Setting the sail for success

Setting the sail for success

Sharing your vision with your team members gives them the guidance they need to fulfill your practice's potential.
Nov 01, 2005

As the captain of your practice, it's your job to set the course and take advantage of the wind, urging the ship toward your destination. But you can't maneuver this behemoth alone. You need a crew. When they're truly onboard, your team members will have one eye on the horizon and another peeled for potential problems, and they'll help keep the practice on course.

On the other hand, if staff members don't know where the ship's headed, they may unknowingly jettison your plans. So how do you communicate your vision and goals to your team?

You set the course—and the example

"A vision is the most fundamental statement of an organization's values, direction, aspirations, and goals," says Chris Musselwhite, president and CEO of Discovery Learning Inc., a consulting firm in Greensboro, N.C. "It's an appeal to team members' hearts and minds. Owners with strong strategies and goals can tell you where the organization is today and where it's headed."

Musselwhite advises that sharing this vision can prevent team members from making short-term decisions that work against the long-term strategy. "A clear vision also focuses everyone on fulfilling the most important tasks—giving the organization a strong competitive advantage," he says.

Dr. Kathleen Neuhoff, the co-director of the Magrane Pet Medical Center in Mishawaka, Ind., agrees that a clear vision helps teams focus on critical issues. "If you take the time to consider your goals and draft a clear mission, I think you focus on the more important issues and less often get bogged down in the trivial."

The other big benefit, she says, is that a strong mission gives you a guidepost when you come to a fork in the road. "Especially when our team faces ethical issues, we ask, 'Is this course of action compatible with our vision?' If the answer is no, that makes our path clear. And when we're considering options like new services or equipment purchases, we ask, 'Will this help us achieve our mission?' If the answer is yes, it's much easier to spend both the time and money to move the idea forward."

In other words, your vision isn't a lofty statement you hang on the wall; it's a series of values and goals that guide your everyday actions and decisions. "It's been said that if you watch someone's feet, you'll know what they're thinking," says Associate Dean Logan Jordan, Ph.D., who teaches the strategic-thinking modules for the Veterinary Management Institute, an educational collaboration between Purdue University and AAHA. "In other words, the choices you make as the leader are the most powerful way to set the standard for your entire team."

Getting your crew onboard

A purposeful, personal approach to creating a vision
Once you've established your vision and begun to integrate it into your personal decision-making process, it's time to build support from your team. One key: Don't just stick your well-thought-out vision in a book somewhere.

While Dr. Neuhoff's practice includes the purpose in personnel manuals so new hires understand the driving force behind the hospital, the practice also prominently displays the mission. "We hung a large, framed mission statement in the conference room where we hold all of our staff and educational meetings," Dr. Neuhoff says.