Receive a Free Gift: 25 Extravagant Listening Tips for Leaders

Receive a Free Gift: 25 Extravagant Listening Tips for Leaders

NorthWise Blog

        A leadership blog dedicated to inspiring leaders to ignite flourishing.

Why Vision Matters And How to Approach Your Visioning Retreat

Todd Kemp - Monday, May 01, 2017

Two summers ago my then 17-year-old daughter Elise served on a month-long service-learning trip in a Guatemalan town about 3 hours from the capital city. On the outskirts of the town, she met Fernanda, a young girl joyfully swimming in a canal.

In Elise’s own words: “She submerged and popped up again, buoyantly bobbing her way down the murky course, laughing and smiling the way any child would when swimming on a hot day. The water that she played in was also the village’s central kitchen sink, washing machine, dump, and bathtub. Women swarmed the banks of the canal, dutifully filling drinking jugs with the downstream runoff of someone’s earlier bath water or dirty dishwater. I’m sure Fernanda’s mother was one of them. I watched Fernanda’s playful spirit in simultaneous wonder and heartbreak, knowing that the impurity and indecency of her water source that should enhance her life actually hindered it. It stirred me that the substance with the most life-giving potential was, for these people, a dirty demon.”

Several service/mission teams had come to this village in previous years to help with building projects and serve local families in various ways. There has been much good, important work to do on these trips that was noticed by local leaders and eagerly engaged by the visiting teams each year. Yet the contaminated canal water had somehow escaped everyone’s notice, hiding in plain sight. That is, until Elise met Fernanda.

Over the next few months and through several conversations, that experience, and the physical and spiritual needs behind it, crystallized into a vision for Elise, “to help restore the world’s missing ingredients for abundant life – both basic human needs and hope.”

The result? People have mobilized, met with village leaders, consulted with a water engineering organization, raised funds to drill a well in that village, and have plans to take a team to help with the project.

In addition, Elise now has an internship at Healing Waters International supporting The Her Initiative, an organization that serves international communities with clean water, health and hygiene education, and hope. She loves what she does and what she’s working toward.

That’s the power of a compelling vision!

You and your organization have been placed where you are, for such a time as this, for something grand, something significant, something worth fighting for! What is it?

Vision Draws Your Team Towards Its Best Work

You, and your team, your fellow servant-leaders, are doing good, important work. Is it the best work that you all have been called to collectively?

Andy Stanley says, “Without vision, good things will hinder you from achieving the best things.”

The visioning process is intended to help you discover what those “best things” might look like that your team, company, church, or organization are called to. A compelling vision draws people to engage in unprecedented ways and helps focus the energies and passions toward a common pursuit, a desired future.

What is Vision?

Definitions of vision abound and I don’t claim to have the definitive word. But I think Gary Collins anchors the concept well when he writes in Christian Coaching: “A vision is a clear picture of something we want to have exist in the future.” Here are some examples of vision statements:


  • Habitat for Humanity: “A world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
  • Feeding America: “A hunger-free America.”
  • Ritz-Carlton: “The Ritz-Carlton inspires life’s most meaningful journeys.”
  • Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.”

* If you have a body, you are an athlete.


Leadership authors Kouzes and Posner write, “The vision of an organization acts as its magnetic north.”

What tension do you feel between what is and what should be in your world?

What a Vision is Not

A vision is often confused with mission. A mission declares what the organization does, who we do it for, and why we do it. A compelling vision, on the other hand, describes a new future after the organization has successfully executed on its mission for a sustained period of time.

How to Approach Your Visioning Retreat

If you’ve been invited to participate in a meeting or retreat to discuss the vision of the organization, come prepared to maximize the valuable time together! Here are a few tasks and postures for you to consider:

  • Engage the pre-reading material to stimulate your thinking with outside perspectives and information.
  • Respond to any questionnaire you may have received to help planners and other participants hear insights from the group.
  • Pray in the days and weeks leading up to your first session. Align your thoughts and motives with God’s purposes for this group and the visioning process. Ask Him to reveal His vision to your team.
  • Prepare to suspend judgment and listen well to others in the group. Listen to really understand and learn from what each person is sharing.
  • Prepare to consider other viewpoints and possibly, to change your own.
  • Prepare to take a risk, speak up, and make your contribution. You belong there!
  • Prepare to think about and discuss the big picture…NOT the operational details!
  • Dare to dream and think BIG!
  • Prepare to be fully present and engaged, prepared to be nowhere else.

May your visioning retreat be the start of something grander than what you have previously imagined!

P.S. For more of Elise’s story click here.

Comments (0) | Permalink

Post has no comments.
Post a Comment

Todd Kemp

Todd Kemp


Todd believes that great leaders ignite flourishing and propel noble missions. He loves engaging leaders who value their own growth, are passionate about their people and earn profit for a greater purpose.

Since 2004, Todd has worked with CEOs and Business Owners, helping them build value in their organizations and multiply their capacity for being trusted leaders. As President of Sunbelt Business Advisors, a business brokerage, Todd worked with over 100 companies helping them buy, sell or reposition their firms. In addition to leading a $350M tech sales region at a Fortune 150, he earned entrepreneurial scar tissue by co-founding a software venture and acquiring a retail business.”

A graduate of Stanford University, Todd played on two NCAA Championship water polo teams. He lives with his bride and two teenage children at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Todd enjoys mountain biking, hiking, investing time with family and making mango salsa.