Creating a Compelling Vision Statement

Vision statements and mission statements serve two distinctly different purposes. In this article we will explore the vision statement and how to create one for your organization — it should be a team process. The vision statement communicates both the purpose and values of your organization. For employees, it gives direction about how they are expected to behave and inspires them to give their best. Shared with customers, it shapes their understanding of why they should work with your organization.

  • It is a short, succinct, and inspiring statement of what the organization intends to become and to achieve at some point in the future.
  • Vision refers to the category of intentions that are broad, all-inclusive, and forward thinking.
  • It is the image that an organization must have of its goals before it sets out to reach them.
  • It describes aspirations for the future, without specifying the means that will be used to achieve those desired ends.
  • The vision should state what the owner or leader ultimately envisions the organization to be in terms of growth, values, stakeholders, contributions to society so self-reflection is a vital activity if a meaningful vision is to be developed.
  • Once you have defined your vision, you can begin to develop strategies for moving the organization toward that vision.

A vision statement is a vivid, idealized description of a desired outcome that inspires, energizes, and helps you create a mental picture of your target. It could be a vision for a company or organization, or the outcome of a project or goal. Vision statements are often confused with mission statements.

Vision Statement Examples:

“We will build a stronger America by mobilizing our communities to improve people’s lives.” — United Way

To be the best quick service restaurant experience. Being the best means providing outstanding quality, service, cleanliness, and value, so that we make every customer in every restaurant smile.” — McDonald’s

“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” — Patagonia

8 Steps to Creating an Awesome Vision Statement

1. Summarize Your Vision in a Powerful Phrase — If possible, try to summarize your vision using a powerful phrase in the first paragraph of your vision statement. Capturing the essence of your vision using a simple memorable phrase can greatly enhance its effectiveness. A good example is Microsoft’s vision of “A personal computer in every home running Microsoft software.” This simple, yet very powerful phrase can be used throughout the organization to remind all stakeholders of the vision.

Note: If you are having trouble coming up with your summarizing phrase, try adding it after you’ve written the rest of the vision statement.

2. Make it as Long as Necessary — Vision statements can be much longer than mission statements. The purpose is to create a mental picture charged with emotion that can serve to energize and inspire you and your team. Make it as long as you need to accomplish this goal.

3. Describe the Best Possible Outcome — You should base your vision statements on the best possible outcome. In fact, you might want to envision something even better than what you consider to be the best possible outcome. The purpose of the vision statement is to inspire, energize, motivate, and stimulate your creativity, not to serve as a measuring stick for success; that is the job of your objectives and goals. It is not to serve as a “real” target that you are going to measure against to determine if you have succeeded or failed. You should use your goals and objectives to do that. Instead, the purpose of the vision statement is to open your eyes to what is possible. A powerful vision statement should stretch expectations and aspirations helping you and your team move out of your comfort zone. Our reach should always be greater than our grasp.

“Shoot for the moon! Even if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars.” — Les Brown

4. Describe it in the Present Tense — Describe your vision statement in present tense as if you were reporting what you actually see, hear, think, and feel after your ideal outcome was realized.

5. Make It Emotional — Your vision statement should describe how you will feel when the outcome is realized. Including an emotional payoff in your vision statement infuses it with passion and will make it even more compelling, inspiring, and energizing.

6. Add Sensory Details — The more sensory details you can provide, the more powerful your statement becomes. Describe the scenes, colors, sounds, and shapes. Describe who is there and what everyone is doing. These sensory details will help you build a more complete and powerful mental image of your ideal outcome.

7. Inner vs. Outer Vision Statements — When creating vision statements, it is often useful to separate the inner and outer aspects. This is particularly true for vision statements related to your life areas, and less important for project/goal vision statements.

An outer vision statement refers to your physical sensory experience (what you would see, hear, do, etc.). An inner vision statement refers to your internal thoughts, emotions and feelings. In a business setting, you can think of outer vision statements as the way you would like “outsiders” such as your customers, suppliers, and the community to view and behave towards your company. An inner vision statement would describe the way you would like your employees, owners and other insiders to view your company.

8. Update It — Since vision statements are usually focused on the long-term, they don’t have to be updated or reviewed as frequently as mission statements. A quarterly review is an excellent time to determine if your vision statement is still describing the ideal outcome you want for each result area. Sometimes you will find that your vision can remain consistent with what you want for a long time, and other times you have an epiphany and have to rewrite your statement from scratch, and that’s OK.

In my next article I will address how to create a compelling Mission Statement.

Frank Manfre www.frankmanfre.com

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Frank Manfre

Frank Manfre

Business consultant & coach w/ 35 years experience in leadership roles in for profit and nonprofit organizations focused on developing leaders & org health