You can excite and unite your people through Vision, but first
it has to make you tremble.
Having trouble sleeping? Read a Mission Statement! Oh I know that's a rather cynical way to start what is supposed
to be an energizing and motivating article - but let's face it
- how many employees do you know have their corporate Mission Statement
taped to the bathroom mirror because it gives them an emotional
jolt on Monday morning? Now, how many employees do you know who
frankly don't care if there is a Mission Statement or not? Exactly.What did we do before we had Mission Statements? Did we wander
around in a pointless daze wondering what to do? Of course not!
We did our jobs. Now that we all have Mission Statements what do
we do? We do our jobs. Does anyone else get the feeling that something
is missing here?
The 'something missing' is called spirit. It's
the fire in the belly. The light in the eyes. The spring in the
step. The thrill
of innovation. The pride of quality. The satisfaction of service.
The delight in reward. Wrap these all up and you have something
called Vision. I define "Vision" as "seeing the
future as though it were already here." There is an evocative phrase I like to attach
to this idea of vision - "The Richly Imagined Future." I think it has
more life and action in it, more spirit than the simple words "mission" or "vision." It
requires more than some vague goal hygienically written so as not
to arouse provocation.
If I were to ask you to describe your richly
imagined future, I would expect to hear something truly grand about
how you imagine a better world tomorrow. It would be grand because
imagination has no limits, especially if you are richly imagining
it. It would be vibrant and tasty. It would be intense in color
and depth. The richly imagined future is not anchored to last quarter's
results or to political complexities. It is the world as you dream
it could be.
Well, as someone once said, "It would be a nice dream if
we all dreamt it!" So how do we get people to dream our dream?
How do we get them to really see the potential of our company?Economic or Ecological?Grand statements of intention (call it mission,
call it vision, call it whatever you will, it matters only to
be created on one of two levels.
There is an economic and an ecological
level. Most corporate missions are expressions of the economic
- and that is where any possible passion is hissed out of the human
spirit. Economy (from the Greek oikos nomos) literally means 'the
rules around here'. It refers to those things we measure and for
which we have hard data. Ecology (oikos logos) refers to what is
really going on, the deeper meaning of the situation. The latter
is a fuzzy area - 'the soft stuff' some intimacy-adverse people
like to call it. We don't have ready language for it and it makes
most corporate leaders uncomfortable. Perhaps it is even too intimate.
The economic is more about 'what' and 'how'. The ecological is
about 'why'. Without an answer to the question "WHY?" there
can be no purpose or passion. "Why?" is the universal
question created into every human heart. We are born asking it
and, unfortunately we have it pretty well bleached from our souls
by the age of seven. This is precisely what makes exciting our
employees to vision so difficult. Most people go through life without
a "Why?" and our job is to put the "Why?" back
into them! To give them a "Why?" for their work. This
is the job and joy of leadership!Why are you doing what you do?It does not take much to see that if we who own, manage or lead
the company do not have a 'Why?' for ourselves, it will be impossible
to instill purpose and passion in anyone else.
So - why are you
doing what you are doing? If it is only because you are the fifth
generation owner and you feel obligated to your heritage, so be
it. If it is because it was simply the best job you could get at
the time, that too is nothing to mock. On the other hand just do
not expect anyone who works for you to wake with a burning passion
to get to work. Now, if what you do glows in your soul, so that
as a manager you can't look at an employee without marveling at
the responsibility you've been granted, you can't take a Sunday
afternoon drive without seeing a new application for your product,
you swell with pride when you see the team surpass an impossible
performance goal, you bow in respect and admiration toward the
one who went far beyond the call of duty to serve the customer
- then we are getting close to the spirit of vision.
Make your Vision ecological and your Goals economic Let me state it clearly: without a 'Why?' there
can be no Vision! Here is a common example of a why-less mission
statement. I have
seen this a thousand times if I have seen it once. "Our mission
is to become the preferred supplier in our chosen marketplace." Sends
shivers of excitement through your body doesn't it? Folks, this
is no vision - it is a statement of survival. I asked an insurance
executive what his vision was for the company and he replied, "To
reach a billion dollars in premiums." I said, "Why?" He
thought for a moment and answered with wonderful honesty, "I
don't know." Frankly, it was just the next big number. If
you walked into your doctor's office and read on the wall, "My
mission is to reach a million dollars in patient billings" would
you stay for a single minute? If that disgusts you, what makes
you think that an economic mission statement would excite your
employees or customers? I want you to make a fortune, but please,
put your economic intentions into your goal statements not your
Two years ago, a new president of a pharmaceutical
company was addressing the sales force during a convention at
which I was the
guest speaker. The company made only one or two products but they
worked miracles on certain heart problems. To great excitement,
the president declared that by the year 2000 he hoped they would
hit $50 million in sales (I forget the actual number). Once the
aroused crowd settled down, I was invited to speak. You have recognized
already that the president had given his economic vision for the
new millennium and I could not in good conscience let it pass. "Tell
me," I inquired, "if you were to hit this incredible
goal, based on the average consumption of your miracle working
product, how many patient's lives would have been saved by the
year 2000?" They had never been asked that before and immediately
broke into small groups. I also forget the figure they estimated,
but let's say it was 150,000 patients. "What if our vision
was that by the year 2000, we in this room will have saved 150,000
people's lives?" Think about it - which purpose would excite
you more? Which one would you brag to your grandchildren about?
Do you see the incredible difference? I was trying to turn their
economic goal into an ecological vision. It is not an anti-profit
thing - it is about having a "Why?" behind what we do.
Again, why does your organization do what it
does? Are you protecting treasured history? Are you bringing
color and joy into people's
lives? Do you bring wisdom to those who have to make decisions?
Are you dousing the anger and self-destruction so rampant in our
world? Do you bring nourishing food to kitchen tables? Are you
keeping people healthy and safe? Are you preserving that which
is precious? Do you help children get a decent start in life? In
short, "How are you making the world a better place?" Keep
asking "Why?" and, when you have answered it, ask "Why?" again.
You will know when you have reached an ecological vision because
it will make you stand back, almost like it is too big a responsibility.
You will feel that you do not deserve such a privilege. It will
make you tremble. And then you will begin to know the meaning of
The following quotation must be printed
at the conclusion of each reprinted article:
"Copyright The Ian Percy Corporation." Ian Percy
is one of North America's most inspirational speakers.
Ian Percy is an international speaker and
consultant and can be reached at www.ianpercy.com