Monthly Archives: October 2016

Living the Mission

To wrap up our Mission and Vision topic for this month, here’s an interview from an organization where employees live and work by both of them.

Becky M, Member Services Director of a local YMCA

Do you feel like all or most of the employees know the mission and vision of the YMCA?
I think most employees know our vision and mission or they know the general idea of it

How does this happen?  Are you reminded of it regularly, is it woven into your daily work?
Every week a manager of each department walks around and ask random employees to recite our vision and mission and how we live it in our everyday life.  At our staff meetings we do what’s called a “Mission Moment” where we tell stories where we have witnessed our mission and vision in full swing.  We are reminded of it daily through our members, program participants, staff, and volunteers.  Our mission and vision is the reason I work for the Y.  I believe in our cause and how we can help our community.

Have you worked somewhere that this was not the case, and what differences do you see?
I have worked at places where there was a mission statement but they didn’t really explain to us why or how they came up with that mission statement.  I have worked at places where I didn’t see it put into action from day to day.

The big difference I see is that at other companies we didn’t base our work off the mission and vision where at the Y the work that we do is all based off of the mission and vision and how we can impact someone’s life.

Mission:  To put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.

Vision:  To serve relentlessly with our community until all can thrive in each stage of life.

Could you see any of the above practices working for your organization, or come up with others that would?   Please share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions in the comments!

Cindy Schneider




What gets measured…

chart3Management expert Peter Drucker famously said that what gets measured gets managed. When it comes to mission and vision, that can be especially important. Having a  strategic vision and a well-crafted mission statement is a start, but unless they are reflected in day-to-day organizational goals they won’t be real to the people doing the work. Here are a couple of examples:

Dartmouth sustainability initiative includes a vision: “Dartmouth will build upon our unique strengths and traditions to become a global hub of sustainability by the end of this decade.”  It also includes clear goals, such as adapting teaching and using the campus as a laboratory for best practices. In addition, they have identified progress indicators. For example, if the project is successful their graduates will be in demand for sustainability solutions and everyone on campus will understand how the institution leads in this area.

Connecticut state colleges and universities developed system and institution mission statements. As part of the project, a team identified metrics that met these guidelines:

  • Meaningful
  • Indicative of progress
  • Valid and reliable
  • Comparison data is readily available
  • Greater value than the cost of collection
  • Institutional actions can impact the metric

How does your institution measure progress toward its mission and goals?

Dee Anne Bonebright



So What Exactly ARE Mission and Vision Statements?

We have been discussing Mission and Vision Statements over the past few weeks: How to communicate them, why they are important for your organization, and loftier aspects, such as finding your purpose and demonstrating the vision.

But you still may have some more basic questions…

  • Are there really sobuilding-blocksme big differences between two, or are they sort of interchangeable?
  • Are they really THAT important to my organization?
  • How do I even get started?

There are indeed important differences between the two; they’re unique in ways you may not realize.  And there are lots of tools and resources containing the building blocks you need to create them from the ground up.

As Stephen Covey noted: A mission statement is not something you write overnight… But fundamentally, your mission statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression of your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life. (

This article has some great tips on writing a Vision Statement.

And this article explains how to create your Mission Statement.

Stay tuned for next week, when I’ll introduce you to a local organization where employees live and breathe its mission and values, which are woven in to every aspect of their work.

Cindy Schneider

Celebrating our vision

I’m writing this from the fall academic and student affairs leadership conference. Over the past couple of days I’ve had numerous opportunities to hear about leaders who are anticipating change, championing improvements, and sharing their vision for the future.

This year’s theme centered around our commitment to eliminating educational disparities experienced by our students. We began with a talk from Ron Anderson, Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs. He talked openly about his role as a white male coming from a position of privilege and power. By modeling self-awareness and openness to learn, he inspired each of us to think about what we can do from whatever position we might be in.

The final dinner included awards for groups and leaders who demonstrate excellence in programming, collaboration, and innovation. Hearing stories about people who work every day to serve our students with passion and creativity gave me new ideas about what is possible. Several award winners talked about their discomfort with being in the limelight and spoke about the teamwork that made the accomplishments possible. It made me realize that these events are only partly about the winners. They’re also about providing the rest of us with a clear picture of the vision.

As a leader, what ways have you found to recognize people who embody your organization’s goals? How can you acknowledge their work and inspire others?

Dee Anne Bonebright

Where’s the meaning?

where-is-the-meaningIf the people on your team have to ask “Where is the meaning in my work?” something is wrong!

In his book  Meaning, Inc. , Gurnek Bains ecourages leaders to bring the organization’s mission and vision to life through meaningful work. Between actual work time and digital connections people spend over half of their waking hours “at work.” Understanding how those work activities are making a contribution to customers (students at Minnesota State), the community or larger society will make work more meaningful.

While each person on your team has their own personal values and beliefs about what is important, there are actions that leaders can take to strengthen meaning at work.  Bains identifies the following leadership activities that help create more meaningful work:

  • Discussing and supporting personal stretch goals that are related to the vision.
  • Focusing on the unique strengths and talents that each person brings to work.
  • Documenting, evaluating, providing feedback and highlighting each person’s work and contribution to group efforts.
  • Clearly linking individual and team work activities and accomplishments to wider issues.
  • Ensuring that short-term goals don’t conflict with the deeper organizational purpose.
  • Role modeling stated ideals.

Making sure your people know the difference their work makes in the lives of other people builds meaning. And meaning is powerful.

