The 8th and final competency separating merely good from great leaders is, according to recent research by Korn/Ferry Lominger, ‘Managing Vision and Purpose’.
To many people, the development of a company or departmental Vision and Purpose (also known as ‘mission’) seems like a light and fluffy assignment. Most organizations have a Vision and Purpose, but few use them to their full potential.
Vision and mission statements should be more than a plaque on the wall. When done right, and when genuinely understood by employees across the organization, they provide guidance in almost every decision made. They resonate with people’s values, connect their day to day work to the greater organizational picture and align individual efforts across divisions.
As always, the development and use of these tools is deliberate and conscious. You must lead the processes of crafting the mission and vision statements, and the processes of sharing them. You must help others explore the vision and mission to fully understand them, and to understand their roles in fulfilling them. You must be a change leader. This means, ‘walking the talk’, motivating and inspiring everyone (including the resisters), removing barriers and recognizing even the small successes along the way.
There are three related strategic concepts that organizations commonly express, including purpose (i.e., mission), vision and values.
• A mission statement describes the fundamental purpose of a group – why it exists and who it serves. It should be short, powerful and, usually, timeless in the sense that it fulfills ongoing needs of the clients. Mission statements may be renewed and refreshed, but the underlying purpose can remain valid for decades. For instance, a construction company might have the mission to “design and build safe, efficient transportation infrastructure for people with places to go.” Transportation methods may change from cars to trains over time but, in all likelihood, this company will always find a transportation “need” to be met with “safe, efficient infrastructure”.
• Values are important beliefs that are shared among the stakeholders of an organization. Values drive culture and priorities. Interestingly, organizations often seek to discover their shared core values, not create them, since adults usually walk into an organization with their basic values already formed. A clear understanding of shared values is very important to guide day-to-day decision making at every level within an organization.
• A vision statement paints a picture of your destination over the long term (usually about 3-5 years). It can describe what you want to achieve (your big goal) and, sometimes, who you want to become as an individual or team. It is ambitious yet achievable (unlike your mission, which is never quite completed). It represents the planting of a flag in the ground with the strong statement: this is where we are going. A vision statement does not tell you how you will get there (there may be many possible routes), but it provides the direction of travel. It provides inspiration and a call to action. It must be brief, powerful, passionate, easy to remember and easy to communicate to others. The construction company with the mission described in the first bullet might have a vision of “becoming the number one highway construction company in the country by 2016”.
Don’t skip this critical step and make sure you have a plan to fully utilize what you develop. Contact Summit to see what we can do to help.