Leadership 101: Vision, Mission, Values and Culture

As we explore the dimensions of leadership and management, I plan to touch on many subjects.  My approach in each of this series of articles is going to be deliberate and organized so you can refer back to them and understand them in the broader context of building a strong, healthy and successful practice.

Last month, we reviewed Jim Collins’ definition of Level 5 Leadership (L5) because, quite frankly success starts with you. There are so many more concepts in his book “Good to Great” that it is a must read. I’m hoping in the last month or so, you’ve done some homework and read the book.

Today, I want to take you on a broader step to looking at your practice from 50,000 feet and assessing some of the key elements that you need in order to get your practice to your perfect place. I recently attended an entrepreneurial certification class, the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). EOS was developed by the business author and real estate entrepreneur, Gino Wickman. He developed this system because he saw very similar weakness in businesses across all verticals and knew he could make a difference by simplifying the core elements of a great business. Now, he will be the first to tell you that these elements only work if (1) the product or service has high quality and (2) there is a significant market demand for these services. I think it’s safe to say that us DC’s can “check that box”! The reason I wanted to complete this course was because I saw weaknesses in my own business that could be improved upon. No business is everperfect, and so “Kaizenovation® – continuous improvement through innovation” – is something we always work towards.

Now, let’s get to the components of the EOS. There are six components:

1. Vision
2. People
3. Data
4. Process
5. Issues
6. Traction

This month we will start with Vision. When I have a discussion with clients about vision, I always include three other elements: Mission, Values, and Culture.

  • Vision defines the way an organization or enterprise will look in the future. Vision is a long-term view, describing how the organization would like the world to be in which it operates.  For example, a charity working with the poor might have a vision statement which reads “A World without Poverty.” Does your practice have a vision statement?
  • Mission defines the fundamental purpose of an organization or an enterprise, succinctly describing why it exists and what it does to achieve its vision. A mission statement provides details of what is done and answers the question: “What and how we do what we do?” Does your practice have a mission statement?
  • Values are beliefs that are shared among the stakeholders of an organization. Values drive an organization’s culture and priorities and provide a framework in which decisions are made.  Honesty, teamwork, compassion all are examples of values. There is a critical need for alignment between personal values and organizational values because when there is misalignment, bad things usually happen. When there is strong alignment, your potential increases significantly. Does your practice have defined values that are exemplified in the behavior of each person in the practice?
  • Corporate Culture as defined by BusinessDictionary.com has probably the best definition I have seen, and it states:

Corporate culture is “the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organization. Organizational culture is the sum total of an organization’s past and current assumptions, experiences, philosophy, and values that hold it together, and is expressed in its self-image, inner workings, interactions with the outside world, and future expectations… 

…Also called corporate culture, it manifests in (1) the ways the organization conducts its business, treats its employees, customers, and the wider community, (2) the extent to which autonomy and freedom is allowed in decision making, developing new ideas, and personal expression, (3) how power and information flow through its hierarchy, and (4) the strength of employee commitment towards collective objectives…

…It affects the organization’s productivity and performance, and provides guidelines on customer care and service; product quality and safety; attendance and punctuality; and concern for the environment…While there are many common elements in the large organizations of any country, organizational culture is unique for every organization and one of the hardest things to change.”

So, if the answer is “no” to any and/or all of these questions, there is work to be done, but more importantly, there is great opportunity. So how do you go about creating this foundational content for your practice? Here’s an novel idea…Take time to work “on” the business instead of “in” the business. To do that, it takes some time to set aside to meet with your whole staff. You probably need two hours to get through at least the first round of creating this content. Here are the 12 steps to take during that meeting:

1. Schedule a two hour meeting. Ensure you have paper and pens for everyone, flip chart paper that can be torn off and placed on an office wall (and/or a dry erase board), and markers (dry erase markers) with which to write.

2. One week prior to the meeting, provide an agenda to your team. Tell them, the purpose of the two hours will be to build out definitions of the practice’s vision, mission, values and ideal culture. Give them the above definitions to read. Further, explain the purpose of doing this work – to create a more harmonious workplace that achieves great things for its patients, its employees, the practice and the community. Most employees can rally around that. If they can’t, you may have “the wrong person on the bus.” (Note: “People” article coming next).

3. The day of the meeting, start the meeting on time. At the beginning of the meeting, re-state the purpose and the agenda. Then hand each person a pad of paper and a pen.

4. Read the “vision” definition and ask each person to write their definition on their pad of paper.

5. Once completed go around the room and have each person read their vision statement out load. Never be critical of their input, but you can provide direction if they are off base (e.g. they are really writing a mission statement when it should be a vision statement). While each person is reading, one person should be writing the statements on the chart/board.

6. After each person has spoken and any refinements to their individual ideas get completed, you should have all of your staff’s vision statement for everyone to see on the chart/board.

7. Facilitate a discussion on what each person likes and/or dislikes about the wording and work to create one common, complete and descriptive vision statement that is signature to your practice and your people.

8. Repeat the same exact step for your mission statement.

9. Once you’ve completed your mission statement, the next step is to come up with 5-7 core values. So, ask your staff to just write down on their pad of paper the words that come to mind that exemplify what the practice values should be, not necessarily what they are. (Note: You can certainly have a discussion after you’ve decided on what your core values need to be and the discrepancy with what they appear to be at the current time. That’s a healthy discussion to have but each person must be open to feedback (especially the doctor!) so that real change can take place for the betterment of all involved.).

10. Once every person has come up with their 5-7 core values, go through the same process of each person reading them aloud and putting them on them on the chart/board for everyone to see.  Once you have all the words up for everyone to see, again, have a discussion about what the most important values are for your practice. Finalize the 5-7 most important and then DEFINE them, so that you are clear as to the meaning of the word. For instance the word “growth” can mean many things – practice growth, financial growth, personal growth, etc…So be clear so that your behaviors can model your values.

11. Next, you run through the same exercise related to the practice’s ideal culture. It could either be a word, a phrase or a sentence that describes the practice’s ideal culture. Then, after you’ve completed the process, finalize what you want the ideal culture to be in the practice by getting consensus from every team member in the meeting.

12. It’s critically important that you document your final vision, mission, values and culture, and that you have it posted for, at the very least, your employees to see regularly. Sometimes practices may want to clearly state their foundational content for their patients to see. That’s an individual decision but I can’t express enough how important it is for this information to be front and center for your team!

Lastly, I want you to realize that you may have to go through several renditions of the above until you get your perfect fit for each element. That’s ok, in fact that’s not just normal, but preferable. We’ve changed ours many times over and we think after 18 years we have it perfect.

You may be reading this article thinking or saying, “I have bigger fish to fry”… “My new patients are low”… “My costs are skyrocketing”… “I just lost my office manager”… “My receptionist was stealing from me”… “I can’t get my claims paid” … etc, etc, etc…

Trust me, I’ve been there – with every single one of the above issues and then some. But those are symptoms of the larger problem (sound familiar? i.e., your ROF with your patients?!).  It’s critical that you spend the time to create intellectual alignment first and foremost by building out this foundational content. It provides the framework and context for every single behavior and action that takes place in your practice moving forward. Two hours can go a long way to ensuring you’ve built the right foundation so that once you have the “right people in the right seat on the bus (next edition), the practice can reach its potential! Good luck and let me know how it’s going!