You need a vision, mission and core values

by Jan 4, 2017

I’m a consultant who works with companies that have a culture problem. Organizations call me when employee behavior has gotten out of control, and people are acting aggressively, and it’s affecting performance, and people just aren’t getting things done. I get called in to work with those organizations to create a different kind of a work environment, where people can function and even thrive.

Time and time and time and time again, what I see in these organizations who have this problem, is they have not been focusing on their vision, mission or core values. If they were, there wouldn’t be bullying.

Your organization probably falls into one of three buckets:

  1. There is no vision, mission or values.
  2. Vision, mission and values exist, but no one ever talks about them or even knows what they are.
  3. Your organization has them and they are a big part of daily functioning.

If your organization falls into bucket one or two, eventually people’s behavior – and maybe even yours – starts to get out of control and people aren’t acting in a way that pushes your vision forward. And that’s how you lose control like many of my clients.

Let’s talk about vision first.

A vision tells the world and your employees what you’re trying to accomplish.

Now, there are hundreds of articles and books out there on the topic of employee engagement, and 99% of them say that employees need to have a greater purpose, or meaning, in their work in order to be engaged. A vision can facilitate that.

If you don’t have a vision, or if you’re not constantly reminding your employees about the vision, then your employees aren’t attached to where you’re trying to go. Therefore their engagement and their productivity aren’t being maximized.

Your vision is all about what you’re trying to get to. It should be a strong powerful statement. For example, if you’re starting a nonprofit in your community to feed the homeless and hungry in your own community, then a good vision might be something like. “To erase hunger and homelessness in this community.”

Now when your employees – and when you – come to work you all have something to strive for. Each year, you’ll set goals to put a larger and larger dent in hunger and homelessness, always reaching for that 100%.

The point is that you have to give everyone something to work toward. It gives people meaning in their work, and in turn can help drive performance and engagement.

Next, let’s talk about mission.

While your vision is all about what you’re trying to accomplish, or what will be when your work is finished, your mission is all about how you’ll get there. Going back to your vision of ending hunger in your community, your mission statement might be something around research and education, obtaining volunteers, and developing strong partnerships. This is the how.

In another example, if you have a clothing line, and your vision is to make every person who wears your clothes feel amazing, then perhaps your mission is around using quality products, designers in your community, and offering great value.

Now let’s talk core values.

If vision is about what you’re trying to accomplish, and mission is how you accomplish that, core values are all about how you behave in order to achieve your vision and mission.

If you don’t have or aren’t focusing on core values, then your employees don’t know what’s required of them to achieve the vision.

One problem I see in core values is that they are often boring! Everybody says the same thing: Integrity, diversity, customer service… one trendy core value these days is, “act like an owner.” Blaaach.

What about values that mean something?

For example, one restaurant with several locations in Los Angeles serves chili hamburgers and hotdogs. They’ve been around since the forties, and they told me that great grandpa, who started this business, always made a big deal about not being stingy with the chili. In fact, he fired people if he caught them being stingy.

This restaurant might do well to create core values around this very interesting history. How about core values that start with, “Don’t be stingy with chili,” and also include, “Don’t be stingy with service?” and, “Don’t be stingy with quality.”

In the end, whether you have 3 or 15 or 100 or 5,000 employees, you need a vision, mission and core values. They literally drive your business. They give employees meaning in their work, drive your business decisions, and help employees understand how they are supposed to behave.

Talk about your vision, mission and values often – make them a part of everything you do. All of them should be powerful, and short, so people remember them.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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