One of the common denominators of some of the world’s most successful people is that they have a clear vision that reflects who they are at their core. In this episode, APU business professor Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt talks to Qiana Cressman, a global speaker and 20-year executive leader with experience in marketing, business development, and media relations. Learn why it’s so important to create a personal vision, the benefit of seeking out a mentor or coach to help you cultivate a vision, how surrounding yourself with the right people can help you realize that vision.
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Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Welcome to the podcast. I’m your host, Kandis Boyd Wyatt. The goal of this podcast is to highlight our local heroes and heroines in our community who are champions of important issues affecting us on a national and international scale. Today, we’re going to add to that very important discussion happening nationally and internationally regarding the importance of creating, executing, and leading a clear vision.
So today, I am so honored that our guest is Qiana Cressman. She’s a global speaker and executive leader and a results-oriented executive with over 20 years of leadership experience in marketing, business development, and also media relations.
She is a highly collaborative leader who is responsible for managing multi-million-dollar budgets and driving over $35 million in revenue to date. She’s accustomed to engaging with diverse communities. She’s responsible for building significant strategic partnerships and achieving sustainable revenue growth in complex markets. So Qiana, welcome to the podcast, and thank you for joining me.
Qiana Cressman: Thank you so much, Dr. Kandis. It’s such a pleasure to be here.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Well, yes, I’m the one that’s really honored, and I’m so looking forward to this podcast. So there are so many critical conversations happening today that address issues of vision and seeking clarity about forging a path forward. So your story is inspirational, so I’m hoping you can start by just telling us a little bit about yourself and why this topic is so dear to your heart.
Start a Business degree at American Public University.
Qiana Cressman: Absolutely. Thank you so much, first and foremost, for that lovely introduction. But vision is so important to me because during some of the darkest times in my life, vision pulled me forward, and some of the times of the most successful seasons and junctures in my life, vision helped me to stay focused.
And so many times, I feel like it’s underrated. It’s like the secret weapon of success that many people don’t talk about. And where there is no vision, many times people give up. Where there’s no vision, many times people get distracted.
But if you look at the most successful people, whether they made it to the mainstream or just your everyday heroes and inspirational individuals, the common denominator or one of the key ingredients that they all possess is an unwavering commitment to a vision that reflects who they are at their core. So that’s one of the reasons why vision is so important to me.
And I know for sure that vision determines your outcome more than anything, more than your socioeconomic status, more than your past, more than any obstacle that could ever come your way. Your vision is what determines your outcome, and so that’s why it’s so critical and so important to me.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Wow. I love what you said, that vision is the most critical piece, because this podcast is being broadcast to American Public University. And we have a student population of over 82,000 students. So I think that message resonates with them, that each and every one of them can rise above any circumstance or standard that they’re dealing with if they have a clear vision.
So let’s go back to what you said about the different leaders that we see around us in society. Can you start by talking about some of the leadership types that you have encountered in the workplace and how creating a vision impacted your life, both personally and professionally?
Qiana Cressman: Great question. So I’ll just start with the three most consistent types of leaders I’ve experienced. I’ve experienced the empowering or transformational leader. That’s the person who isn’t afraid to share power, and that’s the person who empowers others.
When you’re not afraid to share power and you invite people into the vision with you, you may be the vision caster. You may be the set leader. But when you invite others alongside of you to walk that vision out and then you share power so that they can rise to their potential, that’s called being empowering, an empowering and transformational leader. How I can make positive impact that goes beyond me and changes or influences the lives of others for the better.
Then there’s the passive-aggressive leader. That’s the person who is aggressive, maybe about the minor things in life or in business, and then passive about the major things. So, for instance, in an organization when the key leaders or the top-level leadership set the vision, which is simply where we’re going and why we’re going, they may not focus on important things like culture, which is how an organization works together.
And no vision can be successfully accomplished if key people aren’t working together in a healthy and constructive way. So sometimes when people are in that passive aggressive state, there’ll be aggressive about the goals, but not focused on the character of the individuals who are leading the organization. So those are some key pieces.
Another leader is the controller, the person who may have some insecurities, but they’re afraid to share vision. They’re afraid to allow other people to develop in their own vision and strength, and they’re more on a domineering side.
So how I’ve gotten through dealing with different types, whether it’s an empowering leader or whether it’s someone who’s not so empowering, is understanding the corporate vision that I’m a part of, of that organization or that group or whatever I’m connected to, whatever that initiative is, and then understanding what my part is in it.
