As a leader, how do you know that your performance is meeting your organization’s expectations? How do you lead with honesty and integrity and then, when in doubt, know where to look for direction? If you don’t know your organization’s mission, vision, and values take a moment to look.
Your organization’s mission sets a standard for behavior and leadership. Furthermore, It is the glue that binds all employees and gives direction in making plans. It is a compact statement, maybe under twenty-four words, is easy to remember, and includes your guiding core values. Here are some mission statements, as concise as eight words, from nonprofit organizations that I find compelling:
Lifestrong: To inspire and empower people affected by cancer.
Wounded Warrior Project: To honor and empower wounded warriors.
Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice.
Cleveland Clinic: To provide better care of the sick, investigation into their problems, and further education of those who serve.
The U.S. Fund for UNICEF fights for the survival and development of the world’s most vulnerable children and protects their basic human rights.
AARP: To enhance quality of life for all as we age. We lead positive social change and deliver value to members through information, advocacy and service.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society: We mobilize people and resources to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of everyone affected by MS.
Mayo Clinic: To inspire hope and contribute to health and well-being by providing the best care to every patient through integrated clinical practice, education and research.
Susan G Komen for the Cure is fighting every minute of every day to finish what we started and achieve our vision of a world without breast cancer.
Compact and inspirational? Absolutely. The words in these missions are carefully chosen and clear in order to set a context; these mission statements can direct action plans and to help prioritize tasks and options when there is uncertainty and ambiguity. They explain the “Why” the organization exists. You can see why it is so important to get the mission statement right.
Vision statements look toward the future and what the organization is striving to become. Values are added to provide the “How” the mission and the vision will be accomplished and a template for plans, objectives, and action steps. Furthermore, values define the organization’s character.
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan provides a good example of keeping the Mission, Vision and Values succinct, easy to remember, and service oriented:
Mission: Restoring hope and freedom through rehabilitation.
Vision: To be a national leader in high value rehabilitation and post-acute care, and to develop an integrated system of care throughout Michigan.
Values: At Mary Free Bed, we:
- Focus on patient care
- Strive for excellence
- Collaborate to achieve results
- Take responsibility for performance
- Are truthful and respectful
- Embrace innovation
In leading marketing efforts, I have found it imperative in dealing with the public to know my organization’s mission, vision, and values. I would go as far as to state that if you want to have any traction in building a new relationship, a new contract, or simply wanting to be viewed as credible, you need to live and talk about your mission and values. I have always made sure to have true stories to share that exemplifies how my organization puts our mission and values to work: I believe that this approach is brand management in action. I have found this approach an effective tool in dealing with people across the spectrum: physicians, hospital administrators, board members, athletic directors, and in interviewing candidates for new positions.
My experience has taught me that my organization’s values need to be taught to your new staff, repeated in your team meetings, and emulated by you for you to have the credibility to lead in your organization. By living the missions and values like those noted above, brings an honesty, integrity, and transparency to your practice as a manager. This practice prevents what I would call an ambush when dealing with issues that may come between you and your staff.
There are, of course, those managers in all businesses who find it easier to wield power by withholding information or by using intimidation. Maybe it is because of insecurity or uncertainty that they feel that they cannot lead without having a “leg up” on their staff. Whatever the reason, if you practice following your organization’s mission and values, your actions will have credibility and preempt this unsavory practice. Often forming peer groups can be helpful for those managers who struggle with leading teams. Here, one can share frustrations and look for answers without feeling threatened.
Granted, leadership can be most challenging with teams composed of professionals who are well educated, questioning, and assertive. Personally, I love these kinds of teams. I look forward to learning something new every day and this is the product of forming teams of this caliber and by you keeping an open mind. And it this kind of relationship that makes the above organizations’ missions real for everyone involved.