Does your company have blurred vision?

by Will Gray

Several years ago, I was consulting with a 60-year-old company that was on the verge of shutting down. They had once dominated the market but, as the world changed around them, they hadn’t changed to meet it.

As part of my work, I met first with the leadership team and second with the sales team. I figured there might be some things to learn from the contrast.

“What are your greatest strengths as a company?” I asked the management team. “We’ll need to know those if you’re going to turn things around.”

“Honestly, Will, our biggest strength is our customer service. Our customers just love spending time with us, and we get great feedback from them regularly.”

“Fantastic,” I said. “There may be something we can harness there. Also, let’s see what your sales team says when I meet with them later this week.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I caught some awkward glances. Later that week, I understood why.

* * *

 “Four? Really?”

“Oh, most definitely,” the most senior salesperson responded. “Our average customer service experience is absolutely a 4 out of 10 right now. I’m not really sure why our customers stick around, given how poor our service is sometimes.”

Hmm, I thought. That’s just about the complete opposite of what the leadership team told me.


Blurred vision happens more often than you might expect, especially for leaders who care.

More often than not, there’s something you passionately want to be true about your company. For instance, you may desire to be a company that is always innovating, where you truly understand your customers, that’s a fun place to work. But many times those passions haven’t become reality yet.

In other words: There are things you care about on behalf of your company, and sometimes you’re tricked into thinking they’re already true as a result.

Hey, this is pretty normal. Don’t give yourself a hard time. It’s difficult to have perspective on your own situation, especially when you have a lot to manage.

But what you need to do is to answer this question for yourself: What do I really want to be true about my company—and how are we really doing on that priority?

Curiously enough, this difference—between the way things really are in your business and the way you wish they were—also happens to be the difference between core values and aspirational values. As our friend G.I. Joe might remind us, knowing is half the battle.


For further reading and study

Make Your Values Mean Something,” Harvard Business Review

Cognitive Bias,” Medium

Facing Who We Are in Light of Who We Want To Be,” Medium

You Gotta Tip on the Tightrope (Between the Real and the Actual),” Medium

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