.
Enter Satya Nadella.
Nadella had been with Microsoft since 1992. For some of that time, he served as senior VP of research and development, investing his effort in understanding the future. He had a track record of getting results and upping revenue – and as of February 4, 2014, he was now the CEO of Microsoft. In under four years, Microsoft stock had tripled in value.
How did he do it?
Nadella spearheaded a “mobile first, cloud first” initiative to reform Microsoft’s priorities. The organization made some major pivots into cloud-based and subscription model services, cut losses where necessary, and invested in areas of potential.
During his tenure as CEO, the organization’s market cap skyrocketed from $300 billion in 2014 to more than $2.3 trillion in 2021.
In other words, Nadella had a strategic vision that reinvigorated Microsoft.
Vision is a leader’s best friend. It is an ambitious word – hopeful and focused on the future. But in order for a vision to serve the organization, it must be strategic. It must be a vision of the future based on what we can observe today. And when it is, and a leader can get their people invested in that vision, that organization becomes unstoppable – just like Microsoft.
How is your strategic vision driving your organization? What kind of future are you forecasting for your people?
These are intimidating questions for any leader to confront. But these five practical strategies can help you optimize your strategic vision:
1. Know your organization. This is the basis of the “strategic” part of “strategic vision.” Strategy is only effective if it is based on accurate information. As a leader, your path planning must come from a place of understanding your organization from the top down: strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, competition, etc.
2. Seek insightful feedback. Another brick in the foundation of accurate information is input from those familiar with your organization: customers, shareholders, team members, and even third party industry experts. Focus groups, surveys, open forums, interviews, and market research are helpful when searching for feedback.
3. Focus on the future. One reason Satya’s strategic vision transformed Microsoft was because of his ability to “see the future.” He could see the direction of trends and helped the company move with that momentum. As leaders are creating an understanding of their own organizations, they must also be looking forward in their industry and beyond by reading industry reports and attending seminars.
4. Communicate effectively. Communication is a necessary skill no matter the leadership, organization, or team goal. But it is especially crucial to strategic vision! The vision exists only in the mind of the leader until it is real – so they must make it real for their team, and the only way to do this is to communicate it clearly and in a way that motivates the team.
5. Lead by example. Leaders set the standard for those they lead. Their confidence in their strategic vision doesn’t just come across when they speak about it, but how they act on it.
Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch understood the power of a leader’s strategic vision:
“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
This week, assess your strategic vision by these four pillars: create, articulate, own, and drive. Consider where you’re effectively implementing your vision, and where you could improve.
That’s all for now.
Become your best version,
Get My Free Guide: 5 Strategies for Retaining Top Talent
Voluntary turnover it’s an ALARMINGLY preventable problem.
To combat this, I have outlined five leadership strategies that will keep your top performers leaned in and performing.