This week I’ll delve into topics that are near and dear to my heart: vision and values. I like to think of these as components of the proverbial existential crisis.
Who do you want to be? What do you stand for?
Imagine you didn’t know what you wanted your company to be one year from now, five years from now, or even twenty years from now. You can lose the forest for the trees, aimlessly wandering from task to task, busy but strangely ineffectual, waking up years from now wondering what it was all for…
If you feel slightly stressed reading that, good! That means you care about what you do with your life. It’s healthy to have a difficult conversation with ourselves from time to time, and the same goes for business.
There are plenty of resources available online for writing vision and values in general, so I’ll explain how I went about it specifically for One Work.
For the vision, I treated it as two tasks: an internal vision statement and an external vision statement.
The former is one page long and details the evolution of the company over a number of years, helping highlight key milestones along the way. It is written in the present tense, like I’m describing a day at One Work at a point in the future. The idea behind this version of the vision statement is that it acts like a guiding document that can be shared with company stakeholders so we all understand our path forward.
As an example, here’s an excerpt from the internal vision statement for the first iteration of the company:
Initially, we are focused on establishing ourselves as a job seeker’s first choice of marketplace when looking for a career that aligns with their personal mission. Our members become actively engaged in each other’s success through a rewards program that incentivizes them to recommend jobs, post high quality opportunities, and mentor each other so they can advance in their careers.
We use a conversational style to build each user’s profile in a way that highlights their values and the type of company culture in which they would thrive. This makes it easier for a hiring manager to assess whether a prospective candidate is a good fit for their team and likely to be engaged and fulfilled at work.
The external vision statement, on the other hand, is much shorter and is intended for the general public. For example, this statement could go on the About page of the website:
Our Vision: Create a global community of mission-driven individuals capable of addressing humanity’s most significant challenges and realizing its most ambitious dreams.
It’s concise and clearly states the company’s intent. By making it public, we give our users the opportunity to share ownership of our vision.
Values are slightly different. I see them more as guiding principles that help inform the actions we take on a daily basis. Many companies document their policies and procedures, but as an employee, we rarely have them memorized. Values give us a reasonable substitute.
I’m a fan of writing values that are actionable, meaning they have a sentence or two behind them. When values are just one word, it’s harder to visualize what is intended. For example, these are the values I came up with for One Work:
- Service: Measure success in terms of lives improved, not money made.
- Impact: Pursue ambitious goals that inspire people to take action and leave a lasting positive impact.
- Inclusion: Create opportunities where anyone can share ownership.
- Curiosity: Never stop learning, seek diverse opportunities, and share knowledge to help others grow.
- Neutrality: Bridge opposing viewpoints and choose universal pursuits rather than partisan ones.
I started with a much longer list of values and selected the top five to guide behavior. That’s not to say that other values aren’t important, but these are aligned to the objectives outlined in the vision statement and help ensure we make decisions in support of those stated objectives.
As a concrete example, the vision statement describes a feature that helps non-profits solicit pro bono support from One Work members; non-profits can access a broader set of talent for short-term needs, and One Work members get opportunities to grow their skills, expand their networks, and give back to their communities. This aligns to the Service, Impact, and Inclusion, and Curiosity values above.
One last thing to note: coming up with vision and values is hard. I refined them over a couple of weeks and sent them to stakeholders for feedback. Giving them due consideration is important: they are nothing short of your company’s identity. Knowing your identity helps you remain authentic to the brand, and authenticity is the cornerstone of customer relationships. Don’t try to be someone you’re not!
I hope this gave you some ideas about how to approach vision and values at your own company and in your life. May you survive the existential crisis!