I recently received a call from an executive client of ours telling me that they have hired a new CFO. This new CFO reviewed their strategic plan and vision statement, and she wants to make some changes. Their current vision statement is very inspiring—a change the world type of vision statement—and the new CFO wants to change it to focus on adding shareholder value. The current vision statement was created by their senior team over a series of weeks and discussions, and everyone had input in it. One executive in particular put a lot of work into wordsmithing it and making it amazing.
When I heard about this, I immediately emailed Mary Marshall, an executive coach with HumanPoint, to get her take on adding “increasing shareholder value” to a vision statement. She shared her philosophy with me:
My perspective has always been that Vision is the inspiring place you are going, mission is how and why you do it and values are the foundation that holds it all up. No one gets inspired by a vision that includes increasing shareholder value – shareholder value should be a natural result, if mission, vision and values are all lived and achieved.
Mary’s thoughts aligned with my own. A vision statement should motivate employees to make a difference with their work. Shareholder value, while important, is not inspirational.
My next step will be to meet with the CFO and CEO to check in and ask how the strategic plan is going. As an executive coach partnering with them on their strategic planning process, I can carefully suggest that they shouldn’t change their vision statement. Instead, we will work to make sure their key strategies are focused on achieving the vision, naturally resulting in increased shareholder value.
Why is this important to share with you? Because it is all too easy to confuse financial results with vision. The best vision statements are inspirational, clear, and concise. They communicate the difference your organization wants to make, whether it’s in your industry or for a specific population. Financial results matter, but they follow from living out your vision, mission, and values—not the other way around.
Here are a few inspiring vision statements:
- Every individual has the opportunity to thrive in an equitable and just world. – FareStart
- To make people happy. – Disney
- United Way envisions a community where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, financial stability and healthy lives. – United Way
- To create a better every day life for the many people. – Ikea
- A world without Alzheimer’s. – Alzheimer’s Association
- To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. – Microsoft
- To leave a sustainable world for future generations. – The Nature Conservancy
- Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.) – Nike
- charity: water believes that we can end the water crisis in our lifetime by ensuring that every person on the planet has access to life’s most basic need — clean drinking water. – charity:water
Take this as an opportunity to reflect: where might your organization be confusing financial results with vision? Could your vision statement be more inspiring or concise? Your vision statement paints a picture of the change your organization can make in the world. Make it meaningful and spend each day as an organization working toward it—from there, financial results follow naturally.