How to Develop a Company Vision and Values That Employees Buy Into
It can be a long process, but it's well worth the effort.
I'm sure you've read about the importance of having company values and a mission or vision statement. But why is it important and how do you establish them? When I first started my business with one client and a couple of employees, I didn't have the structure in place. But as we grew and added more clients and staff, I realized the importance of having a roadmap so that everyone was on the same page. I might have had a vision in my mind about where I thought we were going, but I needed to share that vision and get input from my team on where they wanted to go as well.
Brainstorm what you want and what you don't
After I made some key leadership hires, we met together as a group and did a lot of brainstorming. We thought about everything we wanted to be and what we didn't want to be. We looked at our staff and our clients, people we admired and looked up to and tried to reverse-engineer their characteristics (can you tell I'm passionate about reverse-engineering?) We agreed that we wanted to be more like "this," and we wanted to work with clients that are more like "that." We used these to create our values. Why didn't we like working with certain people? Because they were jerks — that's where one of our four core values of "Make it Fun, Don't Be a Jerk" came from.
Once we came up with our mission and core values, we put a system in place to make sure those values became part of our workplace culture. We created a Slack channel to recognize people who live up to those values. Anyone can publicly recognize anyone else by giving them a shoutout for something they've done. Then at our biweekly company-wide meetings, we select a few people who were nominated and give them a financial award. I used to think mission, values and vision were just things they taught business school, but it's real and I've seen the positive impact it's had on our company.
I was an SEO expert but didn't have a lot of experience as a CEO of a fast-growing company. At this point, I decided to work with a coach who recommended that I develop a "vivid vision," something that outlines where I see myself and the company three years into the future. He recommended that I go to a place that inspires me and just sit there and try to put the vision that I had in my head on paper. I chose to go to a nice hotel in Beverly Hills.
I spent the afternoon sitting in a nice coffee shop where they had a piano player, beautiful paintings on the wall, people coming in and out and nice cars pulling up. It inspired me, and I came up with three pages of bullet notes. I used adjectives that described the specific details of what each part of the vision looked like. Creating a vivid vision doesn't need to be a whole book — just write a few bullet points of your dreams and goals. Describe in detail what the office looks like, how many people you employ, your revenue and perhaps even the awards you have received. The point is to create a visual for the rest of your employees so that they can envision the future in the same way you do. This way everyone is aligned and clear on where you are going as a company.
Making the dream a reality
After my time at the coffee shop, I got on a call with our director of communications to discuss what I had come up with, and then she wrote it into our vivid vision story. The mission and values were created with the leadership team. The vision was something that I needed to develop myself, as the CEO. It's written in the present tense, three years from now, as if it is already accomplished. We decided on a three-year vision as 5-10 years seemed too far in the future to be realistic. From here, it went to our creative team to make it come to life with visuals and images. Once it came to life visually, our engineering team then took it and turned it into a web page that is live on our website for anyone to see. That includes our employees, our clients, our bankers and our competitors. We're radically transparent, and we're very clear about where we're going,
We just created our vivid vision last year, and there are already aspects of the vision that are coming to fruition. I think there's a lot to be said for being intentional about direction and then just watching the manifestation happen. As everyone starts to understand where we're going, it starts happening. As the CEO, I couldn't possibly do it all on my own, but I can instill the vision into the team and with them to make that vision a reality.
We have our vision for the next three years. We won't change it or lower our expectations if we miss a target. We have set our sights high and will work towards achieving or surpassing those goals. We also review our vision once a quarter. We like to do this at our leadership retreat, where we get high-level reports on how things are going.
If you haven't put together a mission or vision for your company, perhaps it's time to take action. If you think it's only something for large corporations or only something they talk about in business school, I hope my experience can help change that perception. Having a clear vision and a specific mission helps define the purpose of the organization. It makes sure you are working towards the right goals and helps you direct resources to the appropriate place. When everyone is working towards the same goal, it increases productivity. It gives employees a sense of unity. When employees understand the vision, it motivates them to work hard to achieve the goals that have been laid out. It takes some time to put together, but the results are more than worth it. I don't think I've ever worked in another company that has a better culture because of the way we initially structured our vision and mission.
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