How a vision creation session looks like
Author: Truong Dieu Le, Partner at Mekong Capital
November 20, 2023
I don’t normally have lunch business meetings. As an introvert by default, I prefer to just relax for lunch to free my mind and recharge. But recently, I made one exception. It was with Tracy and Duong from our Talent Acquisition (TA) team at Mekong Capital. They asked me to meet during lunch for them to learn how the Operations department used Business Insights (BI) dashboards to enhance team performance. The purpose was for Tracy and Duong to discover something new for their BI dashboards. I reluctantly agreed to the meeting, and it turned out …well, let me share with you how it turned out…
For that lunch meeting about BI dashboards, I first asked them to share the Talent Acquisition team’s Vision. I always start with the vision, as it is the guiding light for everything else. A team would not thrive and break through without an inspiring and owned vision. When we looked at the Talent Acquisition team’s Vision together, I asked them “How do you see yourself in this? Is this vision pulling you and exciting to you?”
Tracy and Duong looked at each other. They shared that the team just generated this vision about two weeks ago. Yet when I asked more probing questions about their relationship with the team’s vision, I did not see a spark in their eyes. So I put such thoughts of mine on the table, and asserted “Guys, this is your vision. It has to pull you. If it does not pull you, such vision would have no meaning.” After our back-and-forth conversation, Tracy and Duong decided to redo the team’s vision. Therefore, we scheduled a vision creation session with the team.
Intended outcome: At the vision creation session, all team members of the Talent Acquisition team were present on time. I started by inviting them to generate the intended outcome that we wished to achieve at the end of the session. The team all aligned that the outcome of the session was to together co-create a new vision statement that is very clear, powerful and pulling them towards it. They wanted the new vision would also feed energy and power to them. We aligned that the new team vision statement would reflect a breakthrough goal the Talent Acquisition team is committed to achieve by 2026.
Current reality: The next step was to invite the team to share their current reality, i.e. what results they were having, what was working at the moment, what was missing at the moment, what struggle they were currently facing, etc. By sharing all those inner thoughts, pains, excitement, concerns, fear, etc., each member was able to put everything on the table, instead of avoiding those. From my side, I listened carefully to each sharing and repeated those, so that they felt heard and understood. The intention of this was for the person who shared, she would be able to empty whatever stuckness she had inside, so that a clear and empty space could be created for her. From my experience, a lot of people easily let go of their concerns and negative feelings after sharing and being heard. And that was what we did together, each of the team members shared their current reality, so that we all had an empty space for new possibilities to arise.
Individual wish: When an empty space was present, I then invited each member to generate what they wished to achieve by 2026, what would make them feel fulfilled and empowered in the role of Talent Acquisition, what results they wanted for Mekong Capital, for our investee companies, for the Talent Acquisition team, and for each of them personally. With such important questions, the team took some time to think and jotted down their thoughts. And the sharing was very inspiring. I started to see sparks in their eyes when they talked about the future and what matters to them. Through their sharing, I got to know each of them more and felt connected to them personally. They were human beings who wanted to contribute to others and aimed for things beyond their individual self. One by one, they created a whole world of possibilities.
Generating Vision Statement: The next space that we needed to fill was to inquire into the main intention of the session: the vision statement. We needed to address these four spaces:
- What Result: What breakthrough results does the team want to achieve by 2026?
- How: What is our secret sauce?
- Who: Who do we need to be and what expertise do we need to be good at so that we achieve this result?
- What Impact: What impact will our breakthrough results have on Mekong Capital/our investee companies/TA team/myself?
We took the time to inquire into each question. Our Talent Acquisition team consists of 4 members: Duong, Tracy, Tram and Nhu. The first proposal was presented by Tracy for the 1st question. I then asked the team “Anyone not align with this?”. It was quite nice to see a hand went up – it was Tram. I asked Tram to repeat Tracy’s proposal and tell how she understood it. Then, she and Tracy had a discussion so that Tram would fully understand Tracy’s proposal first. After that, Tram made a counterproposal. They continued to discuss back and forth until they fully understood each other’s meaning and world. Then, Tracy let go of her proposal, and accepted Tram’s counterproposal. This meant the leader of the discussion shifted from Tracy to Tram. I usually call this a handover of the flag. The leader holds the flag, and when she is willing to agree with a counterproposal, the leader will hand the flag to the person who makes the counter-proposal. This meant that Tram now held the flag. And the next person who has a counter-proposal would have a 1:1 conversation with Tram.
I continued asking “Anyone not align with this?”. And another hand went up. Just like that, I could not remember how many rounds we went to finalize the first statement. Every single word was carefully thought out, as each specific word conveyed a wider world. We even added definitions of some words, so that the team could be on the same page about the meaning of it. I was especially impressed by Nhu’s proposal to link the team’s result to the investee companies’ visions – which was the ultimate game of Mekong Capital.
After the first statement was aligned and owned by everyone, we continued with the rest of the 3 statements. Similar to the first statement, proposals were made, and I asked “Anyone not align with this?”. Of course, there was always one hand up. We kept doing that until there was no more hand raised, and everyone looked satisfied. For the session, we invited Ms. Nga Vuong, an experienced industry expert, who has awesome track records in C-suite head hunting and building capability for recruitment teams, to join us. Having an industry expert who knows the secret sauce of successful C-suite head hunting joining the session was extremely valuable to the team. She was asking questions as well as sharing insights, which enabled the team to discover their secret sauce and who each of them could be and do to become experts in C-suite head hunting. I personally found the session valuable for learning about recruitment and talent acquisition. It not only helped the team to create their vision statement, but also allowed them to strategize and gain insights to achieve their vision.
During the alignment process, deep listening was so critical. I remembered one time, when Tracy had the flag, and Nhu had a counter-proposal. Initially, Nhu wanted to say her proposal right away without fully getting the meaning of Tracy’s proposal. Luckily, I caught that. I invited Nhu to repeat what Tracy shared. After Nhu repeated, I asked Tracy if she got the whole thing. Tracy provided an additional piece that Nhu missed. Nhu repeated such missing piece, and then asked clarifying questions until she fully got Tracy’s proposal. Nhu eventually said, “I got your proposal now. I have no counter proposal anymore.” Wow, I thought to myself, “Deep listening and getting the other person’s world are so powerful. When people get each other’s world, they start to see that they actually share the same view. No one needs to persuade anyone. No one needs to argue with anyone. Just listening and sharing what we heard are enough to get people connected and aligned.”
At the end, we generated a vision statement that everyone owned. Tracy said that this new vision already gave her an opening for new actions at some investee companies. This is exactly how it looks like when a team has a pulling vision – you can’t wait to take the actions necessary towards such vision. Such vision lives now, in the present moment, not someday in the future.
Well, it turned out that the lunch business meeting exception was worthwhile! I found myself happy and fulfilled when the four bright smiles blossomed at the end of the session.
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Mekong Capital makes investments in consumer-driven businesses and adds substantial value to those companies based on its proven framework called Vision Driven Investing. Our investee companies are typically among the fastest-growing companies in Vietnam’s consumer sectors.
In January 2022, Mekong Capital founder Chris Freund published Crab Hotpot, a story about a bunch of crabs who found themselves stuck in a boiling pot. The colorful cover of “Crab Hot Pot,” complete with expressive cartoon crustaceans, looks like a children’s tale at first glance. But as one continues reading, it becomes clear that the work has an important message about organizational transformation, leadership and focusing on a clear vision for the future.