We are reviewing the book titled, “Excellence Wins”, by Horst Schulze, founding president and COO of Ritz-Carlton.
While having a copy of the book is certainly not needed to enjoy the next several BLOG posts, if you’d like to grab a copy to follow along, feel free to pick it up at Amazon here, or of course at your favorite book store.
This week we continue with part three of “Excellence Wins”, BUILDING TRUE RELATIONSHIPS, as we review chapter twelve:
WHY VISION STATEMENTS MATTER
“Results oriented leaders sometimes get bored with incessant talk about vision and mission. They’re wary of cute little slogans.” (1)
For me personally, I must continually tell myself that vision statements matter and the reason I’m here is to do the best I can to support, sustain, and further my company’s vision and mission. I too can be guilty of becoming jaded regarding vision statements. I ask myself, “What is it about reading or even hearing someone else read my company’s vision statement that makes me, sometimes, turn cynical?”
Well, after reading this chapter of Excellence Wins it became clear how my cynical self is provoked — it’s because people that I expect to behave and act according to the vision and mission are doing exactly the opposite. I include myself in that category. I am guilty from time to time.
Cynical: 1) Believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity. 2) Concerned only with one’s own interests and typically disregarding accepted or appropriate standards in order to achieve them.
After I read the definition of cynical, I thought, “that’s me if I’m not careful”. Unfortunately, it is me, from time to time. If I don’t do something intentional to prevent and offset the cynical self from showing up, here he comes!
The other sobering thought is, if we take a closer look at our society today, it seems our entire country is indeed motivated by self-interest.
The good news, there is a solution. To combat my cynical self from showing up, it takes repeated affirmations of; I DO believe in the core values of the company, I DO believe in the vision, I DO believe in and support the mission. According to Mr. Schulze, we must remind ourselves constantly, AND remind others around us, that the vision and mission IS worthwhile.
Mr. Schulze says it this way, “If an organization’s proclamation is no more than a pile of frothy rhetoric to put in the annual report, then yes, it’s pointless.”(2)
So, how do we fix it? It starts with me, and it starts with you. We must protect ourselves from becoming cynical. How? By each of us committing to, and living out the vision and mission in our everyday lives, so much so that others will continually see our actions are aligned with the company’s core values. Furthermore, whenever we observe a colleague acting in opposition to the commitment to uphold the company’s vision and mission, we must have the courage to call them out, gently, and in love, so that cynical thinking is stopped in its tracks.
What’s the Destination?
“If taken seriously, a vision statement can serve as a company’s North Star” (3)
The company’s vision guides us along the way to our destination, the company’s mission. Staying the course en route to the destination requires constant monitoring, course correction, and sometimes stopping to assess, just exactly “where are we?”
When I was in college, I took private pilot lessons thinking I would one day be a professional airline pilot. During the early days of pilot training I found it interesting that there really was no such thing as ‘auto-pilot’ and certainly no GPS systems to rely on, back in the 70’s. After taking off I would monitor the heading indicator and watch the compass. The most remarkable thing I remember, which seemed very odd to me at the time, I was constantly having to make course corrections as I headed towards my destination. I was forever gently moving the yoke left, then right, and then back left again, and so on. Keep in mind, I was attempting to coordinate the left/right yoke movements with rudder adjustments using my feet at the same time. It was awkward, at best, to stay on course. Sometimes I could fly toward my destination by using visual landmarks and dead reckoning. Just set your sights on a landmark off in the distance that aligns with your course and fly to that landmark. If weather conditions were favorable and you had a clean line of sight to the landmark, you simply maintained your altitude and flew the plane toward that landmark. Even so, at some point during the flight, regardless of clear weather or not, I needed the help of the flight instruments — airspeed, attitude, altimeter, vertical speed, and heading indicators, which were all very important.
It’s the same with running your organization or medical practice. Think about the array of indicators that you are asked to monitor. We even refer to that collection of indicators as the ‘dashboard’.
To stay on course, repeat the vision statement to yourself and your team members often.
If you didn’t get a chance to review, “WHY REPETITION IS A GOOD THING“, check it out. It talks about the importance of keeping the organization’s vision and mission always at the forefront.
Use your company’s vision statement to stay on course to accomplish your company’s mission.
“I truly believe this is one of the key reasons that we became the number one hotel brand in the world throughout the 1990’s.” – Horst Schulze (4)
More Than Words
“Slogans and vision statements on the wall don’t work. Belief systems work. Culture works. (5)
Knowing where the organization is headed and repeating the vision statement often keeps everybody pointed in the right direction. When the manager and the team members live by the core values (not just speak them out loud), the actions of the manager and team members support the vision and mission. Speaking of the company’s core values, according to Mr. Schulze, “They have to be alive inside your soul.” (6) When that happens, major course corrections are seldom needed.
In order to stay on course toward the destination requires everybody believing in, and demonstrating the company’s core values day in and day out. When that happens, we all have a better chance of achieving excellence.
What happens when that’s not the case? Most managers, when confronted with an under-performing employee, immediately look for what the employee did wrong that caused the subpar performance. It’s natural to look at what the employee can do differently to correct the mistake and hopefully change their behavior (read course correction) so that the mistake doesn’t happen again. Sometimes that is exactly where and how a course correction should be executed.
As I read the next statement by Mr. Schulze, it made me think back over my 40 plus years in management and ponder how many of my employees’ mistakes actually were rooted in my inability to effectively manage.
“Maybe you as a leader haven’t kept the vision constantly in front of them. Before you blame them for underperformance, first check your own performance in reinforcing the vision.” – Horst Schulze (7)
Perhaps vision and mission statements ARE more important than we realize — something worth pondering.
In Rough Waters
“Vision statement hold you steady when times get tough.” (8)
When circumstances get messy, when things seem to be going downhill fast, when things get shaky, it’s our rudder that allows us to steady ourselves. Your company’s vision statement is the rudder that will allow you and your team to remain steady.
“This is who we are. This is our culture. And therefore, I must do…” (9)
Mr. Schulze describes two different companies where he served on the board of directors. The first company would start every board meeting by immediately digging into the quarterly financials and other performance indicators related to the operation. All the reports with all the performance numbers were waiting on a big table. It seems this company was all about the numbers and meeting the numbers. This first organization goes unnamed.
The other company, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, started their board meetings very differently. They would start board meetings with a live report from one of their actual patients. (10) ‘Live Report’ meaning the patient, and their spouse or care giver, were invited to attend the kick-off of the board meeting. The meeting would begin by hearing from the patient how they were doing. Treatments for that specific patient were reviewed as well. It seems the chairman of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America was famous for always asking. “What can we do better? I appreciate all the compliments, but we can’t learn from those. I want to know what we can do to improve.” (11)
Next week: Chapter 13: A LEADER’S “GUT” IS NOT ENOUGH
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Jerry L. Stone
Names: SCHULZE, HORST, 1939 author. | MERRILL, DEAN
Title: Excellence Wins: a no-nonsense guide to becoming the best in the world of compromise / Horst Schulze, with Dean Merrill
Description: Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan,