“I am of two minds about the whole issue of the importance of the mission wording. Actions speak so much louder than words, it seems to me.” And in 7 words, Bob Carr provides a clear, straightforward and easy to understand explanation of corporate vision, strategy and culture.
Bob Carr and I met briefly in Boston around 2012 – 2013. This past fall, after reading of Bob’s experiences in Through the Fires, I understand how life’s failures will unearth one’s core values and likely determine how we measure success. I emailed Bob who has been kind enough to periodically provide his – alarmingly direct and succinct – perspective on topical business/government policies intermingled with a bit of career coaching and advice.
I work for the government – the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development managing the City’s First Time Homebuyer program, to be specific – in many ways (and certainly by reputation) the antithesis of a well-run business. This past spring, I received a scholarship from the City to take an Introduction to Human Resource Management – a graduate level management course – at Harvard. And, even though I have B.S. in Business Administration from University of Illinois at Chicago and have had a law degree from Emory University for 25 years – Harvard is Harvard – so I proudly sent a copy of my 750 – word limited response to a question asking to compare and contrast the vision and strategy of 3 CEO’s to Bob because – I believed, and still do, the difference in successful vision is leadership. And in my opinion after taking the course, Bob Carr’s leadership of Heartland Payment Systems is a textbook, Harvard Business Review example of outstanding leadership.
The course used text, several case studies and a variety of Harvard Business Review articles as a point of discussion for developing a corporate vision and strategy to lead a business through inevitable market changes. I was particularly motivated by 4 classic Harvard Business Review articles: John Kotter’s 1996 article Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail; Daniel Goleman’s 1998 article What Makes a Leader; Claudio Fernández-Aráoz’s 2014 article 21st Century Talent Spotting; and Teresa Amabile and Steve J. Kramer’s 2011 article The Power of Small Wins. So, I was surprised in all of these very worthy articles and related reading, (including Daniel Pink’s Drive) the clearest and most easy to understand explanation of corporate vision and strategy was Bob Carr’s actions comment from above – similar to the “walking the talk” concept from the Dessler text – only more effective as Bob’s explanation embodies the point of a corporate vision and strategy – that the vision is linked to measurable employee action and behavior. Bob Carr’s statement incisively deconstructs the concept of corporate vision and strategy. A corporate vision is found within the context of employee action as, notwithstanding what an organization may claim as its mission or vision, employee actions are, in fact, the corporate vision and strategy.
So, I will be adopting Bob Carr’s definition/explanation of corporate vision, strategy and culture for my Homebuyer Services team here at the City of Boston. Based on the concepts discussed in class, I have come up with a proposed vision/mission for the Boston Home Center Homebuyer program “Neighbors serving Neighbors, with transparency, honesty and respect” – as we, like most government employees – should, as a threshold matter, understand our role as one of public service. Through team brainstorming exercises – we will together come up with a list of measurable employee actions and behaviors linked to service, transparency, honesty and respect for the Boston Home Center.
Assistant Director, Boston Home Center
I love Dwan’s motto of “Neighbors serving Neighbors with transparency, honesty and respect.” What a great motto for any neighborhood organization, but …. But a motto is easier to say than it is to live. Dwan’s study of leadership is worthwhile and I want to comment about a few matters that should be dealt with soon after a new motto or tagline is launched within an organization. The very fact that a new motto has been proposed/adopted is a meaningful statement of intent to do something different. Such statements are – by their very nature – generalized statements of aspirations of a leader or leadership group. Most of us human beings will ask “so that sounds nice but what does it mean in my day to day life at work?” I believe that question should be answered before it is even asked. It should be answered with examples of behaviors that are expected to change – perhaps as many as 10-12 “how to” statements of how to respond in better ways to the most difficult daily issues at hand. Once those goals of improving behavior are in writing and explained to the staff, the next step is for the leader to lead by example and demonstrate how things are different now because the leader is walking the walk. Next the leader should reinforce the best behaviors of the staff and do what is possible to get unacceptable behaviors changed. I think these steps will go a long way to a successful implementation of a new motto whether in business or government or a 501c3!