Inspiring vision, part 2: make it relevant to your audience

An audience listening very carefully

In a time of change, your ability to create an inspiring vision will draw people to your project, motivate them to stay, and inspire them to deliver results.

There is no fixed template for how to achieve this, but just as every great painting is formed from the same basic colours, and every great piece of music comes from the same basic notes, so every great vision is formed from the same seven building blocks, combined in different ways. The second of these blocks is to make your vision relevant for your audience.

This is partly about speaking in a language your audience understands and appealing to principles they believe in. But mostly it is about something much more than that.

As Henry Ford said:

“Nobody at work is apathetic except those who are in pursuit of someone else’s objective.”

This building block is about getting your audience to buy-in to your objective. It’s about showing them, rationally and emotionally, that they have an objective which overlaps with yours.

The way you do this is by empathising with your audience: What are they thinking about? What are they feeling? What are their hopes, fears, and priorities? Do they want a challenge? Do they want to feel heroic? Or do they simply want to feel safe?

Martin Luther King achieved this by saying:

“I have a dream…, I have a dream…, I have a dream…”

Winston Churchill achieved it by saying:

“We shall fight them…, we shall fight them…, we shall fight them… We shall never surrender.”

On the surface these seem like opposing messages. But both were highly inspiring, because both were appropriate for their time and for the emotional messages their audiences needed to hear.

When you talk to different audiences or stakeholders, do you tailor your messages to make them relevant to each audience, rationally and emotionally?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By The U.S. National Archives via

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