How Do I Get Promoted? – Develop Your Vision and Mission Statements

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Regardless of where you sit in the organization there is an opportunity for you to develop and communicate your direction and to demonstrate your strategic agility. By developing your Vision and Mission statements, you will go through the steps a senior leader is responsible for completing for a function or segment of the business.

The vision statement is a vivid description of the future for your organization or function. It defines the direction (i.e., Strategic Intent) for the organization or your function. The mission statement is why you are in business today. It helps define the purpose or reason for existence for your organization or function. Be sure that what you develop supports your company and function’s direction. Going through these steps will help prepare you for your VP+ role and give you a chance to get more exposure in your organization.

Your Vision Statement

In the most concise terms, your vision represents where you want your organization or department to be in a point in the future. A good time period for this step is 3-5 years in the future. To develop your vision statement, utilize this technique:

Imagine you are in a helicopter and flying over your operations in three years. In as much detail as possible, please describe what you see in of these areas. Be as detailed and creative as possible.

  • People, Products and Services
  • Processes
  • Customers
  • Work Environment and Culture
  • Leadership Team
  • Skills (hourly, staff, professionals, supervisors, managers, top management)
  • Core competencies
  • Quality and Safety
  • Competitive Advantages

Take this information and form a description of the future. Vision statements are typically one or two concise sentences. The vision statement should meet these criteria when completed (Nanus):

  1. Realistic. A vision must be based in reality to be meaningful for an organization. It must create a mental image of the future state.  It also has to be idealistic so that it is a stretch to achieve it.
  2. Credible. A vision must be believable to be relevant to your key stakeholders.
  3. Attractive. People must want to be part of this future that’s envisioned for the organization. It serves to inspire and motivate stakeholders. It can be a stimulus for change showing the future state is better than your stakeholder’s current state.
  4. Future. A vision is not where you are now; it’s where you want to be in the future. It can help create meaning in your employees’ lives by helping connect what they do to the vision.

So evaluate your vision statement along these criteria and continue to develop it until you are satisfied it meets all of these effectively. Then take the vision statement and seek input from your key stakeholders and continue to refine the work.

Your Mission Statement

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The next critical component for developing and demonstrating your strategic agility is the development of your mission statement. Like the vision, the scope of the mission statement is a function of your role in the organization. As a manager or Director your mission should encompass your department. As the CEO your mission is for the entire organization. Unlike the vision statement, we recommend that you involve key people on your team to help develop the mission statement. You’ll need to reserve several hours for a robust discussion since you’ll need to make choices along the way to develop a laser focus on your value proposition.

Follow these steps to complete your mission statement:

  1. Review the current state within your organization and ensure you fully understand the broader mission of the company and function. Your mission must support the organization’s mission and direction.
  2. Answer these questions:
    • Who are your customers?
    • What are your customers’ key needs?
    • How do you perform the work?
    • What do you value in the organization?
    • What are the key gaps that exist in the organization or department that you want to address and incorporate into the mission statement?
  3. Take the output of Step 2 and form your mission statement. Here are the criteria of good mission statements:
    • Mission statements are short and concise.  Usually 1-2 short sentences. The means each word is significant.
    • Your mission statement should indicate the value of your organization or department and why you exist.
    • Your mission statement should be focused and separate you from the competition. A generic mission may be able to be applied to any of your competitors and won’t distinguish you to customers.
    • Your mission statement should be energizing to your employees.
  4. Seek broad input to the mission and don’t surprise your employees. Meet with all levels of employees and get their input about your mission statement. Use the feedback to refine your mission.
  5. Communicate the mission broadly within your organization. It has to be a constant communications element for your leadership going forward.
create compelling vision statements

Best And Worst CEOs In 2013

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Every year Sydney Finkelstein, professor of management at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, releases his Worst CEOs and has added a list of the Best CEOs. It is very interesting to me to see what separates the best from the worst and it provides some lessons for all senior leaders.

The WORST CEOs

Ron Johnson – formerly J.C. Penny. He tried to take a winning strategy from Apple and apply it to the retailer. He pushed it in spite of critics and failures. This is a classic mistake of applying a poor strategy to a company that was completely different.

