One of the most critical parts of our role as leaders is helping people see the future as we see it. This is an ever-present challenge. One of the reasons this task is so formidable is that people are different – what resonates with one person may not connect at all with someone else.
My breakthrough on this came years ago when I learned of Howard Gardner’s work on multiple intelligence theory. For me, it’s become my strategic template when I think about communicating vision. Here’s a quick summary and how you can apply this to your leadership.
All of us receive and process information differently. Gardner has discovered seven different “intelligences.” (Since I first discovered his work, he has added an eighth intelligence.) If we want to increase the chance that people connect with our vision, we need to communicate in ways that connect with all of these intelligences. Thomas Armstrong wrote a book on Gardner's original work entitled Seven Kinds of Smart. I've used the "smart" construct to name and define each intelligence below. I’ve also included an example of how each one informed our vision casting plans for the construction of a new building for a local church.
Art Smart – These people are most likely to get it through a visual depiction of the vision. Example: We did a large color rendering of the proposed building.
Word Smart – Words, spoken or written, connect best with these folks. Example: We created a newsletter to track the progress of the campaign along with a brochure outlining all the details.
Math Smart – What are the facts? The statistics? The numbers? That’s the primary language of these people. Example: We published the stats. We told people about square footage and car count for the new location.
Body Smart – These people want to physically interact with the vision. Example: We organized tours so that the people who wanted to could actually walk the new property. Not everyone showed up – but the Body Smart people did!
People Smart – Conversation helps these people understand concepts and ideas. Example: We organized small group meetings so the people could hear the vision and ask questions of senior leaders.
Self Smart – Personal reflection is the preferred method to gain understanding for this group. Example: We created a self-study guide. This allowed those that wanted to work through the vision on their own to do so.
Music Smart – Some say that music is the universal language. For these people it is their primary mode for internalizing information. Example: We selected a theme song for the campaign. We gave everyone a CD so those that wanted to could listen and internalize the vision.
You may want to consider the seven intelligences as a framework for developing your vision-casting plans. There’s still no guarantee everyone will embrace your vision, but if you speak to their kind of smart, your odds of success go up drastically! [GLS_Shield]