mission and vision

Benefits and Dangers of a Vision Statement

It’s vital to understand the importance of your vision statement.

Do me a favour. I’d like you to take a moment and think about your organization’s vision statement. It doesn’t matter if you work for a business, non-profit, government, yourself…what ever it might be, picture your vision.

Capture it in your mind. Got it?

Now speak it out loud. How did it feel? How much did it resonate with you? How much did you feel a part of that statement…that vision? “Feel” is really a key word here, and if you felt nothing, that’s a problem.

OR, there’s the other issue.

You couldn’t think of your company’s vision at all. It didn’t come to you or you weren’t even sure if your organization has a vision statement. That’s also a problem.

For you, for employees, for customers and for your organization.

I recently did a talk on customer service to a B2B-focused team. It was the first I’d done for this particular group and, if I had to guess, the first they had ever received on the topic. But, talking about customer service opens the door to so many other connections like customer experience, which is connected to employee engagement, and then the company’s culture and values, then to its leadership and its communication. And a vital part of that entire organizational web, is the vision of the company.

I asked this group to do the same thing I asked you to do. It was actually a trick question. They didn’t have a tangible vision statement at all.  I’m not sure what’s worse: a bad one, one that no one knows or one that doesn’t exist.

A Great Vision Statement

A great vision statement tells a future state. A look at the world and how much better it is thanks to the work you are doing. One of the best vision statements I’ve ever heard came from Dr. Martin Luther King:

“I have a dream that one day….little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

You can picture it. It inspires. It feels worth fighting for and it unites us in trying to achieve it.

A great vision statement is:

  • Inspirational
  • Concise
  • Memorable
  • Clear
  • Future focused
  • Idealistic

Here are a few great ones, courtesy of TopNonProfits and Skills2Lead:

  • Oxfam: A just world without poverty
  • Feeding America: A hunger-free America
  • Human Rights Campaign: Equality for everyone
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Society: A World Free of MS
  • Alzheimer’s Association: Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s
  • Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.
  • Ford (from the 1900s): Democratize the automobile
  • Kraft Foods: Helping People Around the World Eat and Live Better

And Zappos, a little too long but definitely inspiring in its vision…

One day, 30% of all retail transactions in the US will be online. People will buy from the company with the best service and the best selection. Zappos.com will be that online store.Our hope is that our focus on service will allow us to WOW our customers, our employees, our vendors, and our investors. We want Zappos.com to be known as a service company that happens to sell shoes, handbags, and anything and everything.

Benefits of a Great Vision Statement

Once an organization has defined it’s vision, it’s about communicating it. And the best way to communicate it is through action. You have to live that vision in everyday activities and decisions. If an event, purchase or strategy by Habitat of Humanity doesn’t take them a step closer towards a world where everyone has a decent place to live, then they shouldn’t do it.

By “walking the walk, talking the talk”, a vision will:

  • increase employee engagement as they are more invested in their work.
  • build customer loyalty and advocacy as they will want to be a part of what you’re trying to achieve.
  • strengthen your brand as employees and customers will have stronger, positive feelings towards your company.

Warning: Don’t Confuse the Mission

I often see the words “mission” and “vision” interchanged with each other. They aren’t and shouldn’t be confused.

For example:

  • A vision is what the world will look like and benefit from because of the work you do
  • A mission is your company’s purpose and you do to achieve your vision.

Dangers of NOT Having a Great Vision Statement

Having a clear, inspirational vision statement can have various benefits, but not having one, or having a terrible one, can hurt you. There is value in crafting a great one, for your employees and your customers.

If your vision statement is too long, forgettable, lacks emotion, doesn’t resonate, is confused with your mission and goals, or doesn’t exist, your missing out on one of the best communication tools for creating a positive culture and brand loyalty.

Your Employees:

  • will not easily be able to tie their work into the company’s future, because that future is undefined.
  • will not have a unifying focus as an organization, but rather only as individuals, in their silos or in business units.
  • will not be as inspired in their work, possibly leading to lack of initiative beyond their “job description”.
  • will see a lack of vision as a lack of leadership for the organization.

Your Customers

  • will not be able to distinguish you from your competitors.
  • will not feel a sense of loyalty or identity with your organization.
  • will focus more on price as a brand differentiator.

People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

How have vision statements played a role in your organizations, either with you or with the general culture? Do you have any favourites you’d like to share? Please do below.

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