Visionary Leadership

Person standing on mountaintop with binoculars

By Kim Stamp

There is an old proverb that says “Without a vision, the people perish.”

Vision is, at its root, the “why” behind anything we do. This proverb is a key principle of leadership because vision is communicated—and demonstrated—by the leaders within an organization. As leaders, we need to become proficient at communicating both the vision and the mission of our organization in order to engage our staff. When someone can’t identify their why (their vision), they are generally unable to stay engaged for any length of time. And an unengaged employee who is just there to get a paycheck can literally kill your business. Whether you consider yourself a leader or not, you are in fact operating in a leadership capacity if you supervise even one person at work. Leaders must be able to clearly communicate both vision and mission. Your vision is in simple terms why your company exists. Once you establish that, you need to formulate your mission, which is how you will carry out your vision (vision = why and mission = how). Let’s take some time to explore how we can become effective leaders by identifying and communicating both vision and mission so that our clinics can succeed and grow.

There is so much written about leadership these days. We have a plethora of books and podcasts to choose from, as well as conferences to attend. Why do you suppose that is? I would argue it’s because leadership is one of the key impactors of your business. How you lead (or fail to lead) your team will impact many facets of your business including the general atmosphere of your clinic(s), the retention rate of your staff, and the overall success your team experiences. There are many definitions of what it means to be a leader, but for this article a leader refers to anyone who has the ability to influence someone else on their team. The term visionary leadership is simply utilizing the vision of your company as a springboard for influencing your team to positively impact overall success.

There are two questions that I like to ask our staff. The first is “What is your why?” I have found that if our staff buys into our company’s vision they are more likely to enjoy working with us, and consequently are much happier at work. One of the keys to employee engagement, especially among Millennials, is feeling as though they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Identifying why we are working in a particular job helps us to understand whether we are just “punching the clock” or contributing to the overall mission of the company we work for. Employees who believe in your vision will be much more likely to communicate to patients that they are there to help in any way they can. Conversely, staff who are just there for the paycheck will give off the vibe that they don’t want to be bothered with helping patients feel better.

Generally, I start by communicating our vision during the interview process and then continue it during onboarding. We regularly discuss it at front office coordinator and clinic director meetings. Once we know that our vision is understood, we then take it a step further into describing our mission by showing tangible actions each person can take to fulfill the vision. Hear me clearly: If you want to succeed, you must lead. And part of leading is saturating your staff with your company’s vision and the steps they can take to carry out that vision. Being an influencer is like being a coach, and for those of us in supervisory roles, we must learn to either coach up or coach out when it comes to vision and mission. We see this all the time in pro sports. A team will have a culture and players either buy into it and succeed, or they don’t and find themselves being released or traded. We need to take that approach in our clinics.

The second question I like to ask is “What can I do to make your job easier or more enjoyable?” It is amazing to me what people identify when asked this question, and it is often something small and financially inconsequential. When I am able to take care of their request, it usually generates a deep loyalty in that employee. I don’t know about you, but I want my employees to be happy and to have what they need to do their job with excellence because it helps them to more effectively carry out our vision to the patients walking through the door. Simple things like asking these two questions helps to engage and motivate your staff, which in turn helps to carry out your mission.

You’ll find many resources in books and on the internet for creating a vision statement and developing a mission. However, there is no need to make things complex. Take some time to think about why you exist as a company (the vision = the why). Once you have that nailed down, think about what things need to be accomplished in order to carry out that vision (the mission = the how). Different departments will have different mission statements or steps, but they should all fall under the same umbrella of the overall vision. Once these are defined, begin to have your staff focus on the same goal. Create opportunity for the staff to dialogue about this and ask questions. Your vision and your mission are living things in that they must be tended to. We can’t simply put them in a notebook or up on the wall in the break-room. Trust me, they will not accomplish themselves!

Finally, you may want to identify influencers in your clinic(s) who aren’t necessarily in a supervisory role. Employees who are natural leaders can shape the general atmosphere and direction of your team. These are people who you absolutely must engage with in an effort to make sure they are being a positive influence rather than a detractor. When you identify your influencers, make sure they understand, and buy into, the company’s vision and mission and that they know you appreciate their help in communicating it to employees.

Kim Stamp

Kim Stamp is a PPS Certified Administrator and the Regional Business Manager for South Sound Physical & Hand Therapy in Washington State. She is also the president of the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She can be reached at Kim.Stamp@irgpt.com.