Does Your Corporate Vision
Make You Tremble?

Having trouble sleeping? Read a Mission Statement!

Oh I know that's a rather cynical way to start - 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." The evocative phrase I like to use instead of "vision" is "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.

Economic or Ecological?Grand statements of intention can be created on one of two levels: an economic or an ecological level. Most corporate missions are 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'. We don't have ready language for it and it makes most corporate leaders uncomfortable. 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?" The job and joy of leadership is to put the Why back!Why are you doing what you do?It does not take much to see that if we who 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 economicWithout a 'Why?' there can be no Vision! Here is a typical why-less mission statement. "Our mission is to become the preferred supplier in our chosen marketplace." Sends shivers of excitement through your body doesn't it? This is no vision - it is a neutered statement of survival. 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 vision statement.

Again, why does your company 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?" 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 your work.

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


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