Thorsten Heins – formerly Blackberry. He couldn’t execute his strategy and plan and ended up moving to other phones and applications.

Eddie Lambert – Sears. He took a winning strategy from hedge funds to the retailer. It just didn’t work since he overlooked merchandising, customers, and operational excellence.

Steve Balmer – Microsoft. Under his leadership the company’s stock has declined by 35% while Apple stock has appreciated 1900%. He had the company that could change the future but going with Zune for music, Windows-based phones and Bing for search let his new competition take their marketshare.

The BEST CEOs

Jeff Bezos – Amazon. His relentless pursuit of the customer, coupled with innovation, has led their stock to increase 220X since 1997.

John Idol – Michael Kors. He is a strong marketer and a great leader who practices best management approaches.

Akido Toyoda – Toyota. He is a visionary leader who has enabled the company to retake the #1 position as automaker.

Successful CEOs create winning strategies for their particular markets that work in their companies. Executives who fail take strategies from previous companies and try and apply them to a new company. This losing strategy inevitably flops because the leader fails to take input from the external market and internally when their direction goes awry. I don’t understand why Boards of Directors continually hire CEOs with a questionable track record and allow them to try again to be successful. It just goes to show how there is a dearth of great leaders to run our complex global companies.

Lessons in Leadership: Listening vs. Communicating

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Is it more important for a great leader to be better at listening or communicating their vision? I posed this question recently in several LinkedIn senior leader groups and received hundreds of comments. It was quite an interesting discussion with some thoughtful answers. The overwhelming sentiment expressed in all groups was that listening is paramount to leadership. Many people commented that you couldn’t communicate your vision without first listening to your colleagues, peers and subordinates. As basic as the skill listening is for leadership, most felt that without it, the vision will not be in tune with the environment and employees resulting in failure over time.


These results were interesting since the most popular authors on the subject of leadership describe the importance of vision for success and quite often leave “listening” out of the discussion. Listening is an essential skill of leadership and many people believe leaders possess that trait, when in fact it is not always present.

As an executive coach, I often work with senior leaders who are perceived as having all the answers, but this perception is due in part to poor active listening skills. The assumption is made by many that if a leader doesn’t ask any questions, then he/she must already know everything and doesn’t require any input.

It is incumbent for any leader to recognize that good listening skills are vital to business and career success. Great listening doesn’t happen automatically. Think of your listening skills like a muscle that needs constant exercise. If you don’t continually “flex” your listening muscle it will atrophy or time and you will miss out on much needed information that will help you make better personal and business decisions.

Improve your leadership skills by actively listening every day. Ask a different peer or employee a question about the details or progress of a project, the company culture or just what’s new in their life. Not only will it help you to discover potential problems and solutions, but it will build trust and positive relationships in your work environment.

Coaching Tips for Derailers

Keys To Successful Leadership

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Two months ago CCL (Center for Creative Leadership) posted a blog stating that the two most important competencies for leaders to be successful were Leading People and Strategic Perspective. This was based on their extensive research data base of training leaders from many different countries, levels, industries, job titles, etc.

In more detail, they suggested focusing on delegating, communicating, and motivating would help you Lead People better; while understanding the big picture, solving complex problems, and understanding the formal and informal organizational networks were critical components for successfully improving your Strategic Perspective.

Those competencies definitely support our experiences working with senior leaders. In addition, we find many leaders fail due to an inability to “connect” with their stakeholders, so I would add Stakeholder Relationships as the third most important competency for successful leaders.

What I mean by “connect” is the ability to understand others’ needs and goals and consider these in the course of business. For example, leaders who are directive vs. collaborative do not show interest in “connecting” with their team members. It has to be genuine or else the leader can alienate their stakeholders. One way leaders can improve their relationship stakeholders is to set a regular time to meet or speak with them one-on-one to listen to their expectations, goals, concerns and values.

On a broader scale, the ability to connect with stakeholders and other important relationships may be referred to as a key element of EQ or emotional intelligence. It applies in all situations and a trusted executive coach can help you identify steps to improve this area.