So I have the bigger overall vision, and then the vision for myself might be, who can I invite to the table and help empower so they can grow and develop in their potential? So that might be a personal vision that I have that undergirds me and an overall bigger vision that I’m a part of. One of the things that helps you stay focused is when you have that personal vision for yourself, even though you may be a part of another one.
And it helps to encourage you so you’re not distracted by other things that may occur if you are working with a leadership type that’s not a healthy leadership type. So that’s why that understanding the overall vision and what your part is in it is so important.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: I like what you said about, you need to have your own vision, regardless of what’s around you, but at the same time, that vision is going to be impactful in how you move forward. So to our listeners, how would you individualize your vision?
Qiana Cressman: That’s also a great question, and the keyword there is individualize because we’re in a society where we’re so consumed with what somebody else is doing or somebody else’s success that we begin to take that as what our definition of success is. And it has nothing to do with who we are.
And if you look at the most successful visionaries in life, and everybody, male or female, can pretty much identify with Oprah. But if you really listen to some of the things that she says, before she signs a business deal—and she’s presented with many—before she engages herself in a partnership—and she’s presented with many—she makes a key decision. She says, everything that I do is an extension of who I am.
And so I think it’s important that when you set vision for yourself, make sure it’s a direction that represents who you are, where you want to go, what your goals are, what your mission and purpose in life is.
And then it will help you make good decisions, and it will navigate your yeses and your nos. It will keep you in alignment with what your purpose is and what is best for the direction of your life.
So how you individualize your vision is by assessing and learning who you really are. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at university. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars buying other people’s books and materials. But we tend to spend, as a society, very little time learning and cultivating who we are.
If you ask me who I am, I can tell you because I spent time on me, learning what my strengths are, learning who I am, and, guess what else, who I am not. So my yeses are guided by my personhood, by the core of who I am, and that is how you individualize your vision, by becoming self-aware in who you are.
What do you like? What don’t you like? What does a dream job look like to you? What does that look like?
So let me give you an example of a vision for myself, my vision for success. My vision for success, personally, is the intersection of my purpose, passion, and profitability. Don’t believe the hype that you can’t do what you love and still be compensated well. There may be creativity. You need to build a good network, but you don’t have to be boxed into limitations of what someone else told you, because there are a lot of people doing what they love, making billions of dollars.
Now, there are a lot of things you might love, but you can’t make a career out of all of it. But there are things that you can do that you’re passionate about and be compensated well.
So for me, success is not necessarily reaching a certain title or even reaching a certain dollar amount in compensation. But for me, I want it to always be congruent with what I know I’m on this earth to do, and I want to be paid well to do it.
And so if that means creating opportunities for myself as well, then I will do that because that’s what success looks like to me. But if I compare it and don’t individualize my vision, I’ll be chasing someone else’s dreams and never fulfill my purpose and destiny.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Yeah. You brought up a really good point, and that is, if you look at society, society values money and power and influence. But when it comes to vision, it’s more internal in terms of what are your strengths, where do you want to go, and like you said, that intersection of your key core values.
So what I want to do with go back to something you said because it really struck a chord with me. I’m obviously a professor, and we’re making this podcast for American Public University. And I totally resonate with what you’re saying where society kind of teaches us, go to school. Go to class. Get a four-year degree. Go to class. Get another degree.
And I think some of us sometimes can’t make that connection between, well, what are you learning in the classroom, and then how do you take that into your day-to-day life or the broader world? So speaking to the students, what are some of those maybe school terms or theories that you learned that you can now apply to define vision?
Qiana Cressman: So some of the theories that I basically learned was, it’s the practicality of how I plan and how I identify where I want to go and how I want to get there. So for example, in business, let’s take Nike sneaker, their vision, to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
So from a business standpoint and a theoretical standpoint, when I create that vision, how is it going to help me connect with those that I want to impact or engage as a customer, but also stay true to what my core offering is?
You look at Ikea. Their vision is, our vision is to create a better everyday life for many people. So theoretically it’s, how can I resonate with my customer, my target audience, those who I want to impact, but keep it connected to my core business priorities or what my core mission or vision is?
And so what you’ll notice in business, those businesses that are successful, they have their core offering, product, or services, but they also include their customer, that demographic, into their vision. So now you hear Nike’s slogan is one of the most popular slogans, “just do it,” because they’ve included the picture, the visual of an athlete. They want to empower the everyday athlete.
And so as a business student, it’s important when you’re setting your vision, whether you’re going to be working in business for someone else or starting your own business, who do you seek to impact? And how does that tie in? How does the message of those you seek to impact tie into what your core service business or offering is? And that’s where you’ll find much success.
So in practical terms, once again, it’s just having that plan to help you identify where you want to go, how you want to get there, why, and then tying into that those that you’ll impact in that vision.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Can you be trained to create your vision? Or let me say it in another way. In a perfect world, what training would be needed to make people more aware of the importance of establishing a vision?
Qiana Cressman: I believe that the best training for establishing a vision is through having a mentor, investing in a coach or consultant, or you may even have a professor or teacher who can work with you on that. But I think a lot of times, we tend to look only within, and that’s a good thing, to know what’s within us, the goodness, the gifts, the talents. But sometimes, you need to step outside of that and get some expert advice.
So there are people who are experts, specialists in helping others construct a vision. They do group sessions. They do individual sessions. And the reason why these individuals are able to be specialists and coaches and consultants is because that’s how important this is.
Many of the visionaries who are public, who we know as famous, they have people that they’re working with behind the scenes on that. They just don’t necessarily make it known. You just see them casting their vision, sharing what their vision is, and then you see them walking in that success.
But behind the scenes, they have someone helping them engineer it, cultivate it, helping them to ask themselves the right questions. Who am I? Where do I want to go? Where do I want to be in the next three, five, or 10 years?
And then after I set that vision, how do I set the steps to get there? So I believe anybody can be trained. We all have the ingredients to create a powerful vision, but let’s not feel like we have to do it alone.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: That’s great. And I want to touch on what you just said, that you said it can be done. It’s possible. So to that point, do you feel that every person already possesses the skills to create and to execute a vision?
Qiana Cressman: Absolutely. If you have an imagination, you can create a vision. We were all created with the gift of an imagination, and so I think everybody has the ingredients to have a vision.
What I feel like is oftentimes missed, whether you’re a student or whether you’re a new professional or a seasoned professional, is our ability to ask for help in cultivating that vision. And so don’t be afraid to. Don’t be ashamed to. It’s only going to help you become your best self.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Wow. So when it comes to vision, how do you assure that your vision is realized? It’s one thing to set a vision, but then how do you make sure it becomes a reality?
Qiana Cressman: Great question. Yeah, it’s easy to make a lot of plans, and it’s easy sometimes to set a lot of goals. Goals are the action steps that actually get you to the vision. One of my mentors said, “I hold people able, not just accountable. I hold them able that you are able to achieve that next.”
And so who is in your life? You don’t have to share your vision with everyone because like a newborn infant, when your vision is in its infancy stages, let’s just say your vision might be—let me give you an example. I want to lose a certain amount of weight. My vision is to lose excess weight, 30 pounds, to feel good about myself inside out.
My mission may be to live healthy and strong, and so my goals are going to be, I want to walk three times a week. I’m going to hire a coach. I’m going to eat whole foods and drink water at least eight glasses a day. Okay. So I have my vision, mission and goals. And now who am I surrounding myself with?
The vision and the environment that you create for yourself to fulfill that vision are equally important. So you can have this wonderful vision, but if you don’t have the right individuals in your circle and in your midst while you’re pursuing and walking that vision out, you could literally completely thwart your progress and not fulfill your vision.
So in order to successfully walk it out, you need to surround yourself with the right individuals, and that will help you to walk out that vision that you have and realize that vision.
Once you have it set, who’s holding you able? Who’s around you that’s inspiring you and challenging you and really believes in your vision and won’t get intimidated, won’t get envious, but will genuinely support you? That’s who you need to have in your circle when fulfilling your vision.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Yeah, I really agree with what you just said, that who you surround yourself with is really important, because I think they say, iron sharpens iron. So you touched on a lot of different terminology, and I want to make sure that our listeners clearly understand.
So can you delineate or just distinguish, what’s the difference between a vision or a mission or goals or objectives? More importantly, what’s the order?
Qiana Cressman: Absolutely, and I think you shared a great order for vision, mission, and goals. So the vision is basically where you’re going and what you’re doing. Mission is your why. Why are you going? Why do you exist? Your goals are basically the action steps that help you to achieve the vision and mission, so once again, where you’re going and what you’re doing.
Nike: I want to bring inspiration. Here’s our vision. Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. That’s where we’re going, and that’s what we’re doing. Mission: Why do we exist? To provide the proper athletic gear to do that for those athletes. So we provide sneakers. We provide athletic wear. We provide all of the things that help that athlete to innovate and to be the best athlete that they can be.
And then what are the goals? We want to sell millions and billions of dollars of sneakers, so we’re going to open franchises all around the world so that we can sell our product to support and help and inspire these athletes.
So you have your vision, setting where you’re going, what you’re doing, your mission, why, why you exist, and then your action steps to help you get and achieve that mission and vision accomplished, help you to achieve that.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Thank you for clarifying that. So let’s go back to the company that you were mentioning. So when it comes to goals and mission and vision, are they steadfast? Are they set in stone? Or should a company evolve their vision, their mission, and goals over time?
Qiana Cressman: Great question, especially in business. So for the business students, if there’s anything that you hear, this is an excellent question. It is important to always keep a mindset of innovation, because what works in this year or for the last three years may not work for the next three years.
I know people say, every year, they usually set their vision or their vision boards and all of that at the beginning of the year, but I’ve heard very successful people say they set 10-year vision plans and 20-year vision plans. But it’s all about your personal journey and where you’re going and what your goals are.
So make sure you give yourself the room and the grace to evolve in your vision because where you are five years from now, you may be taking on a different part of your journey, and you may go in a different direction.
There are people who might’ve started out as an attorney, and then they fell in love with photography and opened up a successful photography business. So their vision changed. Their journey and their direction changed, and they did something that was fulfilling to them.
So give yourself space to evolve in your vision, but when you are in business, working for someone else or yourself, it’s important that you evolve because your customer base may evolve. And if you try to stay the same when your customer base is evolving, you’re quick to go down.
You can look at the auto industry. That’s a good example. Look at some of the car businesses or industry or brand names you know who are still here and thriving and some who wouldn’t evolve and innovate as differences were happening in the car industry, and they are no longer in existence. So it is very important that you allow yourself the space to evolve in your vision.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Yeah, that’s a good point because I don’t think I see many Pintos around.
Qiana Cressman: There you go.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: So obviously, something happened where that company either it ceased to exist, or they just decided, hey, this no longer suits our customer base. And they phased it out. So yeah, that’s a great example.
So I’ve really enjoyed all the nuggets of wisdom that you have given us today. So as we start to wrap up our podcast, what are some resources that you have used or provided in the past to help individuals become more aware of the importance of creating a vision?
Qiana Cressman: Actually, one of the authors that I really like a lot that many can I identify with or may know, Dr. John Maxwell. He specializes in leadership, but oftentimes, he’ll share information on creating your vision. So you can find a book that may really speak to where you are in your journey because he’s written so many.
Also, I would just start with basically where you are in terms of authors who have written on vision. If you’re not at the place right now where you want to engage in hiring a coach or consultant to go through a vision-planning session or seminar, there are, and now with the virtual setting that we all have to get used to in the pandemic for this time until it’s over, there are several vision-planning seminars that you can go to.
You can go to Eventbrite and basically just type it in like you would Google, and then you can find something in your area where you may be able to do something online. And it’s not very costly. Usually, the group activities and sessions aren’t very costly.
And what I would recommend is, so that you know that it’s an expert that you can trust, do your homework to vet individuals or talk to somebody that you trust and know, a professor, another business person, or a peer that’s in your circle that may know somebody who’s a speaker or somebody of interest to you that teaches on these things.
For me, personally, I have individuals that I consult with because it’s very personal for me, my vision and the direction that I’m going in. And so I think it’s an investment in you take advantage of your mentors while you’re in college or your counselors, your career counselors. They can help you as well to maybe identify who the best person is to help you navigate that and get your vision going.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: Thank you, and we are going to leave with that very important note. So thank you for sharing your expertise and your perspective on vision. And thank you again for joining me for today’s podcast.
Qiana Cressman: Thank you so much for having me on your amazing podcast, Dr. Kandis.
Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt: And thank you to our listeners for joining us. As a reminder, you can learn more about these topics and more by signing up for American Public University’s bimonthly newsletter. So until our next podcast, be well and be safe.
About the Guest:
Qiana Cressman is a frequent panelist, speaker and media guest on a variety of topics including: marketing, women in leadership, DEI, business development and health disparities. She is the Founder/Owner of Emerge Woman Magazine, a MagCloud bestseller (2019), reaching readers in 16 states and featuring over 200 women’s stories.