Developing a Company Vision that Motivates through the Heart (and Not the Head)

Tom Willerer

Chief Product Officer at Opendoor



I had worked as chief product officer for about two years when my team approached me and began asking me to create a company vision for them. I thought creating a vision was stupid. We had plenty of structure, metrics, goals, and people with ideas for what the future of the company should be. Why not just execute against our key metrics? No one can predict the future, so I rejected the idea. However, my team was relentless and insisted that a vision was necessary.

Actions taken

I needed first to understand why my team was so adamant about a company vision. I realized it didn't have to do with them needing a leader to predict the future, but rather, they needed a leader to motivate them. Predicting the future deals more with the head while motivation is more about connecting the work a team is doing to their heart. Once I realized that creating a vision was about motivation rather than prediction it unlocked the process for me in a way that was very powerful. My job as the leader was to connect the team to the larger narrative about where the company was headed and why that was important for the world. To do this I needed to speak to the people's heart instead of attempting to motivate them by speaking to their head. Once I grasped this new understanding, I set out on a process to create a company vision. First, I picked a timeframe. I chose two different timeframes, the 3-year vision that was mostly about creating a unified statement, and the 1-year vision that provided the team with just enough focus. I then ensured that the process of creating a vision was collaborative. This leads to better work and helps create buy-in among the people that will be executing on the vision with you. Next, I kept the final artifact low fidelity. This allowed allowed me to focus on the substance of the vision rather than the form of the presentation, and the team to focus on the story. After, I told a compelling story structured around the vision. This was a key way in which I sought to motivate and make the vision memorable. Last, instead of making a typical presentation, I made it a performance. I made it fun, interactive, and memorable so that there was a dialogue which helped make the story stick.

Lessons learned

I learned how to be a leader and one of the most unexpected lessons I learned as a leader was that creating a vision was the most important thing for me to focus on. I went from thinking it was stupid to essential. I also realized that I was going about motivation all wrong. I learned that people need to feel the problem before they will buy into it. It is more about connecting the work a team is doing to their heart than to their head. Source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-i-learned-embrace-vision-setting-tom-willerer/

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Tom Willerer

Chief Product Officer at Opendoor

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational Strategy

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