Company’s success barometer – visionaries Vs missionaries

Last week I met two new entrepreneurs, one from my batch(she is doing well with the startup) and one a junior (after leaving Saatchi & Saatchi, he is starting his own venture). I will try to interview them in the coming days. I was always attracted towards entrepreneurs (I don’t know why, ohhh I think I know why). After every conference I try to meet and appreciate new entrepreneurs. I just love them and often end up helping them for free.

I am associated with many startups, from being the first employee of my present company to our own startup Idealog. I am also a board member to some non-profitable startups. Also I have stopped/scared many from starting new companies :), sorry for that.

Its a great challenge to be an entrepreneur and here is a small barometer to measure your progress. Take a piece of paper or create a Google doc and list all your team members. Now mark them as either visionary or missionary and rate them from 5 for respective group. See the % of visionaries you have in your team. Now create another column and mark the missionaries who can be converted to a visionary with a time frame and plan. In most of the cases you will see the missionaries with high ranks can be converted to visionaries. I will also pen down the plan for converting a missionary to a visionary. Do this check every quarter and if you can see a progress then I can assure you that all company stars are in right place.

Table will look something like this:

Member name Working for
M/V Rate
5 best
Plans Notes
XYZ 30 V 3 Needs more empowerment. Irregular at works
ABC 10 M 4 Send him for a outstation conference to learn something new and let him teach it to the rest of the team. Doesn’t believe in company.

How to mark/be visionaries and missionaries?
There are many factors that separates visionaries from missionaries, both are important for company’s progress but visionaries will decide a company’s territories. Earlier I had drawn the thick line between a leader and a manager. A visionary is one who is inline with the vision of the company or inline with a partial vision of the company and a missionary is one who takes up a mission. A visionary is also a respected missionary but not vice-versa. Here when I use the word missionary I mean a pure non-visionary. Here are top 5 marking criteria:

  1. Task vs Purpose OR work vs ownership: A missionary will do the task but will hesitate in understanding the real purpose of the task. And thus a missionary will finish a task and a visionary will add a never ending quality check/innovation based on the purpose understood through this task instance. A missionary will take up a task while a visionary will take up the ownership.
  2. Attempts or failures:Can we do this“, “why not this“, “I think we are missing this“, these are some iterative sentences by visionaries. They always try to innovate and add more value to the projects. The reason behind these innovations/attempts is their feel of ownership towards the project. You need to be crazy towards your work to innovate. Check how crazy a person is, by counting the number of attempts/failure.
  3. Making others comfortable while working: A visionary will make others feel comfortable while at work as he understands the need of extra pain. He will enjoy the process and will make it easier for you to work with him. On the contrary a missionary will like a defined list of work, won’t prefer a messed up attempts. Rate them on the basis of “how comfortable you feel with them at work“.
  4. Defined territories:I was not good at that so I did not do that“, “Why should I do that? thats not under my list“, “I am a technical guy why should I do this work“, these are frequently thrown valid excuses by a missionary as they are missing the overall goal of existence. We don’t program as we are programmers or we don’t write content as we are content writers but we do so as that will help us achieve the final goal. A visionary will also redefine his territories to help company progress to next level. Check the various areas of contribution for the person to rate him (from Kitchen food to company ad, from bathroom to conf room improvement).
  5. Problem Handling: I remember the first sentence by our Princy at Xaviers, “Welcome to The Xavier family. Xaviers is not the best college to be in (we were a bit shocked, we thought the other way round). If we say we are the best then that takes away the scope of further improvement. We are better and better everyday.” Expect the imperfection everywhere, with yourself, with your girl friend, with your friends and with your company. Do they bring problems to the surface or they hide it at surface level and dig/spread inside? A visionary will frustrate you by bring 2 problems-3 solutions everyday while a missionary will need a perfect environment for work.

I couldn’t frame it as per my expectation but I will end this post with a small thought (that I always believed in). “No one is a perfect congress man or a perfect communist, we have a mix of both“. We have a visionary in all of us, it is only a matter of choice whether we want to develop this side or not. There are instances where I have seen a visionary getting converted to a missionary, thats an ALARMING MESSAGE FOR ANY COMPANY. Start loving what you do by understanding why you do to become a visionary. A visionary will enjoy more of his time. If you want to check your current role then rate yourself using the following table:

Criteria Yes/No Rate
5 best, even for NO rate
Weight Total Point
Weight x Rate
What should be done here?
Do I take the ownership? __ __ (Y=1/ N=-1) __ Plan
Do I make attempts for the team? __ __ (Y=1/ N=-1) __ Plan
Do others enjoy working with me? __ __ (Y=1/ N=-1) __ Plan
Do I redefine strict territories? __ __ (Y=-1/ N=1) __ Plan
Do I bring problems to the surface level and try to solve it? __ __ (Y=1/ N=-1) __ Plan
Total points __  

If you have a positive count then you can be termed a visionary and a negative count is asking for improvement. Finally ending this long post, please let me know if you encounter a mistake.

3 Replies to “Company’s success barometer – visionaries Vs missionaries”

  1. Great Post Aji. Definitely, i try out this with myself. And i agree with you – In our company “visionary getting converted to a missionary, ALARMING MESSAGE FOR THE COMPANY”

    I have a question? How this type of concepts are coming in your mind? 🙂

  2. Aji, this post is a must read for all those who want to go up the ladder. It has some great points which should be learnt and practised in order to become a leader.

  3. >> And i agree with you – In our company “visionary getting converted to a missionary, ALARMING MESSAGE FOR THE COMPANY”
    This happens in every company but what matters is the cumulative count and if it is increasing then there is no worry. Such instances should be carefully analyzed to avoid cumulative fall. We always try to run the overall ship and whatever fits in the overall running of it will be and should be implemented.

    >> I have a question? How this type of concepts are coming in your mind?
    I keep observing, life teaches you more than what you can learn otherwise 🙂

    >> It has some great points which should be learnt and practised in order to become a leader.
    I don’t know whether it helps you grow in ladder or not but certainly this will help you enjoy the job 🙂 Happy practicing.

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