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Leader's Digest: Developing an Organizational Vision

From his days directing Missouri’s Christian Hospital EMS a decade ago to his current work as a consultant and development specialist, Chris Cebollero has learned enough about leadership to have written multiple successful books about it. This new series excerpts his Ultimate Leadership: 10 Rules for Success. For more see  

Rule #4: Develop a Vision

Creating a vision with a formal vision statement to drive your organization is one of the most important things you can do to direct future success. This process clarifies the values and direction of the department or organization and shows people where they fit into the overall mission the company hopes to accomplish.  

Why Is It Important? 

The organizational vision is a key component to the success of any organization. We have to be able to give our members a visual picture of where we are going and how they need to get there. My friend and mentor John Maxwell teaches that we think in pictures. He will ask you to close your eyes, and then he’ll say, “Think of your front door…now I want you to think about your car.” He continues, “When you thought about the door, you actually saw the picture of your door. When you thought about your car, you didn’t see the word car, you saw the picture of your car.” 

This lesson shows that as individuals, we think in pictures. If organizations do not have a vision that is front and center to guide their workforce, they will not have a visual picture of where the organization is heading or what they are working toward.

When I became the chief of EMS at Christian Hospital, I realized the department had no vision statement. I gathered people from around the workforce and put them around a table and asked, “What’s our mission here? What do we do? Where are we going?” And the common response was, “We relocate the sick and injured.” “Okay, what else do we do?” There was really no vision of where we were going to go as an organization, no bigger picture or purpose in their minds. 

Getting Feedback

We sat down as a team and came up with three vision statements. I said, “I want to know who you are. I want to know where we’re going, and I want to know who we’re going to become.” We sent those vision statements out to the workforce and said, “Now vote on the one you want.”  

The vision chosen was that we were going to give the highest quality of patient care. We were going to be leaders in our community. And we were going to be role models for our career field. 

When the Ferguson riots broke out in Missouri in 2014, our vision statement was front and center when we decided how to handle that volatile situation. We were thinking, How do we handle this civil disobedience and being right in the middle of rioting and looting and assaults yet providing an emergency service to both sides of the conflict with the highest degree of professionalism? Everything went back to our vision statement: We’re going to deliver the highest quality of patient care. We’re going to be leaders in our community. We’re going to be role models for our career field. 

One of the most common things about company vision statements is that they aren’t used. My question to you as a leader is, “If you can’t recite the vision statement, how can your employees recite the vision statement, and how can they know where they’re going?” 

Developing a Vision Statement

This is a great opportunity to start a campaign, get your workforce together, get your leadership team together, and say, “Here’s our vision statement. Is it what we need to do now and into the future?” Rewrite it and create a campaign and post it up in the department and put it on little cards and make sure everybody knows what the vision is. 

When it comes to developing your vision statement, get as many people involved in the process as possible. As leaders, we often talk about getting buy-in from our workforce for new ideas. Getting them a seat at the table is very important. 

When you create a vision, this is the big dream, the leap into the ultimate achievement. The old quote of “a goal is a dream with a deadline” comes into play here. When you work toward making your vision a reality, those goals come with a deadline as well. Think about the big things you can do and what’s important to accomplish those goals. 

When I met my workforce for the first time, my goal was to set the foundation for success right from the beginning. My comments were that if they followed me and worked and developed together as a team, we would eventually compete and win the National EMS Service of the Year Award. In 2014 our vision came true, and we were named Dick Ferneau Paid EMS Service of the Year at the National EMS Awards of Excellence at EMS World Expo. 

Take Ownership

For an organization to be successful, it is crucial that everyone take an active role and ownership of the vision. It’s important for an organization to think about what it is, where it’s heading, and, once it reaches that vision, what it will become. When everyone has a stake in the vision, they can work together to make it a reality.   

Chris Cebollero, NRP, is a senior partner for Cebollero & Associates in St. Louis, Mo. He is a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board. 

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