The New Year is an ideal time to reconnect teams with your mission, vision and values, and then hone in on the vision as a springboard for planning goals that truly engage and inspire for year ahead, writes Jennie Walker

As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” As we embark on a new year, it is wise to set aside time for reflection about our trajectories. This is helpful for all professionals, but has even greater importance for managers as their priorities affect the direction of many people.

But this reflection shouldn’t be just a simple evaluation of progress toward goals. It should be much more meaningful, reflecting on mission, vision and values. To what extent have our achievements and those of our teams reflected the mission, vision, and values of the organisation?

If this is a new exercise for you or if it’s been a while since you’ve done this, here is a quick refresher on mission, vision and values:

Mission is the core purpose of an organisation. An automobile company, for example, would likely have a mission related to producing quality cars. It is helpful for functional teams to have mission statements as well, even though their ultimate mission is to support the organisation. This is because mission statements guide our actions and priorities. A team’s mission statement describes how the team supports the company’s mission.

“To what extent have our achievements and those of our teams reflected the mission, vision, and values of the organisation?”

For example, the HR department within the automotive company might have a mission to recruit, hire and retain a highly qualified workforce based on industry standards so that the company can produce quality cars. The mission is the fundamental reason for the existence of the organisation and team. Even though this may seem obvious, the onslaught of information and tasks in the modern workplace can easily distract employees and leaders from their core purpose. A mission statement is a beacon to navigate through the chaos.

Vision is more aspirational in nature. It is the future vision of what the organisation would like to be or achieve. The automobile company might have a vision to be the industry leader in producing high-quality compact cars, for example. To achieve this, the HR department needs to attract and retain top industry talent. So the department vision would likely focus on being the preferred employer in the compact car segment of the automotive industry.

‘Preferred employer’ is a simple phrase that captures a set of complex information that must be further defined to guide the actions of the department. However, the phrase captures the spirit of those actions and serves to inspire HR professionals to attract and retain the best of the best. A vision statement provides inspiration to excel.

“The mission is the fundamental reason for the existence of the organisation and team”

Values are the core beliefs and behaviours promoted in the organisation to create and perpetuate a desired culture. In the production of cars, maintaining a safe working environment would be paramount, for example. Assembly requires excellent communication and precision, making those important behaviours.

Since many teams are involved in production, collaboration, respect, and inclusion may also be important values. Value statements capture how we are supposed to work together. If you are the leader of a team, these statements hold an especially heavy weight. Not only should they be role-modeled, they should also actively be promoted among team members.

When thinking about your trajectory as a leader this last year, consider the following questions:

  • What did the team achieve?
  • How did the team’s stated priorities reflect the mission, vision and values of the organisation?
  • How did the team’s actual achievements contribute to the mission, vision and values?
  • What needs to be done this year to align with these?
  • How can I, as a leader, better engage the team in our mission, vision and values?
  • What values should we focus on in the coming year to make our working culture more fulfilling and effective?

“Value statements capture how we are supposed to work together”

Once you have completed this exercise yourself, consider inviting your team to do this together. Reviewing the prior year with the team is important to provide recognition, facilitate a forum for collective reflection, and engage them in planning for their future. When this exercise is done as a group, it is natural for people to want to linger on discussing problems that surfaced. It is cathartic to review history, and the team’s concerns do need to be acknowledged and resolved as appropriate.

However, the past should not end up being the focus of the reflection activity. Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” So clear away the haze of the past year by reconnecting your team with the mission, vision and values. Then hone in on the vision as a springboard for planning goals that truly engage and inspire for year ahead.

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