Todd Thorsgaard

7 Times, 7 Ways: Promoting your Mission & Vision to ALL

multiple-intelligences-learning-stylesYou’ve done it: brainstormed your thoughts and direction for your organization, used feedback from employees at all levels, and collaborated with your leadership team to create a Mission and Vision statement that everyone is proud of.  Now what?

Try the “7 Times in 7 Ways” method to come up with creative, interesting ways to promote this exciting news!  The thinking behind this practice is to go beyond email blasts and posters, and really think about unique ways to get your message heard by all your “learners” (in this case, your employees).

Which leads to another helpful teaching and learning practice: Multiple Intelligences.  This idea is centered around the different ways people receive, filter and retain information, based on how they perceive the world around them.

Picture Smart people respond well to visuals (like those posters), while a Word Smart person will actually read an email instead of skimming it and possibly missing important information.  Recruit your People Smart staff to work your kickoff event; the Logic Smart folks may or may not attend, but if they do they’ll appreciate receiving brief and concise information more than a giveaway cap (which may be highly valued by your Nature Smart staff).

What ideas can you come up with that could work for your organization, using the tips in this article, while thinking about multiple ways that people receive, retain and value a message (i.e., learn)?


Cindy Schneider





Demonstrating the vision

planeLast week I was on a United Airlines flight to visit family in Colorado. As I was settling in, the usual voice started giving instructions. But then I heard this: “Hi, I’m your captain. I always like to greet the passengers and welcome them to the flight.” He told us about his background, his co-pilot’s background and the fact that they were friends who enjoyed flying together. He told us that the weather was choppy over Denver and they were taking an alternate route to avoid the worst turbulence.

He went on for at least 5 minutes, and people actually applauded at the end.

Afterwards, several passengers commented that they had never been on a flight before where the pilot personally welcomed people and told us what to expect. That pilot was visibly demonstrating United’s commitment to good customer service and safe travel.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort for leaders to show commitment to an organization’s mission and vision. And the effects can be powerful. When have you seen this in action?  What could you do?

Dee Anne Bonebright


Passion? At work?

passioninspirationwork2Last week at our New Administrator Orientation program Chancellor Steven Rosenstone shared his passion for why he comes to work each day and clearly articulated why the work we all do is important.

He spoke about the shared common core value that our colleges and universities are focused on: providing an opportunity for all Minnesotans to create a better future for themselves. He reminded us that our work as leaders is crucial to ensuring that our colleges and universities meet that challenge and that is why we do what we do. His passion was evident and it was infectious!

Author James R Lucas in his book, The Passionate Organization: Igniting the Fire of Employee Commitment, suggests that articulating and sharing your organizational vision with passion helps guide and focus the work people do and enhance commitment. This requires a vision that has two key components:

  1. What is your organization’s purpose – the strategic vision. The what and how of your organization.
  2. What are your organization’s values – the cultural vision. This is the element that is often missing or not communicated by leaders. It is the why of your organization.

Passion is expressed when you focus on making a difference and clearly articulate how people’s day to day work contributes directly to the shared values of your organization.

Yes, passion does belong at work!



Seeing the Future Through Different Sets of Eyes

Creating or rewriting a vision statement can be an interesting and revealing process for an organization, with the reward of a tangible product at the end.  Purposefully taking the time to think about the future,  what your organization could look like in 5, 10 or more years, and dreaming of both achievable and more challenging goals can spur employees to really think about the company’s values, their own values, and how to reflect them  through their work lives.

However, that view of the future could look very different to an executive or mid-level leader than your frontline staff, team leaders and individual contributors.

Below are vision statement examples from a few well-known non-profits.  Can you think of some differences in understanding and perception of these, how they might be internalized, then explained to people outside of your organization, based on your employees’ various roles?

Creative Commons: Our vision is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet — universal access to research and education, full participation in culture — to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity.

Goodwill: Every person has the opportunity to achieve his/her fullest potential and participate in and contribute to all aspects of life.

Habitat for Humanity: A world where everyone has a decent place to live.


Taking the time to think about your vision statement’s view from all the angles and all the distances can go a long ways in increasing understanding and support from all your organization’s employees.

Cindy Schneider

Cindy supports the Talent Management Division’s work in the HR Division at the Minnesota State system office.  She will complete her degree in Technical Communication & Professional writing this December.

Stability in an uncertain world

minnesota-stateA few days ago I did a workshop for a staff group at one of our colleges. We were talking about change and David Rock’s SCARF model. (Todd wrote about that model in a past blog post.)

We had a good conversation about how change can be a threat to the human need for certainty, and that a strong organizational mission can help mitigate the threat of changes at work. When we all agree on the mission, we know that it will remain constant no matter what else  changes.  For example, one of the participants had previously worked at the University of Minnesota. Her unit was facing a lot of change, but staff knew that the changes would always support the mission of teaching, research, and outreach.

Our new Minnesota State logo includes the phrase “Extraordinary Education. Exceptional Value.”  This summarizes the mission that many of us have been supporting for a long time. As we are looking at numerous changes over the next few years, we know that mission will remain constant. Here’s the full “Brand Promise” mission statement from the new branding manual:

Minnesota State is a system of colleges
and universities united to provide an
extraordinary education that is affordable,
accessible, enhances quality of life, and ensures
prosperous communities.
Do you think this commitment is likely to remain constant over time? How could it help you be consistent during times of change?
Dee Anne Bonebright