A few years ago, I was hired to improve the culture of a client’s leadership team and the five branches of a national franchise he owned. During a meeting, I asked the client if he had established the vision and values for his team. He was excited to tell me, that in fact, he had. Surprised by his boldness, I asked him to share them with me. First, he fumbled over the vision statement. Next, he listed off two values then said, “We have ten values but I’ll have to look them up.”
Knowing the answer, I asked him who crafted the vision and values for the organization. As expected, he replied that he did. I thought to myself, “How would the rest of the team remember them if he couldn’t remember them?” We then discussed how vision and values have to be meaningful and memorable.
A critical starting point for defining an organization’s culture is to have a stated vision and values. A vision informs the team where they are going while values establish who they are as a team.
Where are we going?
Having a vision is important for a team because it tells everyone where they are going. Conversely, no vision in place causes a person to wonder and wander. Visions align decision making with what is most important: The desired destination. Vision helps answer practical questions like, “Should we spend money on a particular project?” or “Is it the right time to invest in this area of the business?”
For example, Google’s vision statement is “To provide access to the world’s information in just one click.” Their number one revenue generating product is their search engine which justifies their vision. Three key components of Google's vision statement includes making sure they’re always developing ways to improve access points to users, collecting information across the world, and aiming for a speedy search.
Last year I had the opportunity to interview business leaders at Venue, a magazine for business leaders based out of Cincinnati. There were a few common themes across the interviews, one including the need for vision statements that compelled millennials.
Millennials have often received a bad reputation for not wanting to work. However, those interviewed explained that young adults are willing to work, but they do it with more of an emphasis on a purpose rather than a paycheck.
Since the recession in 2008, we see this with many millennials, as well as older employees. Money is not the main driver. Instead, having a purpose and a strong vision statement that can push teams forward, especially in those difficult weeks or quarters, has become the main driver of their work.
Vision statements are not only for the big, behemoth companies. They’re just as critical for the entrepreneur starting out, whether they be a wealth manager, realtor, or app creator. The vision is the “why” behind the idea. The owner/founder may have the service or product they want to sell, but when pressed, a compelling vision is vital to get through difficult times.
Who are we?
The values of an organization must be communicated often so they are actual, instead of just aspirational. Most companies create their values and plaster them on the office walls or their website, yet they never talk about them again. However, great companies bring their values into their organization daily. They use their values in their performance review process. They state their values in the interviewing process to see how candidates measure up. Some companies don’t even start a meeting until each member affirms a fellow co-worker on how they’ve recently lived out one of their company’s values. Not complying with the values can even be grounds for termination in some organizations.
All companies have values. Are they the ones you want? Or have they accidentally been created and accepted by the organization? At Five Capitals, we often explain to clients that the things they accept are the things they actually are approving. If you allow people to miss deadlines, arrive late to meetings, be rude to customers, or be unprofessional to each other, then you are inadvertently approving that behavior. Why should anybody stop?
Instead, values build trust. As we know from Stephen M. R. Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust, values increase the speed of operation and enable teams to make better decisions. When healthy values are lived out, the team is efficient, as well as effective.
Once again, values are not just for the big company. They need to be established at the sole proprietor level. When these values take root early, the company will then be built on a strong foundation, and not the sandy soil. Values will allow leaders and companies to be strong through difficult times.
Why are both vision and values important?
Successful businesses need to invest in both vision statements and values in order to be great. When businesses only invest in their vision, they will crumble under pressure. Companies that only focus on their values will never truly get off the ground.
Here’s what a recent business owner said about the importance of clarifying his vision and values for his team:
Cory’s coaching to help me craft my team’s vision and values were invaluable. If you don’t know your vision, you don’t know where you're heading. If you are not clear on your values, decision making is almost impossible. Having a clear vision and values helps not only ensure your life and business are heading in the right direction, but also that you know what is truly important and why.
At Five Capitals, we work with clients on a Vision-Values Matrix to help them articulate the need for both a vision and values to their teams. Here’s the matrix with each quadrant further explained:
High Vision and Low Values (Unlimited Harm):
These companies have an extremely high vision for their organization, yet low values. This can result in Unlimited Harm. Companies in this quadrant will do anything, even break the law, in order to carry out their vision.
Goldman Sachs was a catalyst in the 2008 recession by having the intelligence to package subprime mortgage loans for others to purchase, even though they knew they would fail. A few years ago, Wells Fargo had to pay nearly $185 million in fines for creating bogus accounts.
Leaders who are very smart with a compelling vision, yet lack healthy values, will do whatever is necessary to attain profit or revenue goals. Keep in mind, most of these business leaders are not bad people to start with, but their character eroded over time due to greed, or fear of failure. Without investment in character and values, Unlimited Harm often awaits.
Low Vision and Low Values (No Good):
These companies are probably out of business, or currently going out of business. They don’t have enough vision to get the company off the ground, and even if they could, they lack the needed values to make a positive contribution. They do No Good.
High Values and Low Vision (Limited Good):
Companies in this quadrant have extremely high values, but a low vision. These companies do Limited Good. This is the local coffee shop, bakery, dry cleaner, or restaurant that knows their customer’s names, treats their employees well, and usually is owned by people with good hearts. However, they don’t have the vision or competency to scale the business. They may lack a good training manual to franchise in new locations or the knowledge to build infrastructure. Overall, they do Limited Good.
These leaders need to develop their business acumen. They should be asking, “Do I need a new partner that can provide financial help?” or “Do I need a visionary to help navigate the next steps?”
High Vision and High Values (Unlimited Good):
These are the great companies. These leaders have surrounded themselves with a team that can effectively and efficiently scale while having the character foundation to build a business ethically. These companies can do Unlimited Good.
The character and competency investment allow these companies to increase their capacity to keep growing. Many of the household brands we think of are in this category. Google is a good example. Their previous mantra of “Don’t be evil” embedded a value set that helped create an accountable culture (values). Chick-fil-A is another great company because they have a vision for how to scale the business and build a fanatical customer base, yet they also have high values, such as being closed on Sundays to honor the Sabbath.
What about you and your company?
If you were to give an honest assessment of your company, where would you fall on this matrix? Can your team state your vision and values from memory? Do you have the infrastructure in place to